"The coastal area is under attack from giant mechanical gorillas".
This statement says just as much about Tank! Tank! Tank! as it does about the person playing it.
Tank! Tank! Tank! began life as a multiplayer arcade cabinet in North American and Japanese arcades in 2009. Players strapped into elaborate plastic cockpits and did battle in frantic encounters against one another and monstrous enemies that resembled 80s morning cartoons. An arena based shooter with battle tanks, over the top explosions and mechs, what could be better?
Tank! Tank! Tank! marks the first of what will undoubtedly be many arcade ports adapted to Nintendo's newest family console. Early signs are looking positive, did we mention mechanical monkeys?
At its core, Tank! Tank! Tank! is a multiplayer party game. It's just a shame that a handful of solid multiplayer modes are padded out with a shallow single player experience that demands the player repeat missions, gating content to artificially extend playing time.
To its credit, single player missions are short and sharp, taking no more than a few minutes. Players are set specific challenges - kill 30 enemies within the time limit - and the action is fast passed. All missions in the single player campaign are playable in co-op. Don't worry if you don't have a friend available, an AI assisted co-op partner will join you - unfortunately during my play through the AI spent more time generally getting in the way as opposed to helping complete my objectives.
As players progress through the single player missions you'll unlock a variety of different vehicles by acquiring medals during missions. Hence, Tanks!, Tanks! and Tanks!. Vehicles also accrue XP, levelling once you successfully complete a mission and acquire permanent stat bonuses.
The 80s cartoon art style is colourful and animation is fluid, especially the seizure inducing enemies. Players encounter all manner of animalistic mechs including praying mantis, dragons and even anthropomorphic skyscrapers. Battling gigantic mechanical gorillas give a nice sense of scale, especially when you are locked into a small arena. At times it can feel as if you are trapped in a modern day version of SNK's King of the Monsters, albeit as a civilian in a colourful tank. Make no mistake, this is an arcade game through and through.
What is frustrating about Tank! Tank! Tank! is that in order to unlock all of the vehicles and battle arenas in multiplayer you will need to clear each single player mission multiple times with different vehicles. This process can be incredibly tedious, but the variety in vehicle types makes for a nice if small change.
There are five different types of vehicles available, Assault, Mini, Wheel, Heavy and Hover. Each vehicle handles differently and thanks to automatic aim, players are free to strafe around arena environments with ease. A particular stand out in the vehicles was the Brave, a hover tank with a tuba for a cannon that fires exploding notes. Classy.
Players collect special items with limited uses dotted around the arena and are suitably ridiculous such as flamethrowers, lightning cannons and ludicrously enourmous missile bays that sprout from the spoiler of your tank.
Special weapons impact specific enemies with varying degrees of effectiveness to encourage players to pick the right vehicle for the right job. Some weapons immobilise enemies, providing an interesting dynamic and makes the most of co-operative play.
Missions typically take only a handful of forms, such as clearing our swarms of the same enemy type in an arena or boss battles. Frustratingly, intro cut scenes can't be skipped and following the end of your mission players need to thumb through the same dialogue. Tedious.
Tank! Tank! Tank! makes simple but effective use of the unique controller, with the single player campaign playable on the gamepad as well as the TV in single player and multiplayer.
Tank! Tank! Tank! is made for multiplayer, Team Death Match and Free For All are great, if obvious inclusions and are accompanied by Monster Battles (replay major boss fights from the single player campaign with four friends) and My Kong, where the player with the gamepad assumes control of a Kong mech from the game. The gamepads camera is used to superimpose the players face (or anything, really) onto the face of the mega gorilla.
Tank! Tank! Tank’s! team death match is easily the high point of the whole package and sets the bar for frantic multiplayer death matches on the Wii U, its just a shame the rest of the package is subpar, even for a launch title.
The thing is, part of what makes arcade games fun is the excessive amount of lights, wheels and levers that you have to wrangle to experience the game. When you take away the cabinet all that you are left with is a shallow and limited experience.
Playing Tank! Tank! Tank! on Wii U is like playing Daytona on a console with a gamepad - without a well worn shift, tattered seat and grimy steering wheel - it just doesn't feel right.
On the upside, the willingness of Namco to release Tank! Tank! Tank! for a home console indicates that there may be a market for ports of existing Namco multiplayer arcade games on the Wii U. Mario Kart Arcade GP, anyone?
Namco's first effort on the Wii U might not set the world on fire, but it is significantly better than the shovel-ware that plagued the Wii.
Tank! Tank! Tank! is a guilty pleasure and did just enough to keep me playing until the end of single player, stringing me along with new vehicle unlocks and fun weapons. What it lacks in variety it makes up in sheer insanity. Tackle a canyon full of robotic fire breathing T-Rex with a friend in co-op and you'll see what I mean. Do it four times in a row to unlock the next new tank and you'll want to break your controller in half.