The older amongst you might remember Atari’s Battlezone from the year 1980, a vector graphics based arcade game where players piloted a wireframe tank through a geometric landscape filled with enemy tanks. It’s okay if none of you remember Battlezone — seeing as how the game released over 35 years ago — but it would sure seem that Acmee GmbH still remembers, judging by their recent release of Panzerkampf 3 (out now, $0.99). Although not really a true vector game itself, Panzerkampf 3 is still a fast-paced old-school arcade-styled experience — featuring extremely stylized graphics — that should likely please fans of Battlezone’s unique aesthetics.

screen480x480 (61)Keeping true to the arcade roots upon which Panzerkampf 3 aspires, the game features controls that are extremely easy for anyone to pick up (all without ever needing a tutorial sequence). Rotating your tank can be performed by tilting your iDevice either left or right, whereas movement is achieved by holding down on either the forwards or backwards buttons found on the screen’s lower left. Shooting — on the other hand — is handled by touching the screen anywhere other than the two movement buttons, with your best possible current munitions automatically being used up first.

These weapons include the rapid-fire machine gun, which is less clunky than the slow default cannon; the rail gun, which has the power to punch straight through the  geometric scenery; the missiles, which can seek out anything you can see; and the nuke. Power-ups are often dropped by defeated enemies (and each will only need a single hit before they explode into a pile of wireframe smithereens), with the better weapons being rarer to find. It’s generally best to grab everything you can as quickly as it’s dropped — before it can disappear — as it all gets tossed onto a stockpile that you’ll keep until you either die, or until you’ve finally used all of it up (with the former being far more likely).

The rarest of possible items that enemies might drop is the full shield recharge, which is the only power-up that can’t be grabbed unless your shields aren’t full (yet it still decays with time like all of the other items if not quickly gathered). Every time you’re hit by an enemy you’ll lose a single point of health, although you can instantly knock yourself down to one hit remaining if you’re too close to the detonation point of your own nukes. Far more dangerous are the land mines littering the wireframe arena’s floor, which are guaranteed to instantaneously obliterate any player whom isn’t paying careful attention to where he’s driving his tank (either by looking straight ahead, or by checking your radar).

screen480x480 (62)Helping you out is the fact that none of your enemies will ever have more than a single point of health, but this won’t necessarily prove terribly useful when the battlefield fills up with violent targets on all sides. If you’ve previously played Battlezone before, you’ll probably notice that I’ve just indicated a major departure from the original’s staunch adherence to only ever throwing out a single deadly opponent at any given moment. Panzerkampf 3 — no longer shackled to the otherwise limited hardware of yesteryear — features free-moving tanks, vicious attack robots, flying helicopters, and otherwise harmless jeeps driving and flying all over the place (especially as things pick up speed).

Further keeping with Acmee’s homage to classical Atari style game arcade play is the ability for players to deliberately choose how fast they wish for Panzerkampf 3 to begin, with bonus starting points being awarded for electively beginning on a higher setting. Those not familiar with early Atari games should keep in mind that — presuming they last long enough — Panzerkampf 3 will eventually reach the Insane Difficulty no matter what level they begin on, and they’ll likely even earn around 20k points along the way as well. Thus these difficulty options merely exist so that long time players — whom want to dive straight into the thick of it — can skip the game’s earlier portions, all without having to hurt their final score (due to having passed up all of their would-be earlier opponents).

Although Panzerkampf 3’s Normal mode affords the player with three whole lives, things work quite a bit differently in the game’s alternative Rage mode (which comes with its own separate high score list). Here you’re given two whole minutes — plus an infinite set of extra lives — with which to unleash your rage, and are furthermore equipped with an endless ammo machine gun that automatically fires whenever you’re pointed at someone. Herein you’re awarded with bonus time whenever you’ve destroyed a large number of enemies during the same life — which is challenging, as you have no shields here — and are additionally made to wait longer than normal to respawn after each and every failure.

screen480x480 (63)While your tank’s radar will help you locate both nearby enemies and incoming attacks — no matter which mode you’re playing in (just the same as Battlezone) — an additional feature of Panzerkampf 3 helps players to deal with targets situated much further away. Located on the screen’s edges will be arrows pointing left or right, each of which signifies a single enemy — no matter how far away they are — that can be brought into focus by rotating that direction (the arrow will disappear when the enemy is dead head). Unfortunately this feature only seems to truly work the first time you run Panzerkampf 3 (at least until you reboot), as numerous arrows from your previous run will still be on screen next time (although the app is still very playable, I do hope this bug will be fixed).

Minor issues aside — such as the aforementioned arrow bug, and the fact that it’s easy to accidentally waste ammo while trying to drive forwards — this is an extremely fun game, and can easily be used to successfully fill up either short or long periods of time. Although the game doesn’t feature true vectors, as evidenced by the transparency flood fills, I still appreciated all of the minor touches — such as replicating the light points caused by lines changing direction — to give the feel that everything truly is vector made. Couple this with a very low price tag — and absolutely no IAPs to be found — and you have a fast-paced retro-esque romp that’s likely to please quite few a gamers, whether they be young or old.

Verdict

Panzerkampf 3 is a fast-paced — easy to play, yet hard to master — arcade-style homage to Atari’s 1980 release of Battlezone, yet featuring graphics and mechanics that would have otherwise been utterly impossible on the original hardware. With its charming appearance — and highly addictive game play, that can easily fill up both long and short blocks of time — Panzerkampf 3 is likely to appeal to a variety of mobile gamers both young and old. Although the game’s controls regarding the determination of when you’re trying to attack — versus merely drive forward — as well as the enemy indicator arrows could both use some fixing, the game is still very playable.