Friday, 12 October 2012

Codename: Tenka (PSX) - Guest Post

As requested by a reader, it's time for some TENKA.

"An evil corporation is threatening to kill off humankind, and it's up to you as Tenka, a war-hardened resistance fighter, to stop them from putting man at the top of the extinction list. This is the real deal. This-is-the-baddest-most-realistic-kill-or-be-killed-switching-to-fully-automatic-how'd-you-like-a-nuclear-rocket-up-your-butt-?-did-I-just-feel-someone's-brain-splatter-on-my-face-?-corridor-shooting game ever built."

This game was released as Codename: Tenka in the US and Lifeforce Tenka in Europe, like PowerSlave became Exhumed in PAL territories. And just to make things even more confusing, I've got the American Codename on the PlayStation and the European Lifeforce on the PC! The main menu just calls it TENKA in both games, which makes sense because you play as a dude called Tenka.

Trojan Inc. Cybernetics Manufacturing Plant

What... what is this?

This looks like some kind of dingy city beachfront hotel? I thought we were going to the Cybernetics Manufacturing Plant!

The camera glides down the gloomy corridors of the guest house... or is that GHOST HOUSE?


Deep within the dank hotel, our man Joe Tenka is held captive within a glass capsule, the subject of some unknown bizarre experiment. Screaming, twitching, flashing, blooping...

A stranger calmly enters the laboratory, sets a charge beside the capsule, and blows himself to smithereens.

Tenka is free. His head is all messed up. Somebody's gonna pay for this.

"Something went wrong with the preparation of my body. My brain... aches... as if there's something deep inside it trying to... overpower me. I must fight back against this terrible pain and the weakness in my limbs. And there are 'things' here. Gah, I can't think! I wanna DESTROY THIS PLACE! To stop them creating more 'things'. Their gun'll help me. There must be a power core here, surely."

Surely! Wait, you don't even know where you are! You shouldn't be sure of anything!

He takes the stranger's rifle and (wisely) decides it's the solution to all his future problems. He's also got himself some kind of ocular implant like the fellow from System Shock 2, though he might have had that already.

He seems to know what he wants to do. Here we go.

Well, it sorta looks like the room from the rendered cutscene. A good effort. And the PC version looks... the same!

Let's take it slow. Anything could be on the other side of that door.

Peek-a-boo! It's a floaty insecto droid!

One shot from the rifle explodes the beast. He saw me but I don't think he set off any alarms. So far so good.

Power core...? Nope, I think it's another experiment capsule. There's not a great amount of level detail being thrown around here in either version.

Both versions have really sensitive, powerful auto-aim that yanks the gun all over the place. Somewhat awkwardly I get the job done and claim my Red key... gotta stomp back and check all those doors I passed on the way here. Fun stuff.

TOO CLOSE. Where'd you come from?!

Gah, this isn't good. It's hard to go back to playing games with no analogue stick support!

There's a single 'hold strafe' button rather than two separate left and right shoulder buttons, which means I can't turn and strafe at the same time. Tenka runs really fast sideways, so it turns out it's easier to dodge if I hold strafe all the time to pin Tenka facing forwards and run about bashing into all the walls behind me until a door opens to give me a hiding place.

These tactics are playing havoc with my sense of direction. Good job this level is so small; I think it's just a few rooms and ramps connected up in strange ways, like the stealth levels at the start of Medal of Honor.

That was easy. Those guys don't have any sort of projectile attack; they just slowly float up to you and chip away at your shield.

I'm still no closer to figuring out what this place is supposed to be. There's narrow corridors, ramps, giant metal bulkhead doors, those experiment rooms, and that's it. There's a door with a neon EVAC sign above it which, if I know my videogames, only opens when I've destroyed the power core and I've got 30 seconds to find it in the everything-goes-red-self-destruct-panic-mode before the level explodes.

Hey, it's something that isn't a featureless corridor or an experiment room! Let's go!

I'm-a creeping around in veeents. I'm-a creeping around in vee-eeents. You guys can't see me because I'm creeping around in veee-eeents.

Here's one of those floaty insect-like things up close. They're pretty detailed for something you're supposed to run away from.

Down the identical vents I found identical corridors connecting identical rooms containing identical enemies protecting identical keys. Who leaves things lying around like this?

Lifeforce Tenka (PC)
Hello there, guys! You weren't there before!

