Game Review - Think Tanks: What A Blast!
by , 3:15 PM EDT, September 5th, 2003
Every so often something comes along that changes the very foundation of your belief system; you become essentially a new person, with new ideas and a new perspective on life. Think Tanks from GarageGames is not one of those somethings, but it is a bona fide hoot to play anyway.
We wonder where Brave Tree, the creators of Think Tanks, came up with the name for the game, because there really isn't a lot of thinking involved: In the game you are a renegade brain who controls a little tank. The basic object of the game is to blast the evil brain-controlled tanks without getting your tank blown out from under your grey matter. Your deepest thoughts while playing Think Tanks is likely to be about making sure you breathe because the action, especially during network play, can be fast and furious; but then, that's the attraction of the game; not thinking.
You scoot around on a nicely rendered 3-D landscape filled with hills and boulders looking for power-ups and tanks to blasts. There's a 'Solo' game where you progress through the successively harder levels, a network component where you match your tank blasting skills against other Think Tanks players from around the world, and there's a 'Quickie' game where you just go in and blast everything until your trigger finger become raw. When your tank or the tank of an opponent gets hit once too often, a little pod containing the controlling grey matter escapes the dead tank like a fighter pilot jettisoning from a crashing jet. You get 3 lives and you materialize back on the field of battle at random points.
As we mentioned before, Think Tanks' lack of cerebral stimulation is actually a good thing; in fact, it is the epitome of mindless fun, a wonderful diversion, and an excellent stress reliever.
There are three type types of tanks to pick from; the lightweight model is quick, but carries little amour and its firepower is not great. The heavy tank lumbers about like a boat, has enough amour to take several good hits before you start seeing smoke. The medium tank obviously sits between the two others, with increased speed over the heavy and better amour than the light.
Powerups start appearing after about a minute into any particular game and the type of powerup is randomly selected from a fairly short list: The first aid powerup is likely the most important, as it restores your blast-weary tank to full health, but these seem to be the hardest to find. Other powerups include area defense, which turn your projectile into a dome-shaped energy field that damages any tank, including your own, in range, bounce-back, which turns your canon fire into bouncing energy balls, useful for hidden attacks, and speedy power, which allows you to get off several shots in rapid succession.
There are many different fields on which to do battle. The server your connect to, or the level you play in the solo game, determines which field you wind up playing. The fields have brain-based names like Medulla Mesa and Cranium Crater. In arcade fashion, you get a new life with each 10,000 point score interval, and you'll need them. As you progress, your robot enemies get smarter and harder to kill. Solo games are a great way to hone your skills before going off to battle other human controlled opponents.
As we mentioned before, the real attraction to Think Tanks is battling tanks over the Internet. GarageGames provides a hosting service where you can create a game server, populate it with robot tanks, choose a field of battle, then advertise your server to the rest of the Think Tanks playing world. Players can join at anytime, games last for 5 minutes, and you can stay in the battle as long as you want or until the game is over. At the end of a game you are ranked by the number of kills you've gotten above the number of times you've been wasted. As your skills increase, Think Tanks maintains a ranking which, as far as we can tell, doesn't mean a whole lot other than to give you an idea of your relative skills.
There are two basic types of Net playable games; battle mode, where it's a free-for-all either in teams or every man for him or her self, and Scrum where teams vie to get a Scrum Ball to a goal. It's sort of like a game of soccer where the players blast each other if they have the ball. Fun!
To join a net game just pick a server with a game you like and click on the Join button. In a few seconds you are doing battle in wickedly paced game that has to be played to be believed.
There's an option screen that gives you access to screen size, mouse speed, sound, and detail level adjustments. One nice touch is that Think Tanks gives you the option of playing in either full screen mode or windowed mode. Either works just fine.
With all of the tank blasting goodness, is there anything wrong with Think Tanks? In truth, there is, but isn't much.
We've noticed that, sometimes, the object in the Think Tanks battlefield will lose its texture mapping; rocks, trees and tanks become grey shapes. The effect usually lasts only a minute or two before the texture become normal, but it can be a bit disconcerting and annoying, especially during battle on the darker fields.
Finding powerups are a chore as they do not appear on your radar, except for the reloading station, and health powerup, which blink when you run low on either.
Another thing we hope GarageGames adds is a way to monitor your health. Currently the only way to know how bad off you are is to see how badly your tank is smoking, which is not a bad indicator, but in the thick of battle you sometimes can't tell who is producing all of the smoke. You do get a warning, often its too late to do anything about it.
Beyond that we can't think of any other thing to gig Think Tanks on. We believe that the US$20 asking price for Think Tanks is money well spent. You'll get hours of addictive battle action that will surely give your keyboard and mouse a real workout. This game's a keeper.