Yar’s Revenge Review
As much as the term ‘retro reboot’ makes me want to crawl into the nearest corner, rub salt into my retinas, and cry myself to sleep at night (I’m looking at you, Bomberman: Act Zero), I’ll admit that Yars’ Revenge was in desperate need of a makeover. The esoteric, single-screen shooter – which first appeared on the Atari 2600 in 1981 – looks unbearably dated by today’s standards. But rather than sprucing up the original template, which would have been the most sensible thing to do, Atari has seen fit to reinvent the title from the ground up, resulting in an on-rails shooter that has more in common with Star Fox, Sin and Punishment and Panzer Dragoon than the original Atari hit. Needless to say, it’s also far less entertaining.
Unlike the original game, in which players assumed the role of a super-powered housefly, Yar’s Revenge (with re-jiggled apostrophe) transforms the titular Yar into a young, female warrior, complete with bug-like body armor. The result is one that fits the game’s animé-inspired aesthetic down to a tee. In fact, the game’s stunning visuals are easily the best part of the game, with gorgeously-rendered sunsets, Metroid-esque flora, and futuristic structures decorating the sky. There are a few muddy textures here and there and the draw distance does leave a lot to be desired, but the authenticity of Yar’s world is impressive.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the game’s mediocre combat – which pales in comparison to the game’s gorgeous visuals. On-rails shooters typically tie your aiming reticule and movement together, but Yar’s Revenge divides movement between two analogue sticks, with shot types, homing missiles and dodging relegated to the shoulder buttons. It’s inelegant to say the least, and makes both shooting and dodging at the same time extremely difficult. Mapped to the face buttons are also a number of collectable power-ups, but activating them requires you to briefly sacrifice reticule movement, which – as seasoned shooter fans will attest – is about as irksome as it gets.
What’s more, the game never strives to make you feel powerful. Using the pulse laser to defeat anything other than standard enemies quickly becomes difficult – and it doesn’t help that Yar’s more powerful weapons have limited ammo or charge times. Consequently, it’s a struggle to take down everything in the level. That doesn’t affect the game too much, unless you’re chasing highs-scores, but since the game doesn’t actually require you to defeat enemies, you may as well spend most of your time dodging fire whilst staring at the (admittedly pretty) scenery.
Still, the biggest problem with Yar’s Revenge is that it’s plain dull. The combat is mind-numbingly repetitive, with few – if any – memorable moments to keep players entertained. On-rails shooters are designed to leave audiences exhilarated, with inventive set pieces, mind-blowing enemies and hyperbolic destruction. At their very best, they’re operatic. Yar’s Revenge, on the other hand, feels more like a soap opera omnibus: it just goes about the motions, recycling the same old environments as a tune you’ve heard a hundred times before murmurs on in the background. It’s a completely hollow experience.
At first glance, Yar’s Revenge looks as though it could hold its own against the best of its class. But the more you look at it, the more you realise that – for all its ambition – it lacks the fundamental elements that make games like Star Fox and Sin & Punishment so downright entertaining. Enemies are scattered throughout the levels with little care for how they alter the pace of the action, and the soundtrack – comprising of a single ditty that loops infinitely, regardless of what’s happening on-screen – would struggle to raise the heart-rate of even the most easily-impressed shooter fan. Stages rarely shake things up, enemies don’t react to fire, and boss fights seldom pose any real threat or challenge – ending on a whimper rather than a bang.
Yar’s Revenge is a bold, daring and ambitious reinvention of a classic franchise, but one that’s ultimately difficult to recommend over the competition. It’s a competent on-rails shooter – and a beautiful one at that. However, with shoddy controls, repetitive combat and no online multiplayer, Yar’s Revenge isn’t quite worthy of the game’s 800-point asking price.