Home Reviews 0.5/5 Review Retro Tank Arcade Review

Retro Tank Arcade Review


It’s a mystery that Benoit Blanc would struggle to solve. On level 14 of Retro Arcade Adventure, we died for the first time. But how was that possible? The enemy tanks don’t actually fire shells. There are no hazards – nothing more than walls and the odd patch of grass. There are power-ups, but they only even benefit you. Shields, EMPs and air strikes don’t have friendly fire. There’s no time limit. So what killed us?

To know the solution to this mystery is to know what is so deeply, deeply wrong about Retro Tank Arcade. Are you ready for the truth? Can you handle it? 

What killed us? It was a shell from an enemy tank. But wait: didn’t we just say that enemy tanks don’t fire shells? Ah, therein lies the rub. You see, the enemy tanks DO fire shells. It just happens to be that the shells are invisible. At least on our Xbox Series X|S version of the game.

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Ignoring that mind-boggling statement for a moment, it only leads to more questions. So, why didn’t we die before level 14? Well, as it turns out, our tank has a health bar. But that health bar is – have you guessed yet? – invisible. We were being shot, but those shots were chipping away at a mysterious, hidden health bar that hadn’t been reduced to zero, not yet.

It’s hard to know where to begin. We have to assume it’s a bug. There is no universe where someone builds a retro tank game, all tactical manoeuvres and line of sight, yet doesn’t include health bars or visible shells. But we genuinely don’t know. We don’t know, because it’s not even the biggest mystery in Retro Tank Arcade’s glass onion.

You see, to finish a level of Retro Tank Arcade, you have to satisfy two objectives. The first is to destroy your enemy’s base. That base is represented as a star on the other side of the arena, and it’s fortified by enemy walls. No shell will make a dent on the wall, so you have to wait for it to become vulnerable. And it becomes vulnerable once you have destroyed an enemy super-tank: one that’s got a large golden shield around it.

That’s what the tutorial tells us, anyway, but we’re still not one-hundred percent sure. You see, golden super-tanks are two-a-penny, particularly in latter levels. You can kill one, and the walls will remain around the base, flicking a stony bird to our attempts to clear it. So, you kill another super-tank, and then another, but no luck. Finally, just as you’re about to give up, you kill one more super-tank and the walls part like the sea, and Moses-like you stride through and unleash an explosive volley. 

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But what made that super-tank different from the others? It certainly looked the same. There were other super-tanks still about, so it wasn’t the last one, either. Did we pass a threshold of dead tanks? It’s certainly possible, but that would mean that the threshold would have to have been invisible. Aha! Now, going by Retro Tank Arcade’s past form, we’re going to assume it’s the invisible threshold thing. But yet, we’re still not supremely confident. 

The other objective you have to satisfy is keeping your base safe. Another star sits on the bottom of the screen, instantly vulnerable (no arbitrary walls for us, unfortunately), so you have to ensure that no tank destroys it. With their invisible shells. 

Now, you can probably anticipate a problem or two here. How can you know if your base is under threat, if the tank shells can’t be seen? Ultimately, you can’t, but you can make sure that the enemies don’t get close. So, you kill them before they reach the last few rows of the game screen. 

That approach will certainly get you through all twenty of the levels here. But it’s so tempting not to worry, simply because the enemy AI is so woeful that – and here comes the final mystery – we’re not sure if they even want to destroy our base. We’ve not seen an enemy fire at the base for obvious reasons, but we also haven’t seen them consciously move towards it, either. The utterly random AI means they stray close, simply because the programming rolled a dice and decided the tank should go left rather than right this time. But we’re not sure what would happen if you put a tank in a single, one-square corridor, with our base at the other end. Would the tank destroy the base? Honestly, it’s a fifty-fifty bet. It’s entirely possible the tank would implode out of confusion, or find a way to dig down into the Earth’s molten core. 

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There are so, so many other faults to highlight. We could fill an entire Points of View episode with the sheer neglect shown in the design and coding of this game. Did you know that you can only fire one shell at a time? Yes, because as soon as you fire the second shell, the first one is deleted. A tank could see a shell flying millimetres from its face, but be saved because we happened to press A again. There are more. Oh so many more.

You know what would have redeemed Retro Tank Arcade, perhaps put a half mark on that score on the bottom of the review? A multiplayer mode. Fumbling around in the dark with a mate might have been its own perverse and contrary brand of fun. But there’s nothing here but twenty single-player levels, all of which could have been drawn on square paper in the length of an afternoon. There’s not even any achievements as a kind of apology. Even for £1.49, Retro Tank Arcade is extraordinarily expensive. 

Ready for one final mystery? How does a game like Retro Tank Arcade manage to find itself on a Microsoft Store, rubbing shoulders with Dead Space? Perhaps the developers have blackmail material on Phil Spencer. It’s the only solution we can come up with for why this utterly broken, dismal tank game is available for sale.

You can buy Retro Tank Arcade from the Xbox Store

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