Yar's Revenge, the 2011 reimagining of the 1981 Atari 2600 title, is a shooter-on-rails in the vein of the original Star Fox (or, if you prefer more recent and Xbox-relatable examples, Panzer Dragoon Orta or Rez). Unlike the stated examples, however, Yar's Revenge 2011 does not possess snippets of action-packed voice chatter, gorgeous visuals, or an amazing sense of synesthesia, respectively, and instead overloads your senses with swirling camera angles, supersaturated colours, and blurry, SDTV-be-damned text that inconveniently appears in the most frantic of firefights.
As a shooter on rails, you pilot Yar down a prescripted path in each level, with the goal of blazing through one of six levels and gunning down everything in your way. While you have an unlimited-ammo pulse gun, you can also fire a laser beam (with a small chargeup time) and a missile barrage (Each barrage takes 1 missile from your stockpile, but you can select multiple enemies to be locked in with the attack). Beyond that, each stage has a variety of power-ups to be found, including a Shield (turning you invulnerable and regenerating you, but preventing you from firing), a screen-clearing Zorlon Cannon, and a robotic-assist that fires alongside you, boosting your damage output.
Unlike other rail shooters, Yar's Revenge features a lot of camera jitter, primarily to feel more actiony, and while camera movement is certainly not a first for the genre, Yar's Revenge kicks it into overdrive, with wild spirals and un-expected spins. Yar, enemies on screen, power-ups and projectiles on screen are not affected by this wild movement, which can really throw off one's spatial sense, as bullets apparently curve in trajectory around a spinning Yar - if none of the interactive elements on screen (with the noted exception of ground-based enemies) are affected by the spinning background, then the background is simply a psychedelic distraction from the gameplay.
In length, Yar's Revenge continues the recent XBLA trend of "incredibly short games". Were you so inclined, you could blaze through the game on normal difficulty in under two or three hours, and, with the exception of a harder difficulty above "normal" and challenge modes for each stage (including "berserker mode" or "always maintain a combo mode"), there is little replayability.
The game does have a target, niche audience, and those gamers have already wholeheartedly adopted Yar's Revenge, as the online leaderboard has swelled with hardcore gamers perfecting their runs through each stage - despite an overall average presentation, complexity, and quality, there is already a group of leaderboard climbers waiting to challenge you and your reflexes. While their claims will stand unchallenged by me, the lure of 3D bullethell-on-rails might attract some fresh blood, despite the rough edges.