The Game: As a strangely crablike creature, you scuttle along the rim of an abstract, hollow geometric tube, zapping red bow-tie-ish critters and purple diamond-shaped things which carry them. There are also swirly green things (swirly thing alert!!) which spin “spikes” like webs, and by the way, you should avoid spikes. (Atari, 1983 – never released)
Memories: This version of Tempest never officially saw the light of day…but in looking at this attempt at a 2600 version of Atari’s own popular vector graphics game, one wonders if the game’s no-show wasn’t an attempt to prevent another turkey of Pac-proportions from marring Atari’s recently-repaired reputation.
The graphics of the 2600 edition of Tempest are big and blocky, almost a throwback to the earliest VCS titles released by Atari, even though many game developers – from Imagic to Activision to Atari itself – had long since squeezed much more colorful and intricate graphics out of the 2600’s meager processor. When one considers that other titles on the store shelves at the time included Atari’s excellent Moon Patrol and Pole Position adaptations and Imagic’s Moonsweeper, this version of Tempest would been a major embarassment.
The Tempest cartridge prototype was shown at Classic Gaming Expo 2000; it’s hard to judge the game one way or the other based on a ROM – which may or may not have been a finished product or simply a project in development – and unfair to judge it by playing it on an emulator. But as a historical curiosity, judging from what was there, it seems likely that, unlike Asteroids, Tempest would not have survived the transition from a vector graphics coin-op to a raster home video game cartridge.