Oh dear. After everything we've said about realism, here's a game in which you have to save the world by travelling back in time in order to defeat the Evil Black Tanks. Why do we bother? If anyone proposed a film with a similar premise, they'd be laughed out of the door, but as it's a game it doesn't seem to matter. Make up any old rubbish, throw in some exclamation marks and put it on the box.
Also on that box will be the letters DMA - the Scottish developers still held in great esteem within the industry, largely based on an eight-year-old puzzle game (Lemmings) and a morally bankrupt 2D driving game (Grand Theft Auto). Despite some nice touches, their recent Wild Metal Country didn't rock particularly big bells, and the tank-based onus now falls on Tanktics, the name being an inspired combination of the words 'tank' and 'tactics', both of which (surprise, surprise) feature heavily. Previews of the game have thus far made a big deal of describing exactly what kind of game it is, building it up as some kind of genre-breaking innovation, with misleading soundbites such as ' Tetris with tanks' glibly bandied about. With the covers off, it's now plain to see that Tanktics is actually a unique take on the realtime strategy game, with a large helping of zaniness and a quirky interface. And some tanks. Two million of them, in fact. You what? Yes, Tanktics does indeed boast over two million different tanks. The only catch is that you have to make them yourself. How? By using a thing called the Part-o-Matic, of course.
Tanks For The Memory
Let's start again. The so-called Evil Black Tanks have done something bad and must be destroyed. To do this, you travel back to the Stone Age, where you do battle with Medieval tanks. Once they're defeated, you assume control of those same Medieval tanks and wage war against the Modern tanks, which you then pit against Future tanks, and then finally you use these against the Evil Black Tanks.
It doesn't matter. There are six missions in each of the four time periods, although the basics are essentially the same. At the heart of the game is the Part-o-Matic, a made-up machine that generates tank parts which can then be stuck together in a variety of combinations, hence the theoretical two million tanks. The parts comprise tracks, engines and weapons, and can be stacked ten deep, topped off with a radar to make things work. Horses for courses is the order of the day, and the trick is in designing tanks with a specific task in mind. For example, only a particular type of track can traverse sand, and certain weapons have different ranges and uses. The Part-o-Matic must be defended at all costs and kept supplied with resources, with almost everything proving recyclable, including the ubiquitous sheep.
Tank You Very Much
Is that clear? Good. Except we forgot to tell you how to make the tanks. Interaction with the scenery is via an airborne crane fitted with a magical magnet capable of picking up pretty much anything, including boulders and sheep, the latter of which can be placed on the treadmill of the Part-o-Matic to make it work faster. This is indicative of the comedy aspect of Tanktics, which is largely of the sort practised by men in brightly coloured shirts with exuberant eyewear: "There's some sheep! And they're all called Flossy! HA HA HA! HA! HA HA!"
There's not enough space here to fully explain how the interface works. It just does, okay? It certainly takes some getting used to, but a series of comprehensive training missions ease you into the action. And action is the key word, as once it gets going, Tanktics is a frantic affair and could loosely be described as something akin to 'arcade strategy' - whatever that means.
Mastering the crane is crucial, and success hinges as much on manual dexterity as it does on strategy, with crucial seconds lost through unnecessary cack-handedness. In fact, there are a number of timed missions to help bring you up to speed and which, if you haven't got time for a whole campaign, are an addictive diversion in themselves.
The real deal is where the value is to be had, though, and the devilish campaign missions are more than capable of sucking you in. It's an allegory that has been used before, but Tanktics is the modem-day equivalent of the old cabaret act of spinning plates. You're constantly tending various aspects of the game, whether it's sending tanks out on offensive sorties, blocking the enemy's route to your Part-o-Matic with boulders, triggering switches to release force fields or, of course, building more tanks. Enemy tanks arrive in regular waves and you have to be prepared. Even when you think everything's under control, there's always something to do, such as scanning the landscape for evil black sheep and dropping a boulder on them before they poison your herd by spitting at them. Obviously.
To a casual observer, Tanktics may look like utter nonsense, but once you're familiar with the inherent concept it's very hard to put down. Every action has a cause and effect - mud slows tanks down, gravity comes into play - and simply as an experiment in maths and physics it's an impressive feat.
As a game, it's a compulsive little bleeder, and one that's more than capable of destroying sleeping patterns. Before you know it, you've missed your team's goals on Nationwide League Extra and are scraping the arse end of Transworld Sport as a natural source of light becomes apparent. And as a further litmus test, check the temperature of the cup of tea you made before being sucked in. See - it's stone cold.
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode