If you missed out on Clapfoot’s original Tank Hero, just thank your lucky stars that those who didn’t bought enough copies to justify a sequel. Clapfoot’s App Store return comes in the form of Tank Hero: Laser Wars (Out Now, $0.99) and marks a geometry-laced expansion on the formula introduced in the first. And what is the Tank Hero formula, exactly? It’s basically what would happen if someone posed the question, How can we make logic puzzles fresh again?, and someone answered, I know — let’s add tanks! The result is just as deviously fun as you might imagine.
A typical battle in Laser Wars sets the player’s tank on a field packed with enemies that are every bit as capable, giving the player just a few moments to develop a game plan before that little green space Sherman gets blown clean away. Sometimes it becomes a scramble for resources — a temporary shield or a souped-up weapon that lasts the rest of the battle. Other times it’s better to rush for cover and buy yourself a few more seconds to figure out how filter gates, exploding barrels and trap doors can be turned to your advantage. Possible solutions vary widely; you might want to pass up a high power plasma cannon if you can reach enemies from relative safety with your default weapon, which enjoys the advantage of wall rebound.
The player’s tank and its opposition are equally fragile, so these single-screen affairs wrap up lightning fast whether you emerge victorious or not; strategies are developed in short bursts of trial and error. As a result, Laser Wars achieves a unique balance: for the amount of depth it offers, it’s the fastest-paced game on the App Store. The pace slows down every 15 levels for a boss battle that demands some endurance, but otherwise the game’s expansive level sets fly right by. Maybe that would have been a problem at a higher price range, but at $0.99 these are the best three-to-four gaming hours you could ask for. Higher difficulty levels and achievements provide some replay value for the Laser Wars addict at release, but knowing Clapfoot, some content extensions are likely in updates.
While it’s best enjoyed by those who appreciate fast-paced action games as much as logic puzzles, I can’t fault Laser Wars with being inaccessible. The game offers three control schemes: a left-hand joystick, a right-hand joystick and swipe movement. I went with the third and never looked back; it’s perfectly suited to the sudden and deliberate movements demanded of the player’s tank if it’s going to survive. Tapping anywhere on the touchscreen guides the tank’s firepower regardless of control setting, and here the game’s one nuisance sets in. Most onscreen objects are smaller than the pad of your finger, so you have to be careful to tap just behind enemies rather than directly on them or else you’re obscuring the target’s current movement. These little tanks can all stop and change direction on a dime, so it’s an important consideration.
The game’s assortment of power-ups and environment elements are gradually stirred in – no surprise there – but the tutorials for using them all are just as transparent as the interface. Laser Wars’ lack of explicit hand holding actually ends up being refreshing, because early levels are very carefully tailored to let the player tinker around with new things and discover their properties very quickly. While I’ve come to appreciate live instructions and don’t see their place on iOS vanishing any time soon, it’s great to see Clapfoot pull off non-text tutorials so effectively.
Laser Wars ushers the player in with martial trumpets on the main menu screen, and its heavy metal soundtrack matches the severity of each level — which range from “intense” to “extremely intense.” What impresses me most about Laser Wars’ presentation is the dynamic lighting, every laser blast casting a reflective sheen over the game environments. Pick up a big cannon and watch that level light up beneath your fingertips!
iFanzine Verdict: The Tank Hero formula – a mashup of deep logic puzzle and simple twitch action – stands out from the crowd just as much in Laser Wars as it did in the prequel. Whether you’re already a Tank Hero fan or just a gamer who appreciates both of the genres involved, you’ll likely not be disappointed here.