Yar's Revenge Review

By Jeffrey Matulef - Posted May 02, 2011

Yar's Revenge is a finely crafted on-rails third person shooter with a wonderful art style. It's light on content and may not have much to do with its source material, but it's still an enjoyable, albeit fleeting experience.

The Pros
  • Weapons are fun to use
  • Smooth controls
  • Looks fantastic
The Cons
  • Not enough types of environments and enemies
  • Too short
  • Story is poorly told

Yar's Revenge Review:

Reboots of dormant 80s series are all the rage these days. Bionic Commando recently resurfaced after a two decade hiatus to bring us three games in as many years. Just the other week we saw Rush'N Attack get a new coat of paint. And on the horizon we've got Kid Icarus: Uprising reprising the Peter Pan-like ass-kicking cherub. Capitalizing off that trend we now have Yar's Revenge, a sequel to an Atari 2600 game from thirty years ago. Familiarity with its predecessor, Yars' Revenge (note the apostrophe placement) isn't necessary though, as this sequel has next to nothing to do with it. Instead, it takes its basic premise of a fly at war with its alien overlords and turns it into a gorgeous on-rails shooter. It may not be true to its source material, but Yar's Revenge is a slick modern take on an old genre that stands up on its own.

Yar's Revenge

The Next Generation

Where Yars' Revenge was about a race of giant sentient armored flies, this sequel follows the exploits of the last living Yar who's been reimagined as a four-armed fairy in mech armor. With a generic anime face and short blond hair she's closer to Tasha Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation than the arthropod of Yars' Revenge. It's a bit silly, but none of that matters when she takes to the skies zapping bugs, mechs, and anything that gets in her way.

Yar controls exquisitely with the ability to aim independent of movement with the right analogue stick. Being able to shoot anywhere on screen regardless of position is liberating. Weapons are well balanced between the weak rapid-fire laser, a cannon that deals massive damage (to giant enemy crabs no less), and a finite supply of homing missiles. Each one is useful against different enemy types and balancing them is crucial to racking up a high score.

Yar's Revenge

Compared to other game of its ilk like Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, Yar's Revenge feels leisurely. It's less of a "bullet hell" than a "bullet purgatory," but this isn't a bad thing. With the screen less cluttered it's easier to comprehend what's going on. Yar's Revenge can still be challenging, but its refined design shows restraint.

It also looks amazing. Its green mountainous terrain resembles a cross between James Cameron's Avatar and a Hayao Miyazaki movie before moving on to the Zone of the Enders-like Qotile base. The abstract hybrid of an insect colony with a factory is inspired, and flying topsy-turvy routes through its mad M.C. Escher-esque designs is a treat.

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A Fly Went By...

While it looks and plays great Yar's Revenge suffers from a severe lack of content. At a scant six stages, it likely won't last more than a couple of hours. Multiple difficulty levels, co-op, and challenge modes add some longevity, but with only a handful of environments and enemy types there isn't enough substance to prevent these lengthy stages from wearing out their welcome shortly after the end credits roll.

Elsewhere, the storytelling is a mess. Dialogue is portrayed via voiceless text which is fine in cutscenes, but not when you're in the heat of combat. Even during cinematics the subtitles disappear too quickly for all but speed readers to keep up with them.

Yar's Revenge

I Wouldn't Hurt a Fly

Despite some misgivings, Yar's Revenge is a lot of fun while it lasts. It's too short and repetitive to be a resounding success, but for $10 it's a pleasant attraction. It looks phenomenal, controls like a dream, and its easy to grasp mechanics allow you to sit back and enjoy the ride. While it may not be the most hardcore shooter out there, its sensible difficulty curve and an elegant design make it accessible rather than frustrating. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 30 years to see Yar again.