Tempest was released circa October 1981 by Atari who also developed the game. Tempest is a tube shooter.

Tempest - marquee
Tempest Cabinet top lexan graphic

Tempest was made with the new Atari quadrascan color vector display. The game also allowed the player to start at a higher level.

  • Orientation: Vertical
  • Type: Vector
  • CRT: Color
  • 19-inch Wells-Gardner 19K6100
  • Rotary: Optical
  • Buttons: 2 [Fire Superzap]

The objective of Tempest is to survive as long as possible and score as many points as possible by clearing the screen of enemies that have landed on the playing field.

The game consists of sixteen screens with unique geometric shapes, some of which are closed tubes that allow the player to loop around, while others are open fields that have distinct left and right endpoints.

The player’s ship can rapid-fire shots down the tube, destroying any enemies within the same segment, and is also equipped with a Superzapper, which destroys all enemies currently on the playfield once per level. (A second use of the Superzapper in a level destroys one random enemy.).

Tempest screenshot

Enemies swirl around at the far end of the playfield, then enter the playfield and move toward the player. When all enemies in a level are destroyed or reach the near end of the playfield, the player “warps” to the next level by traveling down the playfield.

There are 8 enemy types: Flippers, Tankers, Spikers, Spikes, Fuseballs, Pulsars, Fuseball Tankers and Pulsar Tankers. Tempest features sixteen unique geometric shapes for the playing fields, some of which are closed tubes that allow the player to loop around, while others are open fields with distinct left and right endpoints. When all 16 screens have been played, the sequence repeats with a different color scheme and higher difficulty, including the invisible (black) levels (65–80). Each sequence of levels adds additional faster, deadlier enemies.

The numbered levels stop incrementing after level 99 and a random one of the 16 variations will appear after successful completion of subsequent levels. This game supports 2 players taking turns.

The game uses the 6502 CPU which handles the vectors. The video is handled by the Atari Vector Generator which has its own RAM and ROM. The main program ROM is 20KB.

The game uses a color oscilloscope display configured as a vector graphics. Bugs in the game forced arcades to replace the ROM chips in their machines.