Yar's Revenge's great art design is squandered on dull, painful-to-control rail shooter gameplay.
- Fantastic setting and visual design
- Creative reimagining of a retro classic.
- Irritating control scheme
- Lots of cheap damage
- Stages are long and dull.
Longtime game fans may have fond memories of Yars' Revenge, an esoteric and experimental game that was one of the Atari 2600's original hits. As unusual as the original game was, this brand-new reboot of Yars' Revenge is perhaps even stranger. Rather than being a 2D shooter that features an insectoid hero, this reimagining transforms the titular Yar into a young four-armed female warrior wearing wasp-inspired body armor in a game heavily inspired by on-rails shooters like Panzer Dragoon, Star Fox, and Sin and Punishment. It's an interesting idea that, sadly, falters in several ways.
Yar's Revenge's art design will strike you right from the get-go, and it is hands down the best element of the game. The anime-inspired reimagining of Yar and the locales she battles in are exceptionally well done, with slick-looking environments, machinery, and monsters throughout. There are some low-resolution textures here and there, and the nondescript soundtrack isn't much of an accompaniment. But the sheer imagination and effort that has gone into the world design makes it immediately engaging and worthy of commendation.
If everything else about Yar's Revenge was as strong as the art design, it would be great. Unfortunately, the actual gameplay tries to mimic the genre's best without really understanding what makes those games good. The first layer of irritation comes from the game's control scheme, which, while similar to that in Sin and Punishment, doesn't work nearly as well. In most games of this type, your aiming reticle and the motion of your character are tied together. In Yar's Revenge, the two are separated and mapped to separate analog sticks, with functions like different shot types, homing missiles, and dodging mapped to the left and right triggers and buttons. The face buttons are used for activating collected power-ups. The aiming system can be adjusted, but it never feels completely natural; it's almost as if it were intended for a motion-control scheme that doesn't exist.
The control issues compound core problems in the game design itself. Enemies are seemingly scattered throughout levels without any regard for how their positioning impacts the flow of the action. It also doesn't help that your primary weapons tend to be on the weak side--using the default railgun to kill anything besides cannon-fodder foes is difficult, and your more powerful shots either have limited ammunition or charge times. As a result, you wind up not being able to take down most of the stuff in the level. That doesn't matter much unless you're chasing high scores though, because you almost don't have to kill anything in a level if you don't feel like it; you can just focus on dodging the haphazard shots that enemies love to blast at you. If you try to kill things and dodge at the same time, you'll likely find it an exercise in futility because it's incredibly hard to focus on aiming and precise character movement with all the stuff that's going on around you.
But Yar's most egregious issue is that it's just boring. Rail shooters are usually designed to be exhilarating and thrilling, with carefully structured and placed obstacles or challenges that make the stages interesting even if you've already gone through them before. In contrast, it's dull to fly through the gorgeous environments of Yar's Revenge. Things rarely change in the environments, there are no memorable set pieces to keep things exciting, and the bosses barely react to your constant blast bombardment beyond changing up their attacks.
Yar's Revenge is a prime example of squandered potential: a game with a good concept and strong visual design, but an execution that consistently misses the mark. Clearly a lot of effort went into creating the game's world and environments, but Yar's Revenge is devoid of the tight, structured gameplay design that makes some of its peers timeless classics. What you wind up with is a game that's nice to admire but not terribly satisfying to play.