Date: 05-05-2011 18:01
Author: Matt Fernandes

PDC profile: SilentWyvern

NormalTanks is another Mini from Beatshapers that aims to bring retro style tank combat to your PlayStation. Blast and shoot your way though waves of enemy units hellbent on destroying you! But is this game worth mobilizing, or should it stay back at base?

Ready Up
NormalTanks puts players in control of a tank in hostile enemy territory, and that's all there is to the plot. There are no text boxes, no cut scenes, nothing. Just a tank being dropped into a stage and the game begins. I understand it's supposed to be a retro-style tank game, but at least some grade-school-level plot could have sufficed, plenty of other games have been getting away with it for years.

Weapons, Power-ups and Controls... Oh my!

Players fight through mildly varying levels, being pitted against a number of enemy vehicle types such as tanks, recon jeeps and armored variants of previous enemies. Most of the enemies can be killed with one or two shots of the tank's cannon, but the machine gun takes a bit longer to kill any vehicle. Honestly, next to the cannon, the machine gun seems like it doesn't do enough damage in time to feel that it was ever needed. Parts of the game have players pitted against a slow moving tank and a group of fast moving recon jeeps. Deciding which enemies to engage first on the fly makes the game much more intense. Boss fights were a bit of a challenge, because the bosses are all scripted. Learning the patterns for each of them usually took me a minute or two and about half my life bar, but luckily extra lives are easily found throughout each level. I found the upgrade progression was a nice touch. Both weapons have 2 or 3 upgrades until the next weapon, usually going in the order of more damage, larger round, larger round that does more damage and then the coveted spreadshot. But what annoyed me was the "Downgrade" item. Every once in a while I came across an item that I thought at first was an upgrade, but it caused me to lose my powered up spread-shot cannon. The main problem with items in this game is that the game never tells the player what they do. This unfortunately means in order to find out what they do, you can only pick them up and hope for the best.

I've got another bone to pick with the developers, namely, the controls. NormalTanks uses an aiming scheme that has turned me off plenty of other games in the past. Aiming is done with the face buttons. That alone made me want to snap my PSP! The analog is supposed to be a sort of auto aim, but I never really got it to work right. I would have loved the option to switch the D-pad and Analog nub's functions, which would have fixed my issue with my aiming problems. The L trigger lets players switch between the cannon and the machine gun, but as I've said earlier, the machine gun sucks, so the L trigger is likely to gather dust while playing this game. For the fast pace of this game my worst enemy was the controls.

Retro-Tank Combat!
NormalTanks aims to deliver fast paced tank combat in a retro style game. However it doesn't really capitalize on this. Levels are set in various locations but they never seem to stand apart very much from each other. The beginning level looks like one of the later cave levels which looks similar to all the other levels. All the sprites look very good, but they all seem a tad too big. NormalTanks doesn't really fall into the pattern of recoloring sprites, instead a basic tank from an early level will return a few levels later with heavier armor platting. Also, I was unimpressed by the audio portion of NormalTanks. The music was bland, repetitive, and ultimately forgettable. Sound effects were decent, but there isn't really much to say about them.

Final Notes
From about 20 minutes of digging on the internet, I have found that NormalTanks started as a very successful PC game. But like so many games before it, NormalTanks fails to successfully make the jump from it's home on the PC to PSP. Terrible controls really made this game annoying and the lack of any real entertainment made this game incredibly boring for me. I really don't see much, if any, demand for this game nor do I recommend this game to anyone. Poor gameplay and horrific controls really prevented the game from being enjoyable.

The fine folks over at Beatshapers were tasked for porting NormalTanks to PlayStation Minis format, which is available for download on the NA and EU PlayStation Stores, for both PSP and PS3. Before writing this review, I played 2 hours of this game on my PSP. I never finished it, and have no intention of ever finishing it.

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