Forever for a while

We've been talking quite a bit about Tempest lately, so here's a last special little treat for now.

This, self-evidently, is the little-seen front and back box art for the official Atari ST conversion, which I found while messing around with GamebaseST. The steampunk art style is quite interesting in itself, but more exciting is the shock revelation that Tempest – perhaps the most purely abstract arcade game of all time – actually has a plot.

"Into The Maelstrom"

"Some time into a doubtful future, man has looked far through the depths of space to discover a strange series of constructions linking our space to that of another dimension. These alien artifacts are tunnel-like tubes, through which the hostile forces of another galaxy threaten to pour, destroying all before them."

"The combined resources of seven planets have built a single craft capable of carrying one man on a desperate mission to stop the building of alien tubes, sealing the aliens in their own universe forever. The mission is to fly the craft round the rim of the tubes, clearing each wave of aggressors until the pilot can blast his ship down the tune to the next section."

"Only when all sixteen tubes have been cleared and destroyed will the universe be safe. For a while…"


A number of pertinent questions obviously arise from this account of events.

1. Aliens are bad, but seven planets (six of them, logically, being alien) have combined their resources to attack? Man, that must have been some pretty fraught diplomacy. And if only one man is being sent, six of those planets are getting off pretty lightly, no?

2. What's the actual objective of this endeavour? Destroy the tubes? Close them off? Stop more from ever being built? Presumably the only way to achieve the latter would be to kill all the aliens too, who (let's remember) are currently only threatening an attack. So it's a genocide mission, against an alien race who haven't actually committed any act of aggression. WHO IS THE TRUE EVIL IN THIS STORY?

3. If the mission succeeds, will the universe be safe "forever", or just "for a while"? It seems quite an important distinction. You could just about make a case for slaughtering an entire civilisation if it was going to bring peace to the universe forever, but it's a bit drastic for a fortnight.

Anyway, good luck to the coalition forces in their mission to save the universe from the alleged threat and its weapons of mass destruction!


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