The PS doesn't like this corridor one bit: the multiple enemies on screen slow it all down and the auto-targeting can't decide which enemy it wants to aim at. If I didn't know better, I'd say Joe is panicking.

It would be nice if any of these things dropped ammo. Some of them drop glow-in-the-dark green cubes which do something, but don't give me health, armour or ammo.

And that's a power core if I ever saw one. Odd thing to find in a guest house. So it's definitely a cyborg factory, then.

Ugh. This lousy gun is really lousy. On the PS it fires slowly as if it were a heavy rifle, but on the PC it's a sub-machine gun. It gets even slower when there's laser blasts and screen-filling glow effects everywhere. Poor PS simply can't do it.

The power core explodes uneventfully and we get a blinking neon EVAC sign taking up a chunk of the HUD. Time to run!

Or not. I never can tell, said mecha-neko, who all-too-vividly remembers the damned mushroom business from Behind The Iron Gate. For now, there's no rush. A gentle jaunt through the labyrinth and the EVAC door and it's time for Radio Tenka.

"Jameson died, I KNOW it. So why do I hear an echo of his life somewhere in my head? Why do I sense his grip? Did he save me from that preliminary conversion...? GAH. NNNG. And why can't he save me now... FROM THE PAIN."

"Listen. Listen to me."


We're not even out of the cyborg factory yet and Tenka's already cracked! He's having an argument in his head with a mysterious female voice.

"Gotta move! Gotta poke this hotel for good!"

Gotta "poke this hotel"? What does that even mean? Is this a hotel after all or was that a figure of speech?

As Operation Hotel Poke resumes in earnest, I run headlong into a nasty enemy cyborg! His painfully slow laser fire is a poor defence against my excruciatingly slow rifle fire. Still doesn't drop any damned ammo.

Hey, when did I get a laser sight? I'm not complaining, it's bloody useful! Did one of the insect robots drop it on the last level?

According to the back of the box, this gun I have now is the only gun I get through the entire game, but I can boost it with 'endless upgrades' which includes pipe grenades, lasers, missiles and mines. Guns and upgrades, that's two of my favourite things! If the game lets me pick up a laser sight without even telling me, I wonder what else I've picked up that I don't know about.

As far as I can tell, I only have 'SINGLE SHOT' and some other bleepy thing doesn't seem to work.

Laser turrets on the ceiling. Out of the vertical range of the auto-aim. That's a fun thing, there. I'm hoping that I'll get some sort of homing shot option before I have to fight any more of these.

There's lots of flashy effects for an early game: particle flashes, glowing lightning, lens flares, but they're killing the already not-too-stellar frame rate. (Which is making this terrible default gun fire even slower.)

There's two power cores on this level and zero tension. The rooms aren't even guarded. I walk in, hold down fire and walk out again.

But wait! The level's not over yet!

Lifeforce Tenka (PC)
The hotel's emergency exit door leads to a dank staircase. How much do you bet that it leads to A Sewer™?

I don't have a map or a radar, but I do have cube things that I can drop that appear to be navigation beacons. They bleep, flash and do nothing else. I don't even think they attract or distract the enemies. They're not remote mines, proximity mines or timed mines. They're just beeping boxes. Thanks, guys. Next time, HOW ABOUT A MAP.

And they're even more useless than I first thought! You only get about two dozen and you can't pick 'em back up! I was gonna write my name with them!

Finally, an open space! Even if it's pitch black outside, it's good to be out of those ratty corridors. I can finally move around freely!

It doesn't look that bad out here, to boot. The developers have pulled every very-early-PlayStation trick they know to make the parking lot look somewhat realistic. Here's the same place in the PC version.

The enemy cyborgs are almost invisible in the darkness, but Tenka's snazzy new augmented vision puts an incredibly useful reticule around enemies (just like that power-up from Hybrid). And I also somehow turned on my motion sensor! When did that happen?

The exit is a jumble of abstract shapes that sort of resembles the back end of a truck. Tenka doesn't ask questions and just jumps right on in. And not a moment too soon!

Kaboom! I guess it was a hotel after all!

Wot, no end of level stats? Sucks!

"My escape! Huh. Not exactly what I had in mind. But then I'm not sure what I have got up there any more. Worse still, the truck's dumped me in the pumping heart of the Bionoid Construction Plant. Annihilating their machines should lock up..."

"There is no choice. You must obey me."

"...should lock up production for ever. Gah, time to administer a cardiac arrest of my own!"

