It’s odd to grow nostalgic for an Atari 2600 game while playing a modern mobile title, but that’s where Gameloft‘s Tank Battles leaves us. This tank battling game is reminiscent of Combat, one of the earliest and best games released on Atari’s first home console. But whereas Combat offers hours of bullet-ricocheting fun, Tank Battles is bogged down by a campaign mode that panhandles aggressively for in-app purchases. Funny how 128 bytes can occasionally trump 100 megs.
Tank Battles quickly introduces the player to General McTankerson, a somewhat eccentric war veteran with a real thing for tanks. Tank enthusiasts from all over the world travel to McTankerson’s private island to engage in tank-battling competitions. Don’t worry; nobody really gets hurt. When you blast a rival with a flamethrower or a rocket, it’s all in good fun.
Each stage in Tank Battles campaign mode takes place in a closed arena that’s peppered with walls, obstructions, and destructible objects. You’re supposed to meet a different goal in each level, which might involve destroying all the enemy tanks, beating a rival, or simply surviving until time runs out. You’re also awarded stars if you meet additional goals, like finishing up under a certain time limit.
You earn coins as you play Tank Battles, which go back into upgrading your tank’s firepower, hull, and mobility. You can also buy expendable items, like turrets and missiles. Predictably, these upgrades are expensive even though you earn coins in relatively small quantities.
War is Hell
Tank Battles doesn’t wait too long before it ramps up the difficulty, either. Your fire, as well as your enemies’ fire, can ricochet off solid surfaces, so it’s wholly possible to kill yourself with an ill-placed shot. That’s not such a bad thing (nothing wrong with teaching yourself physics on the fly), but the game’s tendency to pit you against six or seven tanks in a single round equals a lot of frustration and restarts.
Worse, there are no lives or anything of the sort. If you want to respawn, you need to fork over a fistful of cash, the game’s hard currency. Cash is not at all easy to come by, unless you buy it with real-world money. Unsurprisingly, there’s a also huge lineup of parts and upgrades that are purchasable with cash, and the game will often ask you if you’re interested in some deal or another. When you inevitably answer “no,” it’ll ask you if you’re sure.
Happy Multiplayer Conflicts
Tank Battles does have one triumph: Its multiplayer feature. You’re pit against three other tanks in a closed-off arena that’s littered with rocket launchers and other weapon upgrades. Then you wail on one another until time is up. Whomever racks up the most kills is the winner, and earns reputation as well as coins. Tank Battles’ multiplayer is simple, fun, and has few issues with slowdown or disconnections.
Tank Battles is one of those “free” games that’s hard to recommend because it seems like it exists to get into your wallet. Its controls are also difficult to get used to as well; tapping to shoot isn’t always ideal, so switching to a double-joystick setup is recommended. It’s all a bit of a lukewarm muddle, but worth trying at least once for its multiplayer feature.