Coming from Ratalaika Games, purveyors of strange titles famous for a cheap price point and very easy Xbox achievements, Attack of the Toy Tanks promises a new twist on arena based combat. Featuring the aforementioned toy tanks, the mission is simple: destroy enemy tanks while attempting to keep your cute plastic battle vehicle in one piece. With arenas based on what appears to be a bedroom setting, complete with discarded LEGO and laser beams (you know, the standard stuff you find in every bedroom!), how exactly does Attack of the Toy Tanks on Xbox One game play out?
First off, the graphics are simple, bright, colourful and perfectly adequate. The tanks are small but move smoothly, and once you get used to the weird control system (more on that later) you’ll be sliding into cover behind some blocks, and popping out to snipe tanks on the other side of the arena. The audio that accompanies these visuals basically consists of booming gun sounds and explosions, as either your tank or the enemies explode in a fireball. One thing that is impressive is the lighting effects. See, some of the arenas are set at night, and as you fire at enemies, or even just move the tank, the lighting is impressive. Your tank seems to have headlights, and as you drive around various bits of the arena is illuminated. The same goes for the rounds that are fired; drawing a line of light across the screen that looks very good indeed. I mean, it’s not Battlefield V, but it is still a nice touch.
The gameplay is similarly impressive. With 60 levels to go at, there’s always a challenge to meet, whether it be completing all the levels or – for the masochistic out there – getting a gold medal on each level. As the complexity of the levels increases, in the shape of the layout and obstacles in the way, there are also laser beams to deal with. These come in either static form, where driving into the beam will destroy your tank, to rotating beams fired from a ladybird, to homing lasers that always focus on where you are; they make sneaking out from cover almost impossible. Add to these spikes on the floor, either fixed or retracting, and your tank driving skills will be tested to the max. Trying to avoid the various impediments in your way, and attempting to get the drop on the enemy tanks that are all crewed by the very best shots that I’ve ever seen in a tank game, sees the overall scene set for some epic battles.
The enemy tanks also have some sneaky tricks up their sleeves, as you’d expect, ranging from rapid fire, to multiple bullets (trying to avoid a double or triple shot is very tricky) to bouncing bullets and others that turn into mines when they don’t hit anything. There’s also a weird wavy shot that moves about as it goes, and can make hitting even a barn door a bit of a challenge. Randomly, on some stages you will also have access to bouncing bullets or the mine shots, but you won’t know until you get into the level as there is a severe lack of information in place for any of the arenas.
Control-wise and Attack of the Toy Tanks feels weird initially, and it’s fair to say that I spent the first part of the game driving into more bullets than I avoided. The basic breakdown sees the left stick rotate the tank as a whole, while the right stick controls the turret, and basically is where your shot will go. Left trigger then moves the tank backwards, while LB drives forward and right trigger fires. There’s certainly the feel of a twin stick shooter about the controls, and this is where I was initially going wrong, as the left stick doesn’t point the tank in the direction it’s tilted; instead only rotating about an axis through the middle of the tank. With me so far? The most effective tactic as you struggle to understand how things move is to park behind some cover, orientate the tank either vertically or horizontally, then just drive back and forth in an attempt to get a shot on target by popping out and lining up on an enemy. The enemies don’t seem to have any trouble coming to terms with what is needed though, driving around in lovely smooth loops, but the controls do feel a bit clunky to start with. Once accustomed to them, all is fine, but using cover gives you the best chance at success.
There is a multiplayer mode built in to Toy Tanks as well, with two people slugging it out in arenas in a deathmatch. This works very well indeed and is great fun, even if I have discovered that my 8-year old son, trained as he is in the way of any game that involves shooting, is something of a tank sniper. There are not many things on this earth worse than a smug 8-year old, let me tell you…
The achievements for Attack of the Toy Tanks on Xbox One are extremely easy to pick up, and by the time you’ve beaten level 30, you should have unlocked them all. Now, I like achievements as much as the next guy (in fact, probably as much as the next 10 guys!) but even after nabbing everything on offer in terms of Gamerscore, I’ve still found myself going back to this game, in an attempt to beat all the levels. This is a testament to the fun that Ratalaika Games have managed to inject into this very simple premise. It’s always a challenge, and if the enemies sometimes seem to pull off physics defying shots, then that just adds to the determination to beat the game.
In conclusion then, Attack of the Toy Tanks stands as a very enjoyable experience. It’s not going to take forever to beat – although getting gold on some levels may – but while it lasts, it’s very good fun. If anything it reminds very much of Combat back on the old Atari 2600, with the top down viewpoint and the tank based shooting fun, brought bang up to date. With a price tag of only £4.99, its very much a case of you get what you pay for: it’s not the longest or deepest game in the world, but with easy achievements, a solid shooting mechanic and multiplayer options, you really can’t complain too much.