Yars’ Revenge – XBLA Review


Game Name: Yars’ Revenge
Platform(s): Xbox Live Arcade (Reviewed), PC
Publisher(s): Atari
Developer(s): Killspace Entertainment
Genre(s): On-Rails Shooter
Release Date: April 12, 2011
Price: 800 Points
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It has been 30 years since the original Yars’ Revenge was released for the Atari 2600. The original title portrayed a Yar, a creature which resembled an insect of sorts, trying to break a shield and destroy a cannon on the other side. With such a simple concept, one might think it may be hard to actually reboot a series just on that premise alone. Fast forward to today and Yars’ Revenge has seen a brand new reboot which completely changes what we know about the game with a whole new take on gameplay as well as a new plot that aims to introduce players to a brand new experience as a whole. So how does this reboot stand up by today’s standards? Here is my review for Yars’ Revenge for the Xbox Live Arcade.


Yars’ Revenge starts out with a nameless Yar being informed by an elder that she has been brainwashed by the Qotile, an evil empire who have pushed her species to near extinction. This Yar then sets out on a mission of revenge to take down the Qotile and rescue the few remaining Yar while there is still time as she alone is their only hope for survival.

While the new plot is interesting, I must say I really had a hard time following it. The story is told through a few cutscenes which take place in certain points after or before levels, but sadly these scenes lack voice acting and animation that could have really added depth to each character. This alone is a true shame due to the stunning art design that is portrayed with the stills used for these moments. I didn’t ever feel anything for this Yar in particular as I struggled to keep up with the story. During each in-game level, a majority of the plot also unfolds through a small box which pops up in the corner with a sprite and dialogue depicting a conversation. Again, this is hard to keep up with as the box is rather small and you are expected to read these small conversations while you are heavy in the game’s action. Instead of voice acting for these sequences, we simply hear a few sound effects added in that don’t do a thing to actually portray emotion or any sort of feeling towards the dialogue displayed.

I found this personally to be a huge upset as I really wanted to be more involved as a player with what seemed to be an interesting portrait that the writers painted for this tale, but it was nearly impossible to follow it all as the cutscenes presented text which ran by too fast and faded in with the artwork as well as the the in-game sequences which can easily get you killed if you take the time to try to read the small text bubbles.

While the story is a bit of a mess to follow, Yars’ Revenge fully redeems itself in terms of actual gameplay. This title is a full on-rails shooter and really captures a nice true arcade style feel as swarms of enemies are presented at once that the player must take out with a vast array of weaponry and power-ups that are collected throughout a stage. When I first started though, I quickly found out there is a huge learning curve if you are used to the more automatic approach that has been presented with titles such as Sin & Punishment. In Yars’ Revenge however, each button on the 360’s controller is utilized for a different purpose and it takes a bit of time to fully tackle the controls. While it was a bit complicated though at first, this method does do wonders to add depth to the overall experience.

As far as controls go, players must use the left stick to actually control the Yar on the screen with targeting reticle being controlled fully with the right stick. This means that the player must simultaneously control each as they battle through a level. Shoulder buttons also come into full play as they are used for firing different attacks at enemies. The left bumper acts as a quick dodge, the right bumper is a charged laser, the left trigger is used to highlight enemies and fire missiles, and the right trigger is your standard shot. As I mentioned, it does take some time to take all this in, but everything works well and is all useful for just about every stage in one way or another. The face buttons on the controller also come into play, as they are used for activating different power-ups and attacks which are collected after certain enemies have been defeated. I went from feeling pure frustration trying to get used to all of this to a feeling that it was brilliant in an hours time, so patient gamers will be rewarded by one of the most in-depth control schemes an on-rails shooter has seen in a long time if they just stick with it.

Each level is laid out with a different batch of scenery that you are taken through and as you progress, different swarms of insect-like enemies rear up their heads to try to destroy your Yar so you must constantly be prepared for a full on offense (as well as defense) at all times. Shooting works well for what it’s worth, but your Yars’ much more vast arsenal is where the meaty element of gameplay is found as it adds a thick layer of strategy for dealing with the much more intense combat. Small enemies can fall at an instant with one bullet from your standard shot but other enemies simply take more to defeat. To do this, you are equipped with a laser which requires a small charge before use that can be controlled to take out a few bigger insects at a time if you pull the reticle fast enough. Missiles are also very useful as several foes can be targeted at once and finished off in one shot if performed correctly. Power-ups come in handy and add in an upper advantage when collected. Some of these perform actions like wiping out a mess of the Qotile at one time, an attack that destroys enemy fire, a shield that regenerates health, and a pick-up that deals extra damage. An added in multiplier rewards the player a much larger score for taking down several enemies in bursts and also provides an extra incentive to eliminate enemies in quantity and speed.

Each stage actually can be a lengthy affair, and with that checkpoints are assigned for a nice safety net if you happen to fail during a mission. The combat is a bit repetitive to be honest, but with the many techniques and strategies given as well as the constant action at hand, I can easily say I was never bored once as Yars’ Revenge provides an intense setting in just about every level that is both rewarding and fulfilling. The greatest part though is that every stage ends with a boss battle that acts as a fantastic swan song to each level as each boss requires a different strategy to eventually take down, with a distinct feel for every one of these encounters. After completing the game, there is still a moderate amount of extra content to complete such as a challenge mode which has you tackle different tasks such as aiming to take down as many enemies as possible or take on the game with different stipulations such as unlimited ammo and no shields. For the competitive, there is also an online leaderboard where can compete for that top score against a world of other players.

Each level in Yars’ Revenge is set in beautifully drawn backdrops which fit well with both the sprites as well as the actual theme for the game. Textures are rich and full of color. Models are also a visual treat as enemies and the nameless Yar are all very detailed and it is very evident that a lot of time went into every aspect of design. In my opinion an on-rails shooter of any sort should take let players explore with their eyes since they are guided through each stage, and that is exactly what Yars’ revenge accomplishes with it’s stunning presentation.

The music in Yars’ is also fitting for each stage and keeps the game upbeat and captures the atmosphere for each level. The sound effects are also nice with a hint of the older 80’s version of the game thrown in that better capture the essence of the original. The only downside of the audio though is what it is lacking, voicework. I know I already mentioned it, but that alone would have brought out the true depth of the story and is the one thing that keeps this title as a whole from accomplishing greatness.

Yars’ Revenge is a fantastic title which offers both rewarding and fulfilling experience that fans of on-rails shooters or simply older arcade games will love through and through. The story is there but due to poor execution, it is simply too hard to actually follow and this does hold this game back from achieving on it’s narrative. For just 800 points though, the intense and strategic gameplay that each stage presents as well as the stunning scenery that is seen along the journey makes Yars’ Revenge one reboot that should not be ignored.

I Give Yars’ Revenge:

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