The Xbox Live Arcade version of Tempest is a poor emulation of a true classic and is neither good for taking a trip down memory lane nor for having a few minutes of arcade-style fun. To make matters worse, the evolved version of the game included with the package is a mess, making this one of the worst ways to spend $5 of your hard-earned cash in the XBL Marketplace.
In Tempest, you rotate a claw-shaped spaceship around the perimeter of a pseudo-3D playfield. As enemies emerge from the center and up segmented tubes, it's your job to rack up points by shooting them down. Should things get hairy, you have a superzapper that will eliminate all the enemies on the screen--though there is a slight delay between the time you activate the superzapper and the board-wide destruction it triggers.
On the original arcade box, you swiveled your ship using a dial, which let you zip around the edges pretty quickly. This was especially helpful when enemies called flippers reached the border and flopped around it, because you could zoom past them to shoot them down. You can use the D pad, left analog stick, or bumpers in this version, yet none of them can approximate the speed and precision of the dial. Not only do the controls make the game less exciting and more frustrating, but they also make it tough to land on the particular segment you want to occupy.
There are issues with the sound as well, which is more tinny and garbled than the original, but at least the classic version features the same clean, vector-based graphics of the arcade machine. The evolved version included replaces these crisp visuals with a particle-heavy design that makes it hard to tell explosion effects apart from the fuseball enemies. Furthermore, the redesigned, overwrought 3D levels compress some segments so tightly that you can't even see what's down the tube. Some of the effects are attractive, but they're mostly just in the way. It's even more of an insult that all of Tempest's 200 achievement points are tied to this mode of the game.
If you like a real challenge, you can check out the throttle monkey mode, which increases the level of difficulty--and the level of frustration. But unless you think a poorly emulated arcade game and a poorer updated version with pretty pink explosions is worth 400 points, you won't need to worry about it.