Tank! Tank! Tank! (Wii U) Review
It’s quite rare when you pick up a game and by simply giving the box a quick look-over, get a genuine feel for its direction. TANK! TANK! TANK! (hereby referred to as TTT) does exactly that. Small yet ferocious tanks, armed with oversized weaponry such as missile launchers and laser beams, taking on a giant, fire-breathing robot-dragon. It may seem a little assuming to say, but if you find this notion interesting, it’s almost guaranteed that you will find some (possibly much) enjoyment from this hectic and kinetic arcade port from Namco. Just make sure you have some friends who are willing to join in!
The game is quite simple in its control; you move around with the analogue stick or D-Pad and press just about any other button to fire. The developers have further contributed to this accessibility by making the game playable with a variety of different peripherals. They have gone a minimalist approach when taking advantage of the Wii U GamePad. When playing single player, the GamePad screen shows your tank, as well as a speedometer and the revs per minute. You can also play entirely on the game pad when playing single player. All of the menus can be navigated by touch, which is appreciated, but I would have liked to see some kind of stylus controls for the actual tanks. One of the cooler features is the use of the Pad’s camera, which allows players to take photos to act as their avatars in-game. These have some pretty cool overlays as templates and are quite hilarious to take with friends around.
In addition to the Wii U GamePad, the game can also be controlled by: the Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remotes, Wii Pro Controller and even the Wii Wheel. The latter of which requires a ’tilt function’ to be activated which allows a player to move their tank’s turret by utilising the motion control. These controls may seem lacking in depth, but they’re all that is required to effectively play the game, as the gameplay is designed around them. Mobility is restricted to backwards and forwards movement, while rotating the tank’s turret allows for change in direction and aiming at enemies. The aiming is a little unconventional though, as the cursor initially sticks to enemies, but if they enemy moves, the player must make minute adjustments to re-engage a lock-on. This could probably have been relegated to a button dedicated to such a function, but that may well have destroyed the original arcade ‘feel’ of the title. Ultimately the game provides a solid base of mechanics that are easier to understand and pick up and play.
Single player mode in TTT sees a very thin story mode presented to the player. While the player does receive instruction from some superior commanders, it all basically boils down to a disguised tutorial and miscellaneous information. There’s not a lot of depth here, as you’d expect. The experience at its core is akin to a mission mode, where a player, along with another ally tank (either computer controlled or by another player) is tasked with an objective (such as defeating a horde of small enemies, or taking on a giant behemoth) and upon its completion a rank is given based on performance. Defeat follows a loss of all the players remaining ‘tanks'; think of them as lives.
Players begin their conquest with a simple tank known as the Akatsuki, but by completing missions and earning medals, subsequent tanks can be unlocked. In addition completing missions with different tanks rewards extra medals, and each tank gains its own unique experience for leveling up and improving its stats. Some tanks are small in size and quite nimble, while others are slow, but pack a powerful punch. A tanks statistics are broken down into Hit Points (HP) and speed, while its individual weapons have their own attack stat. Each tank has three weapons; a basic one, and two other special ones that must be collected from random drops during a mission. It’s really awesome playing with the unique tanks, as it affects the way in which a player has to approach combat. For example, certain larger tanks are best to stay back and use their powerful weapons from afar, while some of the smaller tanks are much better at darting between enemies and causing destruction. All in all, there’s a considerable amount of depth here, but there is one glaring issue. The single player mode just doesn’t really shine, unless you have a buddy riding co-op with you. There’s just a lot more energy and strategising to be had when you can interact with your partner verbally.
Adding to this problem, TTT is one of the few Wii U launch titles to have no connectivity whatsoever with Nintendo Network, so you can’t just play online with a buddy either. Although a quick disclaimer that the game can ‘tab out’ to Miiverse and has its own community page. To make matters worse, for some reason your ally is stuck with a plain vanilla tank, and can’t access the plethora of tanks you’ll be unlocking during your playtime. I can only assume this is for balancing issues, but it really hampers the experience as an ally is limited to only three or four very basic weapons. Despite that, this mode is still very fun and addicting, but as mentioned, only with a friend riding shotgun. I could not recommend picking this game up as a single-player experience, because the multiplayer is where the title shines.
TANK! TANK! TANK!’s multiplayer is its crux; the reason you’d purchase the title. Ignoring the above mentioned co-op play available in the story mode, TTT offers four distinct modes of multiplayer play: Monster Battle, Free-For-All, Team Versus and My Kong. Something I feel I should mention, is that yet again players aren’t given access to the wide range of tanks unlocked in the single player mode. All players are vanilla tanks of varying colours. This isn’t as bad as the predicament of the support tank in single player, as all the item drops are random, however it still seems an odd design choice.
Monster Battle is at its heart, very similar to the story mode (albeit with a lot less variety of challenges). This mode, like all the multiplayer modes can be played with up to four people (with extras being filled by AI). It’s a co-operative mode where players work through two missions, hopefully scoring silver or better medals to unlock a bonus mission. There’s also a slight competitive edge as players are ranked by how much damage they dish out to the opponent. The bonus missions are particularly difficult and will require some co-ordination to best. Free-For-All mode is pretty self-explanatory; it’s an all-out battle royale between four tanks! There’s a score system based on how many tanks a player kills and the player with the highest amount wins, after the countdown timer runs out. It’s incredibly hectic and a lot of fun, if a little disorientating at times. Due to the chaotic nature of the gameplay, it’s easy to sometimes not know what’s going on or to even have a clear view of the battlefield. Team Versus is quite similar, but rather than a royale it’s 2 on 2. Everything else functions identically to Free-For-All.
My Kong is certainly the most interesting of the four modes, and it makes pretty good use of the Wii U Game Pad. While three players have their standard tanks and control set ups, the holder of the Game Pad plays the role of a gigantic pink robot monkey, and to clarify; I’m not making this up. The Kong’s goal is simply to survive until the end of the round, while the other players attempt to destroy him/her. The Kong has some unique abilities available, such as huge punches and ground slams. They deal massive damage to tank players, but timing is crucial as the attacks have a long wind up and are very slow in execution. In addition, using these moves can ‘level them up’ within a round, allowing for more devastating versions to be unleashed. The Kong can also charge up a special move over time which turns him (figuratively) into a giant wrecking ball, as he charges across the screen in a fury, pummeling tanks in his path. It’s a lot of a fun, and very diverse to all the other modes found in the title. It also allows for control input using the Game Pad’s touch screen, which feels intuitive. Gameplay for tank players is identical to other modes, although they need to be wary of the Kong’s special attacks.
There are a few bits and bobs to keep you playing TANK TANK TANK! on your own such as unlocking all the tanks or trying to achieve all the ‘titles’ (they’re basically achievements/trophies), but the overall experience is deeply focused on multiplayer, given the title’s arcade roots.
Artistically TTT is rather simple, but in that simplicity is a nice range of vibrant colour. Full-scale console releases tend to stray away from such a palette so it’s refreshing to see a nice show of colours. The graphics themselves are pretty average, not too say bad, but nothing special either. They’re adequate for their purpose, although the buildings in particular look quite dull. The tank designs are fairly unique and generally accurately portray the feeling in which they control. However while they are unique, I did not find them particularly interesting. The menus follow this policy of simplicity and are easy to navigate. There’s nothing fancy here in that regard, but there are some cool lightning effects when loading missions and multiplayer stages. Overall the entire game has a very 90s live-action cartoon feel to it, a la Power Rangers. It’s gimmicky and not even remotely serious, but individuals will know if that’s something that appeals to them or not.
Regarding the game’s soundtrack, the best that can be said is that it is solid. There’s nothing standout here but, (and I hate to use this cliché) everything fits the on-screen action. When navigating through menus and selecting tanks and missions the music is upbeat and energetic. In a battle it is intense and staccato. Unfortunately there just isn’t many memorable tracks (if any). However this doesn’t detract from the overall experience so it’s not really an issue. On the topic of sound, voice acting is pretty much non-existent in TTT, bar a few exceptions. A female will guides the player through the menus asking you to “select a mission/tank”, and an in-game ‘announcer’ rattles off information and tips during battle. These are subtle, but they’re delivered well. What’s surprising is that neither of the commanders in the single player mode have any voice acting. However given the likely small budget of this port, it’s understandable (and possibly thankful) that this is the case.
TTT is a solid game, and it definitely comes recommended to those looking for an excellent party game for their Wii U system, however not at standard retail price. If you see this game on the cheap, or in a bundle and are looking for great multiplayer madness, it’s a no brainer. It’s still a shame that there’s no online play though. On the other hand picking up TTT for a lengthy single player campaign would be a bad idea. I hope this is a sign for the future that developers will bring more arcade games to home consoles as they’re very diverse and creative. Hopefully they can just work on making the solo experiences a little more engaging.