Wait, wait, wait. I feel like I've missed something here. Both Tenka and mysterious interloper Zenith seem to know exactly what's going on, but we've had no backstory whatsoever. I feel like I'm not invited to the plot. This would be a perfect time for a short recap: Did Tenka deliberately enter the hotel to get some kind of cybernetic augmentation? Was he in the middle of an anti-Bionoid kick when he got captured and put in a tube? Was he working for anyone? Who was Jameson?

I don't mind mysteries, but if neither of the main cast want to talk about what's going on and there's no characters or documents to find in-game, the mystery will never be solved and the story simply collapses to "Once upon a time there was a guy named Tenka who shot robot monsters, the end.".

If that's the plot, why bother having any dialogue at all?

And we're outta the truck!

This 90's PS-era videogame electronic rock is a bit too extreme for my sneaky style of play. I'd like to turn it down a bit to see if there are some environmental sounds I'm missing. Maybe the game works better without the music?

And, of course, I can't change the settings in game. And it's too late to do anything about it because you can't go back to the menu without quitting the game. And there's no level select. And loading a save game resets the settings to as they were when you saved. Thanks a billion.

And we're heading into another set of narrow corridors. Even with the targeting reticule, I can't see a thing!

Can you see the enemy? It's a small hovering disc-like robot between the green brackets in the centre.

How about the enemy generator? It's the small object on the ceiling in front of the door. Difficult to see and harder to hit. You need to destroy it to advance.

Through that door is a narrow passage containing a half-dozen of those ceiling mounted turrets that the auto-aim doesn't want to touch. And then there's a second room, exactly the same!

It's all going wrong.

Lifeforce Tenka (PC)
That central pillar is actually a switch. Well, one side of it is. The only way to know for sure is to run against a wall and then stop. If you hear a grating beeping sound when you stand still, you're somewhere near a switch. When you pan the your field of view over an interactive door or item, the game helpfully highlights it for you. But not switches.

And how do you activate switches? You hold the change weapon button and activate the door as if it were a weapon in your inventory.

And speaking of weapons in my inventory, I've got my first real gun upgrade, courtesy of those green cubes I thought were useless! It's... 'DOUBLE SHOT'! It's the regular rifle shot but now it fires two bullets at once!

What a piece of junk.

Lifeforce Tenka (PC)
Yeeeeeee-ikes! That's gross! They're scary and gross and I don't like them one bit!

These disgusting things are difficult to hit with the PS pad, thanks to using the shoulder buttons to look up and down, and it only gets worse when they run right at you and eat your legs off. If you break off one of their metal legs, they start spinning around in circles, spewing blood everywhere.

Woah... how did that happen? Tenka managed to evoke a feeling other than boredom and resentment!


Give me a break! I can't dodge rockets in narrow corridors where everything's red and I can't see five feet in front of my face! I need something to hide behind! A pillar, a desk, anything!

DOOSH and I'm dead.

Lifeforce Tenka (PC)
I have to get at the treasure protected by this wacky 3D Construction Kit reject. The coloured panels are flying around in concentric circles around the box at a rate of knots; there's no way I can dive between them.

I can smash the coloured sections with gunfire, but there's gotta be a better way. I've used up all my ammo using the double-shot on the rocketmen getting here. NONE of the enemies are dropping any. There's no guarantee that my 92 bullets will even break all these panels! This is a stupid room.

When I ran out of ammo, the game gave me an extra six bullets. Gee, thanks.

Lifeforce Tenka (PC)
Collecting the treasure allowed me to release the sample! YESSSS! What does that mean? Haven't got a bloody clue.

I have no idea what I'm doing or where to go next. The briefing dialogue mentioned that I have to 'destroy' something: to do that I'll 'need holocubes' (the treasure from the spinny panel room), and I have to 'repair' something. Time to do another round of the level and see if any doors have opened.

More rocketmen!

These guys appear in the central corridor every time I complete an objective and make the trip from one side of the level to the other. Yep, it's a cheap trick to make a tiny level last longer.

This is as far as I got on the PC. The game runs at least triple the speed compared to the console, so these rocket guys jitter from side to side like crazy and I can't act fast enough to get any shots in or dodge any of their lightning-fast attacks. The camera tilts violently from side to side when you strafe as well, which is giving me a headache.

Meanwhile, back on the console:


Hitting duck while running makes Tenka do a sliding tackle. Why would you ever want to do that!? (Other than to make the player poop themselves as they uncontrollably slide towards THIS!)

