I love tank games. There is something so gratifying about playing as a literal tank (not just an RPG view of the tank role in a party). You can shoot a giant cannon, take more damage, traverse terrain and even run down enemies. It’s part of a fun power fantasy, and something that is often recreated brilliantly in games. Unfortunately, Tank Troopers isn’t such a game.
In Tank Trooper, you are a tank driver and gunner in one. Forgoing any semblance of a story, the game simply tells you that the front lines are this way, and instructs you to head out and kill enemies. After a brief tutorial, there are 30 different missions that play out with increasing difficulty – there’s no explanation of who the enemies are or why you’re killing them. Simply drive off and destroy.
The premise of the combat sounds interesting – you have various tanks to use throughout the game, as well as different drivers that offer various skills. There’s the character who makes you go invisible through smoke camouflage, or the healing medic who fixes your tank, or the guy who makes your gun do more damage. Unfortunately, all of this is so poorly executed.
Each tank feels the same, with none of them giving the impression during missions of providing greater speed or fire power. Firing the canon should be fun and powerful, but there’s no indication of the power of the canon, nothing that give a force feedback to the player. The abilities can be worthwhile, but aren’t nearly as powerful or useful as I’d hoped – using the ability that made running over enemies deal more damage made such a minuscule difference that I rarely used it, despite my original inclination to do so. Plus, in order to activate the ability you need to tap the character on the screen, which feels clunky and awkward when trying to maneuver forward or backwards at the same time.
Speaking of controls, they are pretty damn terrible. Movement isn’t too bad – use A to move forward, B to move in reverse, or use up and down directional buttons to automatically move forward or backwards respectively, which all feels pretty straight forward so to speak. However, when you add in the shooting, the game makes use of the internal gyroscope to help with aiming, a clever idea. Tilt the 3DS up or down to aim your cannon before using the right bumper to fire. Unfortunately, the game frequently forgets your default gyroscope placement, meaning that you can’t aim up or down without moving the 3DS into bizarre contortionist positions. I was so regularly reseting the motion controller that I eventually turned it off, hoping auto aiming would be better. Spoiler: it wasn’t.
Stages seem to follow the same basic pattern. Run around a map killing enemies, defend a base, kill turrets, shoot something into “gates”, or kill a boss tank. It becomes very repetitive, probably because the enemies are as varied as your own tanks and abilities – sure, they’re different, but it doesn’t really change the way you play the game. Each mission has a time limit, usually ranging from about two to seven minutes. One would think this would add a sense of urgency and excitement, but usually it’s simply an arbitrary time limit, and when it does come into play it feels forced and frustrating. Why should ever boss battle have a time limit? Why is there a time limit for wandering around in fog finding turrets to destroy? Who thought this would be fun?
Certain activities in each stage will earn you in-game currency, although this is rarely explained. Will killing enemies yield currency? What about turrets or the environment? It often just felt like the currency was given as a reward for things that really didn’t make sense. It can be used to buy more tanks and level them up. However, those tanks are only used in custom games or multiplayer.
Speaking of multiplayer, that looked like a lot of fun. You can play with others using Local Play, or find matches online. Well, at least that’s the theory. However, with my brief time with the game, I never once found another match to play, so I really can’t attest to how well the multiplayer even works.
On the whole, the game at least runs, although I did encounter some bugs where enemy tanks bugged into the environment. Mostly, though, the game functions as it should, even if the experience itself is mediocre at best. It all seems like a prototype for a game that could be completed in half an hour or so, but was repeated over and over (much like the grating music) without adding a significant number of maps, modes or differentiation to make it a true full-length gaming experience.
This would normally be the point in a review when I tell you that the game is fairly inexpensive, and if you think of it in the context of a smaller title it might be worth the asking price. However, with such a poorly executed, lackluster and boring game on offer, I don’t care how cheaply you can buy this, you should save your money instead.