A long, long time ago, Atari 2600 owners the world over enjoyed a little game called Yars' Revenge. This era of gaming is difficult to go back to if you were born beyond the crash, but those early gameplay loops set the foundations for what was to come decades later, and the game has earned a reputation as a classic. More recently, a new company named Atari has been publishing renewed versions of their biggest names from yesteryear, and Yars is next on the list. Yars: Recharged loses the apostrophe but keeps the unique style of gameplay where a single insectoid must take on a grid of impediments and laser turrets, strike at its core, and then travel on to the next level. It's a simple score chase, and I'm unsure if it brings enough to the table to justify its standalone release in 2022, but anyone with fond memories of the original cartridge will find something to enjoy here.
Yars Recharged is the seventh game in the series, all developed by Adamvision Studios and Sneakybox. Most of these games offer a remixed version of the 2600 experience and a challenge mode that goes through exciting iterations of the original. This applies to the world of
Yor's Yars, but Adamvision had their work cut out for them when adapting such a simple game to the modern day. You still play as an insectoid ship shooting slow but steady bullets at a wall of opposition, although now the wall generally spins or poses more challenge than simply standing in your way. After dodging bullets and blasting away one of the many cores in each wall, you get a power-up that ranges from a spread shot to a single high-power laser cannon. You also charge energy that activates a super weapon that can blast through shields and take down the primary core that blocks progress to the next screen.
Reading all that makes Yars: Recharged feel more complicated than it is, and the challenge simply comes in learning bullet patterns and surviving as long as possible. The additions to the original's simple loop are welcome, but they don't prove to be as revolutionary as I would have liked. For one, only a handful of power-ups can spawn, and all of them only last a few seconds. Even if you manage to get something you like, blasting a core usually does enough to charge your superweapon, encouraging you to move to the other side of the screen and ignore the power-up that inevitably homes onto your ship as you pass by. By the time you're done unleashing your attack and back in your regular ship, you're also back to a piddly pea shooter.
There is a challenge in ducking between shots and getting in for the more considerable melee damage you can only do when you're rubbing right against an enemy. However, there's not a lot to this gameplay that keeps me coming back for more, especially in the primary mode, where the levels are the same every time you hit start. This is fixed in a Challenge Mode that mixes gameplay with unique levels and ideas that should have emerged in the main experience. Each new level here presents something to think about beyond mere shooting, but variety isn't the only issue with Yars: Recharged.
Each Recharged game has a similar minimalistic aesthetic that tries to call back to the 2600 days without actually reminding you of the original hardware's jagged edges and sharp beeps. The graphics in Yars: Recharged accomplish this, but its existence as a single-screen arcade game lends the entire presentation to a high level of monotony. The soundtrack is an endless string of firing your weapon with occasional returning fire from laser cannons and offscreen baddies. The graphics are gray blocks and a tiny bug ship against a faded grid background. The whole thing looks unimpressive in an era where so many other classics from the 80s have seen intricate upgrades to their original art or neon-drenched overlays full of eye candy.
Yars: Recharged Review | Final Thoughts
I'm not saying that I want a complete modern upgrade in the vein of the genuinely oddball XBLA-era release that also featured the Yars branding, but I also think that the developer's attempts to modernize the game didn't go far enough. Compared to other releases in the series like Centipede and Breakout, a remake of Yars' Revenge really needs some extra love and care to help it exist as a singular game in today's marketplace. As it stands, this is an accurate version of Revenge, but porting that game over faithfully can only attract nostalgic fans at this juncture. As someone who started their gaming journey at the NES, all I can really do while playing this Recharged remake is wish I was playing Galaga instead.
TechRaptor reviewed Yars: Recharged on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Atari VCS, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and Stadia.
- Faithfully adapts the Atari 2600 original's core gameplay
- Yars: Recharged almost rhymes
- Gameplay loops feels simplistic even with modern upgrades
- Simplistic Recharged presentation grows stale fast
- Limited Challenge mode outshines the primary Arcade mode