Developer: Beatshapers / Vasiliy Kostin
Release Date: March 18th, 2010 (EU)
Price: £3.49 | €3.99
Rating: E10+ / PEGI 7
What I Liked:
- Retro graphics have some charm to them
- Music is all kinds of wonderful
- Control scheme serves the game well
What I Disliked:
- The game is far too short, considering it’s price tag
- No idea what is going on, story wise.
NormalTanks is an arcade shooter, featuring a top-down perspective and 8 levels in which you essentially blast your enemies to kingdom come, in a wide variety of settings. NormalTanks is the third mini from Beatshapers, the same folk that brought us minis such as BreakQuest and MelodyBloxx, and it continues their tradition of forgetting to put spaces in the titles of their games before sending them off to marketing. It also continues the tradition of their games being rather good, which is a far better tradition to follow, if you ask me.
NormalTanks’ best asset is its retro charm, with great looking sprites combining with wonderful music to create the atmosphere of a lost retro treasure. And as with most retro games, the concept is devilishly simple. You play as a tank, and you have to reach the end of one of 8 stages, defeat a boss, and defeat an alien menace. Not that you’d know that there was an alien menace until the name of the last stage flashes up on screen. It seems that the developer elected to drop the player straight in to the action, rather that choosing to explain what was going on beforehand, you are treated to, upon completion of the game, a lovely text scroll, explaining that you have defeated the aliens, and that you are, of course, a hero. Lovely stuff, I’m sure, but I would have appreciated knowing at least some of this beforehand, though I suppose that’s just my personal preference.
NormalTanks plays exactly how the screen shots would lead you to believe. You control the tank (or, in stage 7, the mech) with the D-pad, whilst the face buttons control the angle of the gun, with the L and R triggers changing and firing your weapons respectively. That only leaves the analogue stick, which the game elects to use as a sort of manual auto-aim. Whilst that sounds completely bizarre, allow me to explain. You simply hold the stick in the rough direction of an enemy, and your turret will do the rest of the tracking. It works very well in practice as the digital control of the turret via the face buttons is all but useless due to the faster moving smaller enemies, but when I was playing the game on the PSP, my awkward hand position whilst playing the game made it hard to control on the portable platform. I then switched over to the PS3, and the game controlled as smooth as was possible, and I no longer needed to worry about either my hands cramping up, or in fact blocking the actual screen.
Not that I would have needed to worry for long. For its price, NormalTanks is a bit too short for my liking. The single player campaign can be completed in around 45 minutes, and there is nothing else waiting for you on the main menu apart from other difficulty settings. Some kind of survival mode would have gone a long way towards extending the replayability of this title, but as it stands, £3.49 is a little bit steep for only 45 minutes of fun. Unless you play it once on each difficulty level, you’re going to have a hard time getting your money’s worth from this game.
NormalTanks is a good game, but the lack of features and dubious playability on the PSP mean that it should only be recommended to those of you that particularly enjoy arcade top-down shooters, and are perfectly unfazed with playing £3.49 for less than an hour of fun. And the game certainly is fun, for the time that it lasts.