Sometimes the best things in life are also the simplest, which is certainly a virtue that Josh Langley kept well in mind when he set out to design the recently released Top Tank (out now, $0.99). In Top Tank you take control — appropriately enough — of a tank slowly crawling forward across an endless stretch of randomized landscape, all with nothing more than your primary cannon for protection. Whatever your mission was — which isn’t ever exactly stated — the one thing absolutely clear is that retreat is 100% unacceptable, meaning your only available path forward is to demolish anything that gets in your way!
To do this you’ll have to push a button on the screen’s lower right which — when held — will simultaneously both bring your ride to a screeching halt, as well as slowly move your turret up and down. Your tank will — upon releasing this button — not only begin moving forward again, but a single cannon shell will furthermore be launched at whatever angle your turret was pointing. Although you will sometimes find variant ammo — such as shells that split three ways at their zenith — this has otherwise been a complete overview of Top Tank’s inputs, with the only caveat being that there’s a separate button for special bullets.
While Top Tank’s single button action does mean that you’ll never need to worry about dealing with input confusion, it doesn’t — however — guarantee that keeping your little tank plowing eternally forward is going to be a cakewalk. First things first: even if you come to a complete stop while aiming, your enemies — undaunted by the fact that your tank has a turret — will continue to move forward the entire time. Therefore you’ll find yourself constantly overshooting your targets unless you factor in not only your shell’s trajectory and speed, but also how long it takes for your shell to reach its destination.
A further complication is the fact that you only have control over the angle of your shot, but never the power behind each shell that you lob forward (which is a perfectly fixed constant value). Because of this there seems to be constant dead spots where — no matter how hard you try — you often can’t ever seem to place a cannon shell, and successful strikes tend to only get even more complicated when the ground isn’t a flat surface either. Couple all of this with the previous fact — regarding how your enemies don’t politely sit around and wait for your shells to reach them — and you have a game where proper aiming technique is heavily emphasized, especially if you want to score the big points.
While you can usually take out most enemies with enough blind firing if you try long enough, you’ll quickly discover that playing in such a manner will lead you to having far lower scores than any of your friends. That’s because Top Tank features a multiplier that is incremented every time you hit two — or more — enemies in a row, and decreases every time you fire an errant shot (splitting shots are only failures if every single part misses). Furthermore, an additional bonus 2x multiplier is added to any shot where the shell remains airborne for a lengthy period of time before reaching your target (which are the hardest kind of shots to land, seeing as how the target will move a great deal during this).
The final complication to your mission is the fact that you’re not the only one here that’s packing heat on these streets, and your enemies — whether they’re air or land based — will be firing right back at you. Your tank will either explode after two rockets — which you can attempt to avert by blasting them out of the sky with your own shells — or after one collision, which can only be stopped by blowing up enemies before they reach you. Thankfully, the enemy tanks have aiming capabilities that is often nearly as bad as your own; however, you’ll still have be extra careful when dealing with aerial foes whom are both fully capable — and completely willing — to launch pinpoint accurate assaults.
The end result of all these factors is that Top Tank is an easy to play game that’s filled with a hefty bit of challenge thanks to the app’s Risk-Vs-Reward setup, leading to it always being a rewarding experience whenever you finally defeat you previous top score. Better yet is that — whenever you do compete against your friends — pure skill alone will determine the sole ruler of Top Tank’s roost, for there are absolutely no IAPs to be found here whatsoever. Although there are additional stages to unlock — which mostly amount to changes in the scenery — these are all reached purely through actual game play means, or — to be more specific — the combined total distance your tank has successfully driven so far. Which — by the way — will all probably be unlocked in no-time flat, since you’ll likely find yourself coming back to Top Tank again and again for yet another round of trajectory-based cannon fire.
The only downside here — that I can actually think of — would be that Top Tank desperately needs more in the way of Game Center achievements, especially seeing as how I literally managed to unlock all eleven of them during my inaugural play session.
iFanzine Verdict: Josh Langley’s Top Tank is a simple to play — but difficult to master — game of Risk Vs Reward based scoring (that’s also IAP free), that’s sure to keep you coming endlessly back for yet another round of trajectory-based cannon-blasting fun.