Review by Wonderboy
Reviewed: 09/16/11 | Updated: 05/09/18
The little tank that could
Allow me to start out by saying I actively seek out games with tanks in them; I am a fan of retro tank games. When I revisited the PSX a few years ago, I rummaged through a list of recommended games for said system on a fairly popular ISO and general emulation site (hint: it's named after the Super Nintendo). The screenshots seen on here, Gamefaqs, had me sold. I was definitely going to try this out. Initially, I was expecting a lot more mindless action (a la an arcade game) than calculating and timing. I believe tank games should be arcade-like, not console-like. After playing the game for five minutes, I became slightly disappointed with what was presented to me. See, the gameplay in TT is based on mission objectives, mission objectives that can take up to forty five minutes to complete. So, in other words, this game plays like a console shooter rather than an arcade shooter. This is all fine and dandy, assuming one actually enjoys tank games that play like console games.
Of course then, I am going to have slight prejudice against TT simply for it being a game that plays like a console exclusive game. As mentioned, the stages are missions with objectives, and fortunately, the objectives are always straight forward. Although simple, the objectives aren't always exactly easy, especially in the later stages. An example of a mission is to blow up some trains, but in order to do so, the player must locate a generator and figure out how to blow it up. Once blown up, cannons that drop key weapons will appear. With those weapons, the player can then complete the objective. Not knowing anything about this game going in, I found my unfamiliarity with the game to only make things more confusing; there are virtually no instructions before each level (especially the later levels), only a vague one or two sentence briefing on the pause screen's esoteric option menu, and there is no FAQ for TT. Consequently, the stages are challenging, yet frustrating at times. Only gamers seeking a challenge need apply.
The game is a good challenge because much of the game involves practice — that is, practicing getting through certain obstacles that blow up the player's tank over and over. If my reader is wondering, I had the difficulty on medium. Not knowing how to get past an obstacle or destroy a certain target will result in lots of trial and error, hence the console-like aspect of the gameplay. Action abounds, but in spurts, once one figures out how to get from point A to point B, so to speak. The approach is unusual, since the first thing that comes to mind with tank games is being in an arena and having no other goal than to blow up other tanks! I have nothing against action-adventure games, but I could see the combination of big stages and strategy resulting in frustration a mile away. Not knowing how to pass one point in a stage may result in certain death or a delay in progression, thus, forcing the player to restart the stage all over. Half of the obstacles are uninspiring and are flat out pains to go through though. For example, there is a stage that has lots of pillars, and the player is required to jump from pillar to pillar. One false move will result in the Tiny Tank falling to the bottom, where he must start again.
As a result, most stages become long, but for the wrong reason. Likewise, because I was finding myself doing things that were so unforgivable, the game just dragged on and felt most like a chore than anything else halfway through. The mechanics were familiar, however, and helped me forge ahead. It's amazing how similar the mechanics compare to those of Twisted Metal 2. I was a huge fan of that game growing up, mainly because of the fantasy-like mechanics, and I thought the series got ruined by the realistic mechanics in part three. Unbeknownst to most TM2 fans, this game would definitely fit the bill as an alternative to TM2. In some ways TT is the true successor of TM2, in terms of mechanics, if only in spirit — think Mr. Slam or Warthog though. I can't believe how much this would've scratched my itch for more things like TM2 back in the day — if only I'd known. By the same token, however, the tank moves rather sluggishly, and sometimes there is poor input recognition. Many a times the controls were to blame for my big time errors (which did quite a bit of damage to my tank). Other times, it was frustratingly difficult to move out of a corner; I wish a turn button was included.
The audio is fun though. I liked how they gave Tiny Tank a wise-cracking personality — voice, human-like features and all. Although cliche, many of his lines are comical and memorable, and the player may find himself quoting him when not playing the game. The SFX are varied enough to keep listening to, and the version I played didn't have music, so I can't comment on it. The graphics were OK; they were sort of reminiscent of TM2. This is good news to TM2 fans, as they will feel right at home, but bad to those demanding better graphics from a game released late in the PSX lifespan. I can only recommend this to fans of tank games or TM2, or those who enjoy a challenge. Fans of tank games will want to try to play through it at least once. If I didn't know any better, I'd call this TM2's long lost cousin. I'm glad to see the mechanics recycled here, but I'm too old to enjoy this game as much as I would have growing up. The flaws stick out more so than anything else to me now, and they really make the shooter less enjoyable. Sony had a good concept, but the obstacles are too drawn out for the casual gamer to enjoy, and thus, the player may end up forcing himself to keep playing this obscurity. It's a good example of what the PSX can crank out when pushed to the max, and although it's not arcade quality, console shooter fans will see TT's redeeming values.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Tiny Tank (US, 09/01/99)
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