Neo-retro PS Vita shoot ’em up TxK launches tomorrow

The history, development and gameplay of Llamasoft's latest

TxK is the latest in a particular genre of arcade-style shooters which can be described as “neo-retro”. These games are characterised by gameplay inspired by arcade games of old, but take advantage of modern hardware to provide graphics and audio that far surpass anything that was possible back in ancient times.

Often they take as inspiration some aspect of an older display style and, through modern graphics hardware and techniques, seek to create an experience that is evocative of its ancestry but far nicer-looking. You’ve all seen games like “Geometry Wars“, where the enemies and player characters are made of glowing lines.

These line-based displays go back to an old, obsolete yet beautiful display technology that was used in the arcades, called “vector graphics”. Back then it was not possible to generate pixel-based displays that had a high resolution, and as a result images in games tended to look blocky, as if made out of bricks. “Vector graphics” was a different way of driving a graphics display, causing it to draw thin lines instead of screenfuls of pixels.

3Here the same game – “Gravitar” – can be seen drawn in vector graphics (top) and in the limited resolution pixel graphics of a home console of the day (bottom).

Vector graphics came with their own limitations – it was not possible to create objects filled with solid colours, for example, or extremely detailed backgrounds; everything had to be made up of thin lines. But for many games this was an acceptable trade-off if it allowed designers to avoid the extremely chunky look of pixel-based displays of the day.

These very limitations forced upon the games that used vector displays a particular abstract aesthetic that made them distinctive and, to many, particularly beautiful.

As time passed and display technology improved, pixel displays became much higher in resolution, and vector displays fell out of use. With higher spatial and colour resolution, displays became capable of displaying much more “realistic” graphics, and a trend began towards ever increasing realism in games, leading to the point we’re at today, where the graphics in the latest games almost look as real as life.

In games, though, we are not constrained by any necessity to be realistic. Realism is great for many kinds of games, and I wouldn’t be without it when driving in Driveclub or slaying dragons in Skyrim. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to explore non-realistic graphic styles. Neo-retro titles explore the same kind of geometric, abstract aesthetic that was enforced on the old vector games, but are free to revel in the removal of the limitations that the old displays had, often to beautiful artistic effect.

One of the foundations of the neo-retro style was Llamasoft‘s own Tempest 2000, released in 1994, which espoused the geometric, abstract nature of its vector-based arcade ancestor and augmented it with graphical enhancements that were for their day state of the art – filled polygons, particle systems and feedback effects.

4“Rez” is a striking and beautiful example of the neo-retro style.

5Llamasoft’s 1994 title “Tempest 2000” laid the foundations of the neo-retro genre.

The game also introduced new depths of gameplay way beyond that of its arcade ancestor, and included a storming techno soundtrack to accompany the shooting action. Spread across 100 levels and punctuated with gentle, floaty Bonus Rounds that were the perfect counterpoint to the fast-paced shooting gameplay of the main game, T2K was considered one of the best games of its time and is still fondly remembered by many today.

Since then we’ve done a lot of work in a variety of different styles across a lot of platforms. When given the opportunity to create a game for PS Vita we thought it’d be nice to do something in the style of the very genre that we helped originate 20 years ago, and so TxK was born.

7Retro but modern. Neo-retro!

We’ve tried to create something that is pure and beautiful in the same way as the old abstract vector-graphics arcade games, but vibrant and modern in aspect and effects as you play.

Unlike in arcade games we’re not obliged to make games punishingly short so as to keep you putting coins in the machine. You can settle in and enjoy the ride. We believe that playing a game should be its own reward, whether or not you end up getting a high score. Games should be all about having fun!

8TxK is fun and pretty!

9Jumping for joy!

You’ll blast your way through 100 levels and 3 different game modes to keep you challenged whether you want a long, session or a quick 5 minutes of gaming on the go. Enjoy meeting a wide variety of enemies along the way and blowing them up into millions of glowing particles with the powerups at your disposal!

A whole herd of excellent musicians have collaborated to being you a soundtrack that is even better than that of T2K back in the day. Your ears will be dancing right off your head as you blast your way to the top of the score table!

10Rock out with your flock out!

11Floating gently over fields of psychedelic fur in a TxK Bonus Round.

Fluffy, floaty Bonus Rounds await those who diligently collect the Powerups on each level. You can’t die in Bonus Rounds – just chill out, enjoy the flight and the music! You’ll find the game looks beautiful on your Vita (and sounds awesome too, plug in those headphones).

