Tank! Tank! Tank! is as simple as its title suggests. Released in Japanese arcades nearly three years ago, this ground-pounding party blast 'em up plonks teams of players into enormous destructible city playgrounds, tasked with blowing up all manner of alien beasties with great big honking tanks. As fans of great big honking tanks to a man (PopCap's Heavy Weapon is still a firm office favourite), we were delighted to hear that Namco Bandai are transplanting their arcade diversion onto the Wii U, complete with a singleplayer campaign and a few nods to the new hardware.
Does it use the Wii U's capabilities to advantage? Not really.
Is it fun? After getting hands-on with Tank! Tank! Tank! at E3 2012, I haven't stopped grinning yet.
As a multiplayer party game, Tank! Tank! Tank! really is a breath of fresh air. Upon choosing a mission (the E3 demo was a timed battle against a ravening force of 100 alien spiders and a giant boss), you'll be thrown into a colourful cell-shaded city and loosed onto its extraterrestrial infestation with extreme prejudice. Incredibly simple controls allow you to trundle about the city with the Gamepad or WiiMote's analogue stick, with the game taking care of vertical aiming for you. Each tank is armed with a powerful yet slow cannon, with powerups scattered around the stages such as an unbelievably powerful Colossus bomb that dishes out massive damage to targets in its blast radius. Armed with these accessible inputs, the four players are quickly able to team up against the biggest threats while racing to secure the best powerups and high scores for themselves, competitive cooperation at its most fun and streamlined.
This may sound a little bit limp on paper, but Tank! Tank! Tank! channels Earth Defence Force 2017 in all the right ways. Far from a sterile and lifeless environment, the cityscape is essentially a playground of destruction. Buildings explode and collapse under your withering firepower, crushing bugs under the falling rubble and making you feel like a mecha-god in an infallible armoured shell. Once you factor in three more players, each blasting away to their heart's content, levelling as much of the town as possible becomes as much fun as securing your objectives. It's old-school, balls-out, frantic, unapologetic multiplayer fun, and the colourful zany experience we used to crave from Nintendo consoles. Enormous bosses, such as a massive triple-headed dragon, serve to ramp up the action to insane levels, accompanied by an appropriately OTT Jap-rock soundtrack.
Concessions to the Wii U's unique peripherals are few and far between, with the main nifty gimmick being that you can use the Gamepad's camera to replace your tank's portrait with a picture of your own leering mug. It's a small feature, but it will definitely add to the novelty factor of the first few games, not to mention making it easier to tell your teammates apart. I was also able to try Tank Tank Tank! running on the Gamepad's screen, which was admittedly quite fun, though still rather cramped even when compared to sharing a quarter of the TV. The graphics are also slightly dated, but thanks to the vibrant cell-shaded art style, it has aged much more gracefully than similar games from three years ago. We can expect Namco Bandai to lavish Tank! Tank! Tank! with further attention on the run-up to release.
The full version will ship with a selection of singleplayer missions that allows players to acquire persistent upgrades for their tanks, which can subsequently be brought into future multiplayer engagements according to the on-hand Namco rep. We can see ourselves spending a lot of time creating the perfect war machine. A suite of deathmatch modes will also be available, meaning that we'll be able to crown the ultimate tank commander.
And that's your lot. Tanks, huge explosions, cell-shaded aliens and a deliciously old-school take on multiplayer mayhem. Though Tank! Tank! Tank! could potentially be a hard sell as a full-price product, I have no doubt that it will be one of the most fun Wii U launch titles, and an experience we'll dip into throughout the console's lifespan.