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Armor Charmer- Vector Tanks Reviewed

Vector Tanks for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Developer: Peter Hirschberg, Publisher: Chillingo

Back when graphics were simpler, games had a mystique similar to that of books. Your mind had to fill in the blanks and paint across the pixels’ corners. The visuals and sounds of most modern games leave little to the imagination. While this is definitely an improvement for the most part, it’s nice to see some indie or quirky games embracing the mysterious visuals of days past.

Vector Tanks is an iPhone/Touch game that makes no secret of its similarities to the arcade classic Battlezone. For those whose never played Battlezone, it was a 3D arcade tank game released in 1980 utilizing simple vector graphics that created a stark and simple yet mysterious and beautiful sci-fi atmosphere. The 3D graphics and twin-stick tank-style controls made for quite an enveloping and realistic experience, especially for a game made in 1980. I was born in 1984 and, despite other games being more advanced by the time I played Battlezone, there was something about it that just captured me. I loved it. The developers were even asked by the US Army to create a simulator for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Battlezone has received a few sequels since its creation, most of which were excellent, though they were quite different from the original.

Vector Tanks acts an unofficial enhanced remake of the original arcade game. It effectively emulates and even beautifies the vector-style graphics of Battlezone while adding a few features to the gameplay. The most immediately apparent addition is physics. I was surprised and pleased by this. The tank realistically dips and wobbles slightly when changing directions. The shockwaves of explosions will nudge you as well. Shrapnel blowback can even destroy enemy tanks. It makes the experience much more immersive. Vector Tanks adds powerups to the original formula. There’s shields which absorb hits and blow black shrapnel and rapid fire which temporarily gives you a faster more deadly machine gun. There’s also the nuke which is fired like your normal cannon, that is until it destroys all vehicles in a large radius including possibly yours.
The controls are a pleasant surprise. The game is played with the iPhone/Touch on its side or “landscaped”. Both sides of the screen have a green square that indicates a virtual stick. Using the iPhone’s/Touch’s multi-touch screen, the twin-“sticks” move up and down with your fingers and allow for realistic tank-style controls, much like Battlezone did. Tapping anywhere else fire your current weapon. It works quite well and really adds to the experience.

The sound is very well done with smooth pulsing lo-fi sounds and those “pew pew” arcade-style sounds we’ve come to love. Nothing is overly repetitive and the sounds even fade with distance. Playing the game with headphones is like getting a little ear massage. My only complaint is that the sound didn’t seem to be directional. It may not even be stereo. I hope they add directional sound, as it would really enhance the experience.
 
I do have a few nitpicks, but they remain only nitpicks. The collision detection for obstacles seemed a little off. There were times when the particle effects seemed to go through obstacles, and items (though they were still reachable) and tanks (though they could still move) seemed to spawn within obstacles on occasion. Luckily it didn’t effect the gameplay, but it did slightly hurt the experience. My biggest complaint is that Vector Tanks left out a little of some of what Battlezone had, such as the guided missiles that would appear and chase you in Battlezone. Some may have found these annoying but it kept the player from running away and kept things tense. The tanks don’t seem to change appearance like Battlezone‘s either, though they do seem to get harder. For a game that is enhancing another, it shouldn’t leave anything out.

Overall, Vector Tanks is quite good (especially for the price of only $2.99 USD). They should fix it up slightly, add a bit more, and approach Atari for the rights to the Battlezone name. It’s a pure arcade experience and one of the best 3D games on the platform. If they add multiplayer and/or missions it might just move into “killer app” territory as well.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

22 comments

  1. $2.99 is a bit expensive, when there are some GREAT games for 99 cents.

  2. Battlezone was a favorite. I’m surpzed DE didn’t review this, he like Tank/Army games it seems.

  3. Tanks, but no tanks. LOL.

  4. Name some here, please.

  5. It seems like you guys review more iphone games that DS and PSP combined. Why is that?

  6. Yes, those guided missile sucked. I would always die from them.

  7. is there a way to demo this? I see a lot of game have ‘lite’ version for demo.

  8. 7 cities, 1.99 kick ass, for TD fans.

  9. So you can see the stick on screen?

    How is the framerate?

  10. IPHONE GAMES WITHOUT A ONLINE HIGH SCORE TABLE FAIL AUTOMATICALLY. DOES THIS HAVE ONE?

  11. There a vector graphics TD game that balls hard and only 99 cents.

  12. Looks just like Battlezone.

    I expect Phoenix Wright to start litigation for Atari.

  13. Yeah, too many great 99 and 1.99 games to spend 2.99. Its really kind of sad.

  14. How about a lite version? That’s how I buy my apps.

  15. Maybe we doesn’t rock the iphone.

    I’ll have to check this out.

  16. Funny, dude.

  17. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    Yes, see the little green boxes on the sides of the screen?

    It’s great!

  18. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    They’re released more often and cheaper.

  19. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    No, but I imagine they’ll be adding that. There’s an update coming.

  20. TideGear (Adam Milecki)

    I’d have been disappointed in a straight clone but the added features and physics really make a difference.

  21. Thats it. Its fun buy way too hard!