Petite Games' Toon Tanks is a good example of a current issue present in the Wii U eShop in North America. There have been many games released that are finished and functional, but don't contain the degree of polish that we have come to expect. While Toon Tanks works just fine in what it sets out to do, the lack of scope or variety makes it hard to justify a purchase - it attempts to inject some personality into what otherwise feels like a tutorial or template from a game design program, but these few touches do little to distinguish it from myriad other experiences on the eShop.
Toon Tanks feels like a modern re-skin of the 1977 Atari title Combat, a top-down, single-screen tank shooter. The player controls a small tank that moves at a snail's pace through several different levels, with the sole objective to destroy all the other enemy tanks. The controls take a bit of getting used to, but feel right for a game in which you control a tank; you move with the shoulder buttons while using the left analogue stick, while pressing A fires. Enemy tanks, which have various different abilities and powers, don't appear to have much of an AI at all, but rather move in loose patterns and shoot at the player in quick succession. Some enemy tanks will shoot bullets that bounce off walls, which at least adds a little challenge, but the bouncing bullets can be easily avoided; enemies also place mines, which are so obvious that it's hard to imagine anyone being killed due to not noticing one. The player's tank is killed instantly upon being shot and doesn't get different bullets or abilities.
Although Toon Tanks touts four different worlds and 80 stages, players will soon discover the changes in these worlds are only skin-deep, with different colour schemes and slightly more aggressive tanks. The "toon" aspect of Toon Tanks is limited to font and menu, with comic book-style "Boom!" lettering and graphics appearing when tanks are shot. It's all very clean and pleasant, but like the rest of the package it's too simple. Likewise the audio is incredibly generic, with two tracks that loop and dull, quick sound effects.
A piece of software like Toon Tanks would work best on a handheld or mobile device, and Petite Games has wisely implemented off-TV play. We also found the game to run smoothly and without any bugs or crashes, and were amused by a small secret that was cleverly placed early on.
It's difficult to review a title like Toon Tanks; it's a serviceable little game that doesn't pretend to offer anything special, and it's hard to fault Petite Games when the price is as low as it is, especially considering other heinously priced recent releases. But unless you really have a hankering for an over-simplistic, old-school, repetitive arcade-style game, Toon Tanks just doesn't stand out enough from the crowd in an increasingly busy market.