“Noise Pulse” – one of the many great music tracks in TxK

We think you’ll find a lot to enjoy in TxK, and we hope it’s something that you’ll keep on your Vita for years to come just for the sheer fun and beauty of playing it. Check back tomorrow for a brief Beginner’s Guide – follow its simple guidelines and you’ll be trancing your way through the levels with euphoric aplomb!

0 Author replies

Hopefully Shahid won’t be too mad, but Jeff seems to have a heart for “ailing” systems. ;)
Damn, I feel so old for remembering how Tempest 2000 was pretty much the only great game for the Atari Jaguar. Very welcome addition to the Vita library!

Great read.
Really looking forward to playing this, looks amazing.
Hope it sells really well.

Thank you for bringing it to the Vita.

zalwelgoedgaan 11 February, 2014 @ 17:51

This is a definite day 1 for me, but what’s the price in €?

I can’t wait to have a go on this, I remember playing Tempest on the PS1 (and not being very good at it!).

Jeff Minter – Legend

Looks fine!

Go Jeff , Go TxK , been waiting for this since it was announced, all i can say is YES YES YES

winkelwagentje 11 February, 2014 @ 19:28

Fantastic! Ever since last month I have been enjoying Noise Pulse, waiting for this to come out. Can’t wait to get my hands on this tomorrow! :)


Been waiting for this since seeing it demonstrated At Play Expo. Definite buy. Everyone needs to get behind this one.

Nice to see Jeff on current console

Will there be Llamas?

I wish they’d stop releasing all this retro rubbish can we please get more games that the psp isn’t capable of running

I have fond memories of playing Llamatron, Revenge of the mutant camels and Tempest 2000 as a kid. I’ll definitely be checking this one out :-) Keep’em coming Jeff!

Great to see another blog post on this game – seems like an age ago it was announced.
I hadn’t seen anything since the original blog post last April until last week, on the US blog.
That certainly got my interest going again and glad to see there’s no delay in bringing the game to these shores.
Thanks for re-creating one of my favourite games of the 90’s. May mean I can finally put the Jaguar to bed – although there is something to be said of playing this game on a big screen :)

Jeff Minter on Ps Vita?? That’s enough… shut up and take my money! NOW!

Finally! My moneyz, take them! TxK looks amazing.

Jeff Minter on the Vita. It’s like a blast from my Amiga past.


I’m really, really, REALLY looking forward to this! Together with Gravity Crash and Resogun retro-gaming has never been better and bring back fond memories of the 2600, VIC20, C64 and Amiga.

One thing: Will the soundtrack be available to buy separately?


Been anxiously awaiting this since first hearing about it (Jeff’s post here on the blog a few months back)
Been a fan of Jeff Minter and his Llamasoft ever since my childhood C64 days, and Tempest 2000 is the sole reason my Jaguar is still plugged to the old tube TV alongside the PS1 and 2. This game will be a permanent install on my Vita.

Truly hope this sells well and that we’ll see more Llamasoft titles for the Vita, man a neo-retro collection of all the biggest titles would be a dream come true, but I’ll be happy with a great dual-stick shooter too ;-)

I’m hyped for this game so much.
I just hope we get the same price as the US store

great article – read it on Jeff Minter’s website but good that others can read it now. Will be checking the store as soon as I’m home from work today, can’t wait.

Now get it on PS4 in stereo 3D and surround sound so my mind can completely melt :)


Played the alpha version at the Play Expo demo, and this game is the reason I own a Vita. I don’t see it on the online PSN store interface yet, where is it? How much is it? I can’t wait!


I can`t wait!

holy smokes!!!! its out and im loving it!!!!

officer_cartman 12 February, 2014 @ 17:23

easiest purchase decision ever


GYRUSS c64 ^_^

It’s already in my basket to buy it on Friday when I get my PSN Credit :)


Awesome! Loved T2K back in the day. We had that linked up to a state of the art (at the time!!) 38″ Toshiba 4:3 TV with surround sound. We played for *hours* and the experience of sounds, visuals and gameplay were second to none.

Just had a first quick play on the Vita version and it’s looking equally as engaging! Thanks so so much for this release!

Oh… and quite looking forward to a ridiculously over the top 1080p PS4 version, whenever you’re ready eh?! ;))

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