A wide open room! With no enemies in it. The advert did say Tenka was a 'corridor shooter', but I didn't think it was meant to be taken literally.

I've gathered enough cubes to enable the multi-gun's third firing mode: 'MINE'. About damn time, I'm completely out of rifle ammo.

I fire a mine and begin to retreat, hoping to prevent the rocketman from giving chase. The mine hits the ceiling, kills me instantly, and I have to restart the entire level over.

Half way through the loading, I decide it's simply not worth it and turn off the system. Forever.

It's not a Tenkatastrophe, but it's not Tenkamazing either. I think I've made the game sound more interesting than it really is. It's got features, but few redeeming ones. The levels are lame and the (only) gun is lame. The music's not at all bad (YouTube link), but there's really no fun here.

Play Genetic Species instead.

If you'd like to request a game for me to play, or if you want to rise to the defence of Tenka, leave a comment below!


  1. I didn't know that this was made by Psygnosis. It's strange to think that it was made by the same people who created Wiz n' Liz.

    1. Here's something that I think is nuts. Grand Theft Auto and Driver: San Francisco are about guns, cars and crime. They're the most American things on the planet.

      The GTA games are made by DMA Design aka Rockstar North, in Scotland. (And they also made naff shmups and Lemmings, which everybody knows.)
      The Driver games are made by Reflections, in Newcastle - makers of Shadow of the Beast. SHADOW OF THE BEAST! It's enough of a stretch to think the same people made Driver 1 and Driver: SF, never mind SHADOW OF THE BEAST.

      And Wiz 'n' Liz was made by Lunatic Software aka Bizarre Creations, who previously made a mecha shooty platformer called The Killing Game Show, and went on to make the boring Metropolis Street Racer (which got them trapped in a time loop making endless Project Gotham Racing sequels).

      And then they made Blur, for which I will never, ever forgive them.

  2. The only good thing about this game was the demo for psx, everything else was pretty sad ...

    1. I'm afraid I haven't played the demo, but it's starting to sound like I should find it.

      If you leave the title screen of Tenka running, the Demo Mode shows levels further on in the game that look completely different and have wide open spaces, things to jump on, places to hide, multiple types of enemy running about and several different gun modes.

      I think the devs either couldn't bear to get rid of the starting four or five levels, having put so much work into them, or they honestly didn't know the start of their game was so cack it put people off playing any further.

    2. I've got it, if you want to borrow it. It came on the demo1 CD when we bought our PS1 way back when - it seemingly wasn't included with later machines.

  3. Sorry mecha-neko if I offend you or if you will feel forced by my next sentence, but I would like to remind you something. Maybe I was just naive but I believed that when you reviewed first Terminator that you started series of next fps games of that theme. After Terminator, you did Star Crusader which doesnt belong to your Fps friday so I still believed that you will return to it in your next Fps friday where it rightly belongs, but now I can see that you decided to completly skip it, right? Maybe I was just too excited, I dont know :(.

    1. It was never the plan to play all the Terminator games immediately one after the other. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

      Ray likes to play all the games in a series one after the other (like "Super AiG's Guide to Every (old) James Bond Game Ever"), but I try to never play similar games in a row. If I did, there'd be nothing but Terminator games until the middle of next year! (Though if folks start hammering @RayHardgrit on Twitter demanding a Terminator-thon, who would we be to refuse? Assuming there's anything worth showing in the games, that is.)

      The big problem with Future Shock and SkyNET is that I haven't got either of 'em -working- yet, but I haven't given up.

  4. Replies
    1. Oh man, you're right. This isn't a good look, it's ruining the aesthetics of my pretty website! Thanks for letting me know.

    2. Looks like I've got 64 mecha-neko posts to fix, which is entirely my own fault and I should certainly not strangle him over it next time I see him.

      I'm mentioning this just to let you (and others) know that I'm on the case and there's no need in pointing out any other broken mecha-neko guest posts you come across.

    3. All posts should now be fixed. You may now resume telling me when things are broken.

    4. You should host all images on Blogspot to make sure that never happens again.

    5. When you're fixing 60-something pages speed becomes an issue, and it was much faster doing a find/replace with the links instead of uploading to Blogspot. I can guarantee that the new site is going to behave though... unless there's an UNFORESEEN DISASTER. But those hardly ever happen!



Semi-Random Game Box