Have you heard about Tank Troopers? No? Yes? I would hope you have. After all, this is a first party eShop game for the Nintendo 3DS. It features the sorts of vehicles you’d expect in an Advance Wars game, some characters who wouldn’t look out of place at one of Barbara Bat’s parties.
Tank Troopers is a third-person, tank-based shooter. It puts players in a tank with two, three, or four troopers, each with their own ability that can be used when their stamina is full. Your most basic move is to use the right trigger to fire shells at different rates, depending on your reload speeds. You have access to a map, which gives you an idea of your position and occasionally allies’ or enemies’. Environments can have hazards, like turrets or exploding barrels, question blocks with power ups or health boosts, and structures that can be damaged or destroyed. There are 30 single-player stages, filled with missions that each offer different sorts of objectives with either preset or your customized tank.
That isn’t the main draw to Tank Troopers. While the single-player experience is much better than I thought it would be, especially when it is unconventional and does something like task you to defeat a base from a distance or get a huge ball through gates, the real appeal is in teaming up with friends. Competitive tank battle games have been around since the original Atari and Intellivision. Tank Troopers pays homage to them by allowing six people to divide up into two groups of three or face off against one another in a free-for-all. Your troopers have a wide array of abilities are offensive, can increase your tank’s stats, decrease your opponents’ stats, or even heal yourself or allies. Being able to pick the right crew and use them to trounce your friends is exhilarating. Pushing someone around the map with Chuck Dozer’s bulldozer attachment lets you see their desperation when they can’t escape. About Face’s confusing magnets lets you see their panic when a tank won’t do what they tell it to. Coordinating with friends so you can use Medica to heal them makes you feel useful.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the lack of online multiplayer. Instead, Tank Troopers forces you to find up to five other people to play with in your immediate vicinity. You can do this with people who also own the copy or tap into Download Play, though the latter forces everyone to use the same loadout. While this may deter some, I implore you to not let that get in your way. Even if you can’t convince everyone to spend $7.99 on a copy of the game, this is a delight. The Download Play may seem restrictive, but it’s just giving us a chance to enjoy a time honored tradition. It lets you enjoy a multiplayer tank game, one with a few extra frills, with the people you love.
After playing Tank Troopers, I can’t think I would ever want to play this online. For me, it felt like a game that feeds off of the interactions people have when engaging in such armored warfare. It reminds me of when I was a child playing Armor Battle and Triple Action on my parents’ Intellivision with family. You wanted to see the people you were defeating, watch as they knew there was no place to go as you stared down the barrel at them. In Tank Troopers, you want to talk to the people you are working with or against. You want the reliability that comes from knowing there’s no internet-induced lag. It’s such a social thing.
For others, it may call to mind John Smedley, Kevin McCann, and Sony Interactive Studios America’s Tanarus. A friend educated me about the tank-based, multiplayer shooter when he and I were discussing Tank Troopers. After seeing a video and learning more, it seems like Tank Troopers is the sort of thing that people who enjoy Tanarus may want to try.
The tragedy of Tank Troopers is that it has been released with so little fanfare. This is a delightful little game. It’s so much fun to play with a group of friends in the same room. Especially since it goes out of its way to offer a rather nice Download Play option. The real joy here comes from interacting with others, to either coordinate commands with teammates or trash talk opponents. I can only hope more people take the time to accept their marching orders, investigate, and play this game.
Tank Troopers is available for the Nintendo 3DS.