Tempest 2000: Bonus Levels

At level 17, the background music changes and the web changes color, from blue to red. Since there are 16 blue levels, it seems likely that there are 16 red levels as well, but I haven’t confirmed this. All I know is that the next change (to yellow) happens somewhere past level 30, and when it happens, the level shapes start repeating from the beginning, but with more difficult enemies. Obviously 100 is not divisible by 16, so what happens when you approach the end? Does it just continue in the same pattern, or are there four special levels? I don’t know yet, but I kind of suspect the former. There’s some indication in reviews I’ve seen online that reaching level 100 doesn’t even end the game, but just switches it automatically to excessively difficult mode (which is unlocked thereby) and keeps on going.

I haven’t yet managed to get into the yellow without using continues. I’m not considering continues to be dishonorable in this game, but it seems to me that seeing how far I can get without them is a reasonable way to gauge my skill. I’ve managed to get pretty close to the yellow, getting past level 30 at least and possibly up to level 32, just short of the expected transition. But I’m not sure just how far I’ve gone, because the game doesn’t display level numbers, and even when I try to keep track on my own, the bonus levels confuse the issue.

So let me talk about the bonus levels. Here’s how they work: One of the powerups in the normal levels is a “warp token”. After you collect three warp tokens, you get a bonus level. Thus, they have no fixed place in the level sequence, although the content of the bonus level seems to be determined by what level you were at. Bonus levels are unrelated to Tempest gameplay, except in that they seem to all keep the flying-down-a-tube motif in one way or another. For example, the first few bonus levels involve flying through a series of rings. Each ring you fly through gives you a certain number of points, which I frankly wouldn’t care about except for the fact that points give you extra lives. Miss one ring and the bonus level ends immediately. If you manage to get all the way through a bonus level, you get another large bonus and skip ahead five levels.

It’s that “skip ahead five levels” that makes things unclear. Does it mean “add five to the last level you played”, or does it mean “add five to the level you would otherwise be playing next”? I could figure this out by taking notes about the web shape on each level, but I haven’t bothered.

Now, I’ve said before that there’s a distinction between completism and perfectionism in games. I haven’t really articulated that distinction. In most games, it’s pretty subtle — a completist and a perfectionist will, in most cases, pursue the same goals. But this skipping ahead strikes me as one of the few game mechanics that separate them. To play perfectly is to clear every bonus level without making a mistake, which means skipping levels, which means not playing completely. Of course, the fact that the game repeats webs affects this — you’d have to be a pretty extreme completist to complain about skipping content that’s basically identical to something you’ve already seen. But if there actually were 100 distinct webs, and I skipped some towards the end, I wouldn’t be completely satisfied.

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