Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

Jeff Minter, the mystery man of the international game, is back in action. If you’ve never heard of him, the 60-year-old has been working in game coding and development, and has been seemingly happily ever since 1979. Under the moniker “Yak”, Minter got his start on the Sinclair ZX60 in the early 1980s, then created his own development studio, Llamasoft.

Having gained a loyal following over the years through visually enchanting, auditory and gripping arcade game scoring challenges, Minter is probably best known for Tempest 2000 (1994), a launch title for the Atari Jaguar that follows being the best exclusivity of the system. His unique hallucinogenic style and dizzying urgency have defined much of his output ever since, since space giraffe to Polybius, leading to the common but unsubstantiated inference that the programmer dabbled in psychedelic drugs.

Akka Arrh was originally an unreleased arcade prototype from 1982 that first appeared in the recent Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration. Although technically unfinished, if you took the time to understand the process of defending two separate platforms from invaders and bombing certain sections to push them back to the edges of the screen, it offered many strategies based on reflexes and score-based plots. . Now the game has been reimagined in Minter’s recognizable style: vibrant multicolored and bleeding effects, vector pylons, a mishmash of angular and primitive objects, exploding pixel fireworks, and immersive gameplay based on scores.

Captured on Nintendo Switch (Connected)

Like a visual feast like Tempest or PS Vita’s TxK (2014), the camera follows a platform in a slightly dizzying fashion as you direct a 360-degree crosshair of enemy fodder. The main objective of the game is to manage and defend the platform by throwing bombs on it from a centrally located bull’s head. Uniquely, it focuses on conservative play rather than all-out blast, forcing you to be precise in identifying enemy formations and movement, before bombarding the platform to produce an expanding shockwave in concentric waves. Each enemy caught in the shockwave sends out a mini shockwave in turn, and to score big you need to carefully use the time bomb to create chain reactions. A good bomb can cause a large number of detonations when enemy motorcades are blindly in range, consecutively extending the destruction and score multiplier. Pragmatic use of bombs and bullets is therefore essential, as whatever remains at the end of a stage is worth a nice extra bonus.

Things get more interesting from the sixth stage and downright hectic in the ninth, limiting the range of your bombs to different areas, as well as changing the shape of the platform. It pushes you to get creative with your use of bullets and identify enemies that release faster shockwaves for the occasional cleanup. Power-ups start flying everywhere, easily caught by hovering over them; and although it takes some time to recognize what they all do, they are still essential to survival. In the later stages, you really have to control everything that happens together to effectively manage the action and protect yourself from threatening collisions.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Connected)

Continuing from the original 1982 prototype, there is an added dimension to the gameplay where you defend two platforms at once. While the upper part is where most of the action takes place, the lower platform is sometimes overrun by intruders. A message will appear indicating that your pods are at risk of being stolen, in which case you can descend the stairs in a much more striking visual movement than the static transformation of the original title. There, you spin a cannon to take out any potential invaders, before heading back up to the next level to continue your blitz run. While it is essential to defend the pods, as losing them all ends the game, they can also be recovered gradually with a good performance on stage.

These mechanics are the meat and potatoes of Akka Arrh. The rest comes down to reflexes, precision and timing, keeping you in the game long enough to progress through increasingly frenetic and adrenaline-filled stages. It slowly adds variables to the stew: enemies that force you to fire bullets instead of deploying bombs, and others that fire or change their attack behavior when hit. You get updates between stages to let you know if your pump efficiency is good via text message, and there’s plenty of help available to tell you how your score is progressing too.

It’s a title that features Minter’s basic style and the usual British style; blaring horns, esoteric musical accompaniments and “pretty” robotic vocal cues that fuel auditory movement. But it’s also more complicated than some of his other work. Unlike Tempest, where the premise is self-explanatory and reveals new tricks with each successive stage and power-up, Akka Arrh requires a lot more initial understanding. Even with the tutorial, you’ll have some confusion about your stockpile of bombs, powerups, and bullets, all of which can be recharged by downing certain types of enemies. In fact, while it seems natural to start off by unloading bombs, at first you just have to drop one or two, then sit back and do nothing but watch the warp effect when you catch oncoming enemies. Similarly, your cannon ammo usage should be restricted as well, identifying enemies that provide reloads, then carefully placing shots slightly ahead of their trajectory to mark them.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

One of the main issues, and one that had us scratching our heads for a while, is that the game’s default controls weirdly tie bombs and bullets to a single button. Pausing and heading into the control options allows you to separate your weaponry into two buttons, and it’s something we recommend setting up from the start. Elsewhere there are online leaderboards and trophies, which add an absolutely essential competitive social dimension, as well as difficulty settings and various modes which allow you to start from specific stages with different bonuses. But, while absorbing and enigmatic, the curve involved in understanding all of the game’s possibilities can be overwhelming for newcomers to Minter.

However, those who aren’t put off by the initial bump will likely find something quite liberating in its more complex setup. Once you’re in the middle, Shockwaves produce Shockwaves, annihilating wave after wave of opponents with different behaviors, your point count skyrockets as you move from platform to platform to stay in the game , achieve that crack vision that is so integral to Minter work. However, one can’t help but think that Akka Arrh’s modern revision is perhaps a little constrained by the model it’s based on.


As irreverent and disturbing as one would expect from Jeff Minter, Akka Arrh is a game that, rather than relying on winning space warfare, requires a certain level of restraint to get the most out of it. of his scoring potential. Learning to play with its diverse and ever-changing threats is almost mathematical, but still liberating and rewarding to overcome. It may struggle to draw over the long term in the same way as Tempest or its recent Polybius, due to its slightly less absorbent construction; and those uninitiated in Minter’s unusual thought processes may find him quite abstruse. However, it certainly deserves its rightful place in their catalog of psychedelic, slightly wacky, and totally addictive score-based challenges.

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