When browsing the App Store, we’ll often come across games (good or bad) that borrow their concepts from somewhere else. It’s harder to find games that do this and still manage to refine and evolve the concept into something more than a mere knock-off or rehash. Tank Hero is such a game, and part of what makes it stand out is its source material. And contrary to what images the title may conjure in your head, it has nothing to do with Guitar Hero.
Most games on the App Store that “borrow” concepts from other titles seem to do so from other App Store releases, or even fairly contemporary PC games– usually games that are just a few years old. But in the case of Tank Hero, the developers have gone back a whopping 35 years to reinvent a game that was released before a lot of us were even born.
Wooden block party.
Tank Hero is like a modern-day rebirth of the Tank game from Combat for the Atari 2600. But rather than fluff it up with modern amenities such as stories, characters, cutscenes, and the like, Tank Hero is incredibly simple.
The graphics are not as simple as the single-colored pixel outlines seen in Atari’s version, but instead they’re simple 3D models with shading and some lighting effects. And thankfully, there is actual music accompanying the gameplay, rather than Combat’s grating and constant tank tread-like sound effects.
Unlike the original, however, this game is not made for two players. As a result, the developers have managed to balance that factor out in a number of ways, including three game modes and 120 levels spread across two worlds, leaving plenty for one player to do.
Your job is to take control of a single green tank, and eliminate all other tanks found on relatively nondescript wood and brick battlefields. These battlefields consist of little more than barriers to navigate around in order to get a clear shot. The standard ammunition you’re equipped with borrows from Combat’s ability to bank your shots off the wall in order to hit an opponent, and doing so is quite fun. There are other types of munitions available as well, six in total, which include spreading shots, homing shots, and even some which can fire over the arena’s walls to score a hit.
There are also six types of opponents to face, each in different-colored tanks of their own. From the start, a new tank pops up about every five levels or so, making things a little more complicated. The initial blue tanks aren’t very strong or smart, and don’t do much unless you get into their line of sight, while the yellow tanks are a little less afraid of hunting you down. Then things get tricky with the red tanks, which not only require a full bombardment to kill, but will also fire over all of the field’s boundaries to kill you, leaving you no time to dawdle.
Like other iPhone games, you simply need to complete each level to proceed, but you can also earn bronze, silver, and gold medals for a particularly well-executed round. Factors in the campaign mode include your level score, accuracy rating, how much health you have, and your kill rating, which– incidentally– seems like an all-or-nothing score. In Time Trial, time is the key priority, which means you can take hits without penalty, so long as you don’t die and get the best time. The third mode, Survival, pits you against wave after wave of enemies, and gets brutal quickly.
Bomberman’s home was devastated by the war.
Tank Hero offers three different methods of control. The first lets you move your tank with a virtual D-pad, and tap on the screen to direct your shots, plus you can choose whether the D-pad is on the left or right side of the screen. The second is “Swipe and Tap,” which has you swipe the screen along the path you want your tank to take, and tapping where you want to fire. You can also just hold your finger ahead of where you want the tank to go for continuous movement. And finally, in the closest approximation to the arcade original Tank game, there is a dual-stick option. Here, the left pad moves your tank, while the right controls where you aim, and tapping the center of the right pad fires your cannon.
The controls work well, at first. As the intensity increases and movements must be made quickly and precisely, you’ll soon find yourself covering parts of the screen that you need to see for whatever reason– enemies, shells, or even your own tank. And this is a problem across all three control types; Swipe and Tap mode will have your finger all over the place, while the D-pads are located at the bottom left and/or right of the screen, where you or enemies can be. And since there is no recovery time, you can lose all three of your hearts and wind up dead before you know it, especially in Survival Mode, where you start each wave in a different place, and tanks are everywhere.
Really, this is the most frustrating part of Tank Hero. It’s possible to get around, but after a certain point, it sometimes feels like luck plays a bigger role than skill. If you can get past that, then you’ll find it’s a good game. Otherwise, it feels like Tank Hero belongs on a platform where you’re not going to be obscuring your vision just by playing it.