Every so often a video game comes along with a concept so amazing that copies should come with a roll of duct tape to keep consumers from having their faces rocked off. Tanks with crazy weapons fighting giant robot monsters in expansive, destructible cities seems like a concept that you’d have to work pretty hard to screw up. Apparently someone at Namco Bandai was really burning the midnight oil, because Tank! Tank! Tank! somehow manages to drop the ball.
Tank! Tank! Tank! has a simple premise: hop into your tank and blow up some monsters. It’s deceptively simple, as the controls only employ the analog stick and one button. Any vertical aiming is all done automatically – all you need to do is point your tank and what you want to blow up and push the button. Power-ups - which are scattered throughout the stages and are dropped by enemies - will override your default attack, so no weapon management is necessary. There are some pretty unique and fun weapons to find, including the awesomely-named “colossus missile” that’s essentially a nuclear bomb capable of devastating the landscape.
The game looks colourful and arcade-esque, evoking memories of the Sega Dreamcast - and that’s a very good thing in our book. Monsters all have eye-catching, distinctive designs bursting with bright colours. It’s all very "Saturday morning cartoon" and looks great in super-sharp HD. The music is also pretty catchy, with jazzy tunes livening the mood as cities crumble around your tank.
The coolest feature of Tank! Tank! Tank! has to be the photo-taking capabilities. Players use the GamePad’s camera to snap a picture of their face which they can augment with dozens of photo-booth style frames, making them look like anything from an astronaut to a cowboy to a blushing octopus. Plenty of time will be lost simply taking pictures and chuckling at the results. In-game the photos hover above the player’s tank and animate with word bubbles after kills and during the post-game summaries. It gives the game a ton of personality and will make even the most battle-hardened tank pilot smile.
The game is clearly built for multiplayer, with four modes to choose from. Each mode supports up to four players, with player one using the GamePad and the rest using Wii Remotes held sideways. A nice touch is that player one uses the GamePad as a personal screen, freeing up TV real estate for the rest of the players. While the games can be played with less than four players, any empty slot will be filled with an AI player so there's always the same quota of tanks in play.
Free-for-all is your basic deathmatch mode, with each player trying to score as many kills as possible within a time limit. Team Versus is the same thing just with a two-on-two twist. Monster Battle is a co-op mode with all four players teaming up to clear an area of bad guys. The highlight of them all, however, is My Kong mode, which lets the first player take up the mantle of a giant robot gorilla (complete with their face pasted on, naturally) tasked with destroying the other participants. It’s silly, stupid fun, but it’s hilariously addictive and is definitely the highlight of the package.
Single player is where the game (pardon the pun) tanks. Generic cardboard-cutout characters send you off to destroy different monsters, a process which simply isn't very fun without having friends along for the ride. You can unlock different tanks - each with their own unique attributes and special weapons that level up as you complete missions - but despite the aesthetic changes you’re still just shooting the same monsters over and over again. You can tackle the campaign in co-op (complete with off-TV play for player one, saving you from having to endure split-screen) but the second player is always stuck with the basic tank and is unable to customize it in any way.
As if it weren't boring enough, Tank! Tank! Tank! commits the cardinal sin of video games: making you needlessly replay levels multiple times in order to progress. Completing a level earns you a medal, which unlocks more tanks and more levels. However to earn more medals you need to go back and beat earlier levels with new tanks, a procedure which quickly grows agonizingly boring. Each level is only a few minutes long, but factor in load times and the fact that your “guide” characters say the same thing after a given level no matter how it’s completed and you’ll be slamming your face into the GamePad, embracing the physical pain as a means to free yourself from your mental suffering. You can’t even use the new tanks you unlock in multiplayer, making the entire campaign a largely needless exercise anyway.
Tank! Tank! Tank! does a few things pretty well, but a torturously mind-numbing solo campaign and a high price tag keep it from being a hit. The younger crowd will definitely enjoy the photo-taking aspect and simple multiplayer, but other than that it’s pretty barren. If Namco Bandai had lopped off the limp campaign mode and released the game as a multiplayer offering on the Wii U eShop for $15 then it would be easier to recommend, but as it stands now, Tank! Tank! Tank! is better described as Lame! Lame! Lame!