Tank! Tank! Tank! Just say that out loud a few times. It’s fun, right? Unfortunately, the fun of shouting “Tank!” over and over again at the top of your lungs wears down almost as quickly as your interest in playing this Wii U launch title, ported over from its arcade release by an internal dev team at Namco Bandai. I can’t help but appreciate the simple charm of steering your assortment of colorful, improbably designed tanks around the cartoon devastation of a non-specific cityscape. It’s probably a bit of nostalgia talking there, hearkening back to the first time I blew up an opponent in Combat on my old Atari 2600. Unfortunately, while Tank! x3 nails the primal joy of a quick-hit arcade experience, it doesn’t quite manage to deliver in its souped-up console debut.
Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!
Fundamentally, Tank! Tank! Tank! is all about shooting alien(?) invaders of various shapes and sizes with an assortment of tank(! tank! tank!) shells. An assault rifle-like vulcan cannon, missile launcher, or laser sometimes pops into the mix as well, but the fundamentals remain the same: shoot everything that isn’t you. That “everything” normally consists of something giant-sized, whether it’s a bug, a kraken, or an animate skyscraper-robot-thing. There’s no tutorial to speak of, but the proceedings are simple and rely heavily enough on conventional arcade trappings like health bars and pick-ups that it doesn’t really matter. Play for five minutes and you’ll have digested the full scope of what Tank! Tank! Tank! is trying to pull off.
There’s more than five minutes worth of game, of course. A full-blown campaign sees you tackling levels in which you’re tasked with either exploding X number of invaders or exploding one, giant invader. Unfortunately, this healthy offering of levels never really diverges from the core philosophy of “shoot everything in sight,” nor does that philosophy evolve in any significant way. You’ll earn medals as you progress based on your performance in each level, which in turn unlocks new tanks(! tanks! tanks!). Individual tanks(! tanks! tanks!) will level up as well when you use them. There’s just, most unfortunately, not enough of a hook to keep things enthralling all the way through. Especially since the mission progression eventually requires you to replay earlier levels in order to advance (unless you did really well in your initial runthroughs). Sure, you can level up, unlock new stuff to play with, and aim to see all the missions. But why would you want to when you’re just playing the same basic thing on repeat, over and over again?
The biggest sin that Tank! Tank! Tank! commits is it somehow manages to fumble on making you feel like you’re actually driving a tank(! tank! tank!). These military monstrosities are pretty simple and well-known to most of the world. An armored, treaded vehicle topped by a rotating turret fitted with some kind of powerful cannon. In the real world, tank(! tank! tank!) operators have the advantage of being able to move in one direction and shoot in another. You quickly learn that the tanks(! tanks! tanks!) of Tank! Tank! Tank! can’t do that though, for whatever reason.
Sitting alongside the campaign is a multiplayer, and it’s here that I should say: whether you’re playing campaign or versus, multiple player is the way to go. Tank! Tank! Tank! makes no secret of the fact that it’s a party game, and it’s best enjoyed in groups. The delightful use of the Wii U GamePad’s camera to create a cartoon helmet-wearing avatar of yourself, which appears on-screen at all times to show which tank(! tank! tank!) is yours, never really gets old. Especially when you use your dog’s face for your avatar. True story.
Online and local multiplayer modes offer a healthy selection of cooperative and competitive alternatives to the campaign. There’s free-for-all along with a variety of team-based objective modes. The best one, by far, is My Kong. One player takes control of a robotic King Kong-like boss with the face filled in by a Wii U GamePad photo. Three other players operate tanks(! tanks! tanks!) as they try to take the YouKong down. You look at the GamePad screen to control your Kong and use a variety of attacks — including a finisher that (no joke) involves firing a laser out of your ass — to decimate the opposition. It’s a real bright spot in an otherwise mediocre arcade port, but it serves to highlight just how much more fun the game is at parties.
Conclusion! Conclusion! Conclusion!
Tank! Tank! Tank! isn’t a terrible game, but it is an extremely simple one that loses its appeal almost immediately when not played with a group. It’s absolutely charming and admittedly earns some bonus points for its killer title, but ultimately it feels like it would be better served with a lower price point and perhaps an eShop release. It’s a tough game to recommend in its current form though, unless you happen to be on the hunt for a mindless party game that embraces competition through simple shooting mechanics.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Wii U using a copy provided by the publisher)