AttenHUT! A Tank.. Hut. A tank game.. on the eSHOP! Sorry, I was clearing smoke out of my throat. Tank Troopers is a Nintendo published game that recently hit the 3DS eShop for $10 AU. A tank game without death, blood or war, really? What else do you do with tanks? Nintendo has found characters crazy enough to drive tanks for fun!
The game has no story whatsoever, so that’s the one I made up for them. They all just want to have fun in tanks. I don’t know much about the developer, but they are an Indie team who struck a very lucky deal. Not because it’s a rare occurrence for Nintendo to publish a small game, but because this game is not very good.
Disclaimer: I have not played multiplayer, this is a review of the single player content.
I’ll start off with the one positive, the tank controls like a tank. A lot of games with tanks will just let you shoot and move with the agility of a jeep, but you have to think like a tank in this game. Positioning is a factor in where you can aim, meaning if you are going down a hill you can’t shoot up. Likewise, if you want to shoot a target high in the air, you have to aim your tank going up a hill to allow the gun that angle. You can press L to move the cursor independently to the tank, with up or down on the dpad allowing automatic acceleration or reversing. It’s quite an easy and smart control method.
Gyro is an option for additional aiming control, but I had to switch it off for this game. The only time you need to do super accurate shots will be on hills, meaning you have to re-position your tank to get the height. This would be fine except while doing this, the gyro re-centers by itself while your 3DS is still held in that spot. This means if you’re aiming up, then fall down the hill, you’ve got to hold your 3DS “further” up to adjust this until the 3DS is behind your back. The only way to even do this is to hit the re-center button on the right touch screen every time the tank moves. I had a much better time when I just turned gyro off and relied on the slow circle pad to get that extra bit of angle. It’s a shame but it’s better than holding your 3DS behind your back with your arms twisted at the end of a long fight.
Missions are the core content for solo players, and they range from okay to awful. It can be fun if you are just in a shitfight with other tanks, chasing them down. More than half of the missions however, rely on an awkward condition. An example of this is shooting a ball into a goal. It might be okay if there was one mission like this, but there are multiple missions with big balls to aim, like it’s part of the identity of the game. Just, no, stop. Enough games have done this. The controls aren’t accurate enough for it and the physics are sloppy to respond. If you miss a shot you have to circle it with the tank to get to the other side, and this can take about 30 seconds. Even worse if a turret hits the ball and sends it back to the start. Have fun spending a minute at low speed catching up to the ball, thinking about the other games you could be playing. I do think this is realistic, but it’s not a fun videogame. You can’t throw in bullshit like oversized bouncing bombs if you don’t have gameplay that can deal with it.
Mission 15 is a prime example of bullshit design that blows chunks. The condition is that you have to protect your 3 allies from the enemies, but they just stand there in plain sight the whole mission. The enemies can also shoot anywhere they want and end the mission instantly with a single shot. They endlessly respawn so it doesn’t even matter how fast you fight them. I made a Miiverse post about it to see if there was a logical way to beat the mission, but we haven’t found it yet. So far the ONLY way to beat it is to jam one of your allies into a position where the enemy AI can’t reach it out of pure stupidity.
This is how I ended up winning. I crushed one of my friends into the corner, while leaving the other two to die. After that, I just sat here without moving for a whole minute while the enemies drove into this wall. It feels like a glitch but it’s the legitimate tactic for this mission, absolutely insane design. Another broken mission after this involves a “race” that you can win by just being pushed over the line and pressing nothing, or blowing everyone up. At least that one was entertaining.
I got up to some legitimately challenging missions and thought “finally, some tank gameplay”. These only bring out more flaws in the game though, as they get harder. For example when trying to get 10 kills in a ridiculous time limit, if you pick up a random item and it’s camouflage, you are fucked because all the enemy tanks will stop coming close to you. Suddenly the mission is unbeatable in the time limit because you have to chase them back. Eventually I beat it simply by avoiding item boxes and sticking in a defensive position. Boring and anticlimactic by design.
The “bosses” are 5 minute fights with other tanks that have a billion hit points. Their movement is exactly the same as a regular tank and there’s no strategy, you just have to circle them and survive without a random turret missile or enemy respawn hitting you near the end. The boss tank can still get stuck on walls and even get hit by its own allies. This actually makes the mission harder, because when you’re not following it, you have to circle it while not missing any shots (again, to beat the time limit).
A trend I noticed with mission timers is that the missions with simple objectives had tight time limits to make them seem more exciting. On the opposite end, missions with extra bad controls (shooting balls up hills) have higher time limits like 7 or 10 minutes. That tells me they KNEW these missions were shit but put them in anyway. It’s an extremely amateur way to create the illusion of challenge and extend playtime.
The graphics are bad with blocky objects, no shadows, and a bad draw distance. I don’t care about lack of detail as long as you can see what’s happening, but it’s just hard to see things in this game. The music is bad too, with annoying whistling over one single repetitive melody. The character designs are pretty good, but with no story they are left with no personality or purpose. I’m trying to remember their names without looking right now, but I can’t. Just Big Gunner Guy with the only useful special in the game, extra power. There’s also Medic Girl who you can tap to restore health when the game fucks you over.
Tank Troopers is a bad concept with bad execution. It’s not even that inspired because controlling a tank with specials is something an 8 year old would come up with for a game concept. With the very nature of the controls, when something goes wrong you are spending 10 to 30 seconds recovering while feeling miserable and disappointed, and it’s just not worth it. Even if the mission design was good it wouldn’t be worth it. The high points of this game just involve hitting a great shot or activating your special at the right time. Its saving grace could be multiplayer but even then I can see the same frustrations kicking in, where somebody blames a hill for not being able to hit something or an overpowered random powerup decides the match. At least the bad level design will not be an issue. I can imagine some fun with the camouflage gimmick for 5 seconds. With so much bad design in the single player however, I’m not optimistic.
Tank Troopers’ biggest accomplishment is bringing down the fantasy that tanks are fun to control. They are not meant for this purpose. They are never used for precision or refined movement, just a pure destructive force. I’m not saying a tank game can’t be fun, but this one strikes a very unfun balance of realistic controls and unrealistic expectations. I recommend Tank Troopers if you are extremely patient, love tanks a lot, and have 5 friends who share that exact same taste.