Good things come in threes; so three “tanks” in a video game title? Not a bad proposal. That’s exactly what Namco Bandai is banking on when it comes to allocating the surely barren funds (after picking up a $349.99 console) to but a few key launch titles. Sure, ZombiU and Super Mario Bros. U are givens, but there’s always that enigmatic “third” title that isn’t a must-buy, but needed to add some variety. When looking for one guaranteed to be a good time, what sounds like a better bet: “Tank! Tank! Tank!” or “Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper”? The one with the multiple exclamation points, of course. As it’s not a game designed to revolutionize the genre, or anything really, its worthiness simply comes down to how much “tank! tank! tank!” it offers and to what extent. Unfortunately, the game isn’t worthy of two of those tanks — and certainly not the exclamations.
If the blunt title didn’t make it obvious enough, Tank! Tank! Tank! is a video game stripped down to the medium’s bare essentials. The GamePad camera is used to take your picture and one of many silly avatar frames chosen to accompany it, including things like penguins, frogs, santa and a cowboy. It’s impossible to skip, so those who don’t like their dignity being robbed via picture form may not appreciate the feature. The story is played out in-between missions via anime-style motion stills with Mikasa, the female mission operator, and Nagato, a partner along from the ride throughout the single-player campaign. Most of their unvoiced banter involves giving tips — ranging from helpful to incredibly obvious — but the story ends up boiling down to “defeat the giant evil monster thing”. Literally all of the enemies in the game are giant mechanical creatures, ranging from T. rex to praying mantises, with their motivation for destroying the world of Tank! Tank! Tank! unknown. Battles are either against swarms of smaller creatures or one huge boss-like enemy like a giant squid or griffon.
The goal of the game is simply to bring down these enemies via tanks as quickly as possible. Only two inputs are used to control the action, with either of the analog sticks both steering and aiming the tank and any one of the buttons firing the equipped weapon. Many will complain about the simplicity, but the arcade-style gameplay actually fits the action quite nicely. Throughout the level, power-ups randomly appear that give the tank stronger firepower. Each tank has three different weapons unique to it, with one being an unlimited single-shot default weapon and the other two usually a stronger form of the default one in a yellow box and an infrequent “finishing attack” of sorts that appears in blue boxes. The amount of variety between them is impressive, with weapons ranging from the expected (flame thrower, assault machine gun) to the ridiculous (horns and shark-shaped homing missiles). Most levels adopt the same strategy of pounding a button as quick as possible while aiming towards an enemy and trying to avoid attacks. These pesky adversaries become stronger the more damage they take, with each being at their most dangerous near the end of their health. While incredibly basic, it’s gaming at its most primal and proves to be relaxing action in contrast to more advanced titles on the console. The problem becomes that mindlessly hitting a button gets boring after awhile.
The first seven stages are a blast, but things get rocky once level seven is cleared. Instead of simply soldiering on, fifteen medals are required to unlock the stage. After clearing a stage, a grade is awarded based on how long the level took to clear and how much damage was sustained, translating into experience points that level-up the tank used. So long as the level is cleared, regardless of the grade, a medal is awarded. Besides stages, the medals are used to unlock additional tanks. As only one medal is awarded per level, however, clearing level seven leaves you with only seven medals — meaning that to unlock level eight, eight additional medals must be accrued. The only way to do this? Beat every level over again with a different tank. While I hoped it was simply a speed bump to encourage tank-swapping early in the game, reaching level eleven effectively becomes the final nail in the single-player coffin. There, thirty medals are required to move forward and a minimum of nineteen will be in your possession with eleven levels. Can you do the math? If you haven’t figured it out, it means that the entire game needs to be beat *again* with a different tank. The game continues this pattern as it goes on. Beating a wave of giant gorillas once with the most basic set of controls is fun. Three times? Tedium at its finest. Worse yet, the levels begin to get repetitive, with some being exactly the same besides enemies being rendered a different color and stronger difficulty.
While the single-player campaign is a colossal disappointment, fun can at least be had in multiplayer. Four modes are included: Free for All, My Kong, Team Versus and Monster Battle. Free for All is simply 1-4 players trying to kill each other as much as possible, with the winner being whoever racks up the most kills at the end of match. Question mark boxes randomly appear that cycle through and drop a random item — à la Mario Kart. It’s a fun mode that players will likely return to most often purely because friends who have never played before can be blowing up tanks like the best of them after a few seconds of play. Team versus is the same, but with a pair of players instead of every man for himself, and Monster Battle simply has players destroying one of the boss creatures from the campaign.
The highlight of multiplayer is My Kong, which also makes the best use of the GamePad in the game (not hard considering all it does in the single player mode is display a useless speedometer and tachometer). In this mode, one player takes control of a gigantic mechanical gorilla via the GamePad screen while other players control tanks on the TV via splitscreen. The goal of the game for the kong player is to use three attacks (including shaking the gamepad) to smash the other player’s tanks, while they must actively try to avoid these attacks while lobbing as much ammunition at him as possible. It’s a very creative mode that had the kind of innovation that the single-player campaign is sorely lacking. Fun as they may be, only including four modes with no online-play in a game touted to have great multiplayer is a let down.
Tank! Tank! Tank! is a huge disappointment that proves that arcade gameplay doesn’t always make a smooth transition over to home consoles. With multiple tanks and zany weapons, the gameplay is a blast in short spurts, but the simplicity of it combined with the forced repetition of levels render it an exercise in futility. At $29.99, the game could be a fun purchase for those primarily into multiplayer, but its current price-point and lack of significant Wii U GamePad functionality add up to a release worth skipping.
Platform: Wii U
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