Platform: Wii U
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
The third party must have thrown a party when they learned that Nintendo Land wouldn't be included with the Wii U basic edition. Faced with buying Nintendo's minigame collection at a whopping retail price, early adopters suddenly have a choice of which Boxing Day party game to buy - allowing any number of publishers to get in on the action with an instantly-accessible and colourful alternative.
Tank! Tank! Tank! could have been that game. It should have been that game. Based on a zany Japanese arcade cabinet, this quirky cut-price exclusive arms players with a dizzying array of war machines and outrageous weapons before throwing us into battle against hordes of enormous robots in destructible environments (which might be the most exciting sentence I've ever written). The simple yet raucously enjoyable competitive multiplayer remains, buoyed up by a lengthy singleplayer campaign. Just a little work and imagination would have been required to bring Tank! Tank! Tank! up to standard, with its vibrant art direction and massive mecha-dragons making publicity a snap.
In reality, though, Namco Bandai clearly couldn't be bothered.
Tank! Tank! Tank! is fun, if perhaps the most uncomplicated and brainless endeavour I've experienced in quite some time. In an effort to keep things as basic and approachable as possible, controlling your armoured vehicle is a simple matter of moving it forwards and backwards, turning left or right and firing the automatically-aiming cannon. The fact that you can't independently aim your turret makes tracking priority and aerial targets a bit of a nuisance, but crucially you'll forget all about that once you discover what the targets actually are.
You'll duke it out with a robotic kraken hefting a island fortress on its back. A pack of robotic T-Rexes. Skyscraper-sized titans wearing... would you believe it, actual skyscrapers as armour. You'll massacre massive hydra and mechanised mammoths on the moon. As you progress through the singleplayer campaign, all manner of robotic creatures queue up in front of your guns, either in massive numbers or massive size. Buildings crumble at your assault, causing more destruction than the invaders themselves. It's empowering, and a breath of fresh air compared to every grey corridor and dusty desert we've trudged through over the last few years. A vibrant foundation that never quite gets built on.
The singleplayer campaign consists of a series of arena battles featuring different foes (and a few palette swaps) to destroy in a limited time. Completing missions rewards pilots with medals, which in turn unlock a range of different tanks featuring a range of primary and secondary armaments. From plasma-hurling APCs to a hovering tank armed with a hilariously oversized trumpet (parp!), your increasing stable of death machines provides an addictive reason to continue playing.
However, though the campaign is full of eminently memorable moments, it commits several incredibly basic crimes against competent game design too. Incredibly tight time limits will test your patience to the limits, while predictable and samey enemy attacks sap the experience of much in the way of gameplay variety. Compounding this lack of variation, the barely fleshed-out story frequently slams to a halt, barring you from future missions until you grind through previous ones a certain number of times. Not to beat a particular score or objective, just to complete them for the sheer sake of it. This artificial padding forces us to grind because we have to, not because we want to, and the resentment soon builds up.
To add insult to injury, if you want to mitigate the repetition by getting a second player involved, they can't even choose their own tank. Being forced to pilot the basic stock model while watching player one lord it over in an obscene death machine is an exercise in extreme boomstick jealousy and potential violence. Remember that Gamepads are expensive before you try to snatch them, player two.
The art design and novelty factor just about manages to make the campaign worthwhile when approached in small doses. Just. It's a crying shame, because the likes of Earth Defence Force 2017 shows that big silly fun can be utterly brilliant if handled properly.
Local multiplayer throws away tank customisation in favour of some four-player free for all action, which is fast-paced, enjoyable and thoroughly old-school in its unpretentious action. Collect guns, taunt opponents, win. It's a bit of a laugh, especially during the My Kong mode that transforms the Gamepad player into a rampaging titan that the other have to destroy. Arenas and options are definitely on the limited side (you'll probably see most of what Tank! Tank! Tank! has to offer in a single session), but it's certainly a cathartic way to blow off steam with a few friends before loading up something meatier. Once again, regrettably, a little more creativity, content and attention could have made all the difference.
Tank! Tank! Tank! rarely impresses from a graphical or technical standpoint, in fact, it looks rather like a retouched Dreamcast or original Xbox title for the duration. Its wonderfully zany creature design and colourful art direction end up wasted on a fuzzy, lazy port job that even fails to sustain a consistent frame rate throughout. In fairness, it does look much sharper on the Gamepad, but this isn't exactly an excuse for the bare minimum of attention and optimisation. Sound design seems to have been similarly rushed; featuring a handful of poorly-acted samples trotted out more than half a dozen times per mission.
As an inexpensive downloadable title or even a handheld title, Tank! Tank! Tank! could have been a winner. It still could be. But what could have been a surprise sleeper hit deserved better than this ultimately lazy port job.
- Colourful mechanised beasties to kill. Fun!
- Uncomplicated and raucous arcade multiplayer. Fun!
- Some cool tanks and weapons to unlock. Fun!
- Incredibly simplistic controls and ultimately limited multiplayer options
- Little variety or pacing, extremely repetitious
- Singleplayer campaign delights in miserable unecessary grind
- Sub-par visuals and frequent frame rate drops
The Short Version: Tank! Tank! Tank! is fun, fun, fun in short bursts. Sadly, a heartbreaking lack of imagination and effort turns what should have been a riotous party hit into an enjoyable disappointment.
Believe it or not, I'd still recommend Tank! Tank! Tank! if you're looking for a cathartic little diversion - but only as a rental or at a heavy discount.