Review: Akka Arrh (Nintendo Switch)

You say you need a little blast from the past? Maybe something to tickle your vector graphics fancy? Got a little cabin-et fever? OK, I’ll stop now before my editors hurt me (they know where I live).

It’s time to take a look at an old Atari title from the Switch perspective. Akka Arrh started as a cabinet arcade game in the ‘80s (not to be confused with the High Tier of Capella from Star Trek TOS).

It’s good to be the High Tier (the original Akaar…)

The original arcade game version was released in 1982, but it didn’t fare as well as was hoped. To be fair, the competition in the arcades included some impressive titles like Pole position, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, and Galaga.

The Switch version still looks like it’s a 1982 arcade game, mostly. The colors, lines, and fades are much smoother, but the game does retain some of the geometric patterns and vector graphic visuals from the original. Some of you may be bracing for my usual rant against the retro look, but this is an honest resurrection of a vintage game so the throwback visuals are completely appropriate. The movements and colors shift and fade is more modern and pleasing to the eye.

The audio effects are a little more late ‘80s new age-y background stuff, but they’re a good match with the slightly psychedelic look. Overall, the effect is a bit trippy, but pleasant.

Akka Arrh’s gameplay is what you might expect from an old arcade title; it’s a bit one dimensional as games go, but it does its job well. The basic premise is to shoot everything coming at you and survive as long as possible. Your avatar is basically a gun turret in the middle of the screen. You have two types of munitions you can send flying at the enemy: bombs and bullets. Don’t expect either to look as anticipated. The enemies, likewise, are not visually detailed; they are often just little pink balls of pain coming your way.

Here’s where the game mechanics get interesting. When you launch a bomb at the game field, it explodes and creates an expanding shock wave. Any enemy which touches the shock wave (or the slowly dissipating energy field left in the wake of the shockwave) is destroyed. There are two joys here. The first is that the little pink ball of pain gets blown to smithereens. The other is that when the little pink ball of pain explodes, it starts its own expanding shock wave to help take out more enemy fire. If you hit things just right, you can fire one bomb and watch new shock waves blow stuff up for half the round. This is a good thing because you get bonus points for using fewer bombs.

The field of play starts out as one big, open area, and the shock waves are circular. As you progress up levels, the fields get a bit more intricate in their layout and the shockwaves start changing shape. Also, on the higher levels you will encounter some new floating shapes you can shoot with bullets to gain points or power-ups. Another interesting feature of the playing field is that, after the first few levels, the game will start giving you a field which is divided into bands, or other types of different areas (usually distinguished by different colors). Each distinct area limits where the shock waves of your bombs will stop. The incoming enemy fire doesn’t have any restriction on moving across the field, so you need to be careful about where you drop a bomb. If you drop it in the wrong area, the shock wave may miss your target. The game even throws in a “lower level” in which to shoot it out to protect some of your vital resources at close range.

The game sometimes feels a bit unorganized, but it lends character. You may want to play this one on your TV, as the smaller Switch screen makes it difficult to read everything the game has to tell you. I will recommend you go to the controls and turn off the stats, score info, and tips which flash across the screen. They are sometimes on a timer, so you need to read quickly. With the flashing lights and all caps font it can be hard to read.

Keep an eye on the game’s appraisal of your performance in each round, as the text can be a bit cheeky. I had a couple of, shall we say, less than stellar runs, and the evaluation was hilarious.

Akka Arrh is actually very simple. All you need to do is keep your turret spinning and shoot whatever comes your way. It isn’t a lot to do, but this is a vintage arcade shooter, pure and simple. Success comes the old school way; as you advance levels, the boards get more difficult to manage and there are more things which can destroy you. If you can learn to manage your ammunition, memorize attack patterns, and stay focused enough to stay ahead of the baddies, you will fare just fine. Lose focus and you will die quickly.

Like I will if I continue to start my reviews with puns.

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