Smash Tanks!

Smash Tanks! – Game Review (iOS)

I love playing multiplayer games. I find myself spending more time playing these type of games than singleplayer games. I am already playing The Machines, and ARSnake, both which I really like. This is why I was so excited to get a chance to play Smash Tanks!. Unfortunately, I found out that it still doesn’t have an online multiplayer game mode.

This means that as of version 1.0.1, the one that I am reviewing right now, it only supports local multiplayer over Wi-Fi. You can play it with either a single device or with two players playing each one with his own iPhone or iPad device. The game also comes with a single player mode in which you play against an AI opponent.

I’ve sent a message to the developer and he told me that there is a plan to add an online matchmaking feature. That aside, let’s take a close look at Smash Tanks! and see what made me enjoy this game so much.

What is “Smash Tanks!”?

Smash Tanks! is a turn-based strategy tank battle augmented reality (ARKit) game for iOS where two sides consisting of three tanks each, fight against each other in a small destructible battlefield.

Each side needs to eliminate all of his opponent’s tanks to win a round.  There are three rounds in total, the first one to win two rounds win the entire game.

Smash Tanks iOS AR game screenshot
1-vs-1 multiplayer tank battles in augmented reality!

The game employs different gameplay mechanics. First, you can drive your tank and hit your opponent using a swipe gesture, by dragging, aiming and releasing in a certain direction you want to move your tank. The power of the fling depends on how long you swipe. Hitting the enemy’s tank will damage it. There are some weak points which are marked with an exclamation mark. If you hit the tank at its weak spot, you triple the damage. An exclamation mark with a red background means a fatal hit, leading to a destruction of the enemy’s tank upon impact.

Tank's weak point
The yellow triangle with the exclamation mark signifies a weak point, which can triple the damage. If it’s red, this means a fatal hit, so watch your back.

Smashing your tank against an enemy or your own tanks will cause them to be pushed backward. Smashing your tank against your other tanks won’t damage them, but will push them forwards in the direction of the impact, kind of like a Pinball game. You can use this to strategically move the other tanks from danger, use it to hit enemy tanks indirectly or to grab a power-up that is out of reach with the current tank that is currently in play.

Second, the game also has power-ups. Now, this is my favorite feature in the game. There are quite a few power-ups. Power-ups are dropped in random places around the map. You can pick one up by smashing one of your tanks against it. Your opponent has the same opportunity to grab these power-ups as well. It’s up to you to use tactics to prevent him from achieving his goal, as this can give him an advantage on the battlefield.

Power up crate, Smash Tanks game screenshot
Make sure you grab this power-up crate before your opponent does.

Some of these power-ups include powerful rockets that deal damage to multiplayer targets, a shield the protects a tank from damage for a few turns, land minds that deal massive damage to tanks, grenades that deal massive damage in a very large area, and more.

Power-ups can be triggered by tapping on the screen, but keep in mind that this will consume a turn, so you can’t use a power-up and move the tanks at the same turn. Sometimes it’s better to smash against other tanks and eliminate them than being greedy and aim for the power-up crate. You can also combo moves and automatically trigger a power-up by bumping against one of your tanks that have a power-up loaded.

I'm aiming at the weak spot of the tank to maximize the damage the potential.
I’m aiming at the weak spot of the tank to maximize the damage the potential.

These are really superb gameplay mechanics that encourage lots of tactical thinking and precise gameplay from each player.

Trying to hit enemy tank using bombs
Bombs away, let’s go! BOOM!

There are also nice notifications like when you kill two tanks in one play, making a precise hit by hitting the tank in its weak spot or making a trick shot by eliminