Publisher: O3 Entertainment
Developer: Milestone Inc.
Release Date: June 1, 2007
From the screenshots and its description as a "Tank Simulation," I expected Tank Beat to be pretty realistic. I was mistaken, but more on that later. As a graphics designer, I know how important images can be; judging by the nice, simple logo that you initially see when you start up the game, I was expecting this to be a straightforward and pleasing experience.
Then I was greeted by the loud scream of a World War II air-strike siren.
I strongly advise you to lower your volume when starting Tank Beat for the first time because otherwise, you may end up jumping straight out of your seat, like I did. This startling alarm is followed by some nice opening cinematics, so you return to the pleasant experience, albeit with limited hearing — and a false impression of how the game will look.
Story mode is what you'll play through to advance the storyline, while Skirmish mode allows you to freely play any stage that has been completed in Story mode. The first time you're shown a tactical map, you have no idea what any of it means, but after one or two battles, you'll figure out what each symbol means and the lay of the land.
For the interface, the top screen shows whether you're attacking or defending, which is really unnecessary because if you're holding down the left shoulder button, you're attacking. The second main element of the top screen's interface is your life bar, which is very important information, albeit quite misplaced because it takes valuable time to look up at the top screen to see your health. This component should have been placed on the bottom screen instead.
Speaking of the bottom screen, there's quite a bit going on down there, but once you start using it, there's not much to it. You control the movement of your tank by selecting it and then drawing a path with your stylus. In red, you see the four nearest enemies with lines coming off the graphics, pointing to the tank on the radar screen and an "emergency stop" button, for which I've never found a plausible use. On the right side of the screen, you're presented with a similar blue bar showing up to three allied units and also pointing to where they are on the radar.
Under that is a button that won't be accessible from the start of the game, but a few missions in, you'll get a little yellow icon that lets you control your allied tank to a certain degree. There are several ways to do this, like using the "Follow" command, which isn't nearly as good as it sounds. Your ally follows you at quite an ineffective distance, and if you're trying to maneuver in order to dodge incoming enemy fire, he tends to get in the way instead of helping matters. The "Defend" command causes your ally to stop dead in his tracks and fight anything that comes within range, while the "Draw" command allows you to use the stylus to draw a path for your ally to follow. This does come in handy, but it's quite tedious to have to draw your path and worry about your ally's path on top of that. The last of the commands is the "Seek and Destroy," which causes your ally to do just that — find the enemies and destroy them at all costs.
While the storyline is a bit odd, it's somewhat to be expected from an anime-style title. It's rather fun to play through Tank Beat's storyline, but after you're through with that, there is almost no replay value. The only reason I can imagine one would want to replay a stage is to try using a different tank the second time around. Sometimes, the game can seem too easy, and at other times, it seems way too difficult, and there's not much of a balance between the high and low points. I've found that the best way to avoid enemy fire is to tap on your tank and scribble all over the battlefield. Sometimes the enemy is ridiculously powerful and can kill you in one or two hits. Later on in the game, you'll start facing enemies other than tanks, including artillery, self-propelled guns (a fancy term for a tank with an artillery gun), ships, trains, helicopters, and even a "flying tank."
While the graphics in Tank Beat aren't horrible, it would have been nice if they were of a slightly higher quality. The cut scenes are pretty impressive, but the rest of the game takes a severe visual hit. The tanks don't look too bad and are rather detailed, but the explosions are horrendously below par. Killing an enemy yields a sphere of pixels colored red and yellow to trick the player into thinking there was an explosion, while you just made all the pixels change color and fly at your camera. This pixelated explosion wouldn't have been so bad had they been kept at a distance, and not zoomed the camera right on top of the action.
The geographical and topographical features are a huge weak spot in the graphics; you'll only find a few hills and dips in the terrain, and the only trees you'll see are the ones that mark where you can't go. The 2D anime-style characters are what one would expect in a Nintendo DS title; it seems to be a current trend in titles like Trauma Center and Advance Wars.
Multiplayer supports single and multi-card play, as well as Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support. Up to four players can play simultaneously in any mode, but it's difficult to find other opponents online. Two-player matches were a bit dull, as each death would be followed by a considerable gap in which the respawned tank would have to search the map for its lone competitor.
Overall, Tank Beat isn't the best or most action-packed DS title, but it is somewhat enjoyable. Anyone who's played a tank simulation before will find this to be a pretty simple game because there isn't much to control, and it can become repetitive rather quickly. While the storyline and the challenging levels will give you something to focus your attention on, there's not much to it beyond that. The graphics aren't great, but you'll find yourself checking out the bottom radar and mostly ignoring the top screen. The audio quality passes muster but fails to impress, and there is little to no replay value. While most of the game is realistic, there are some points that require you to suspend disbelief (laser tanks, anyone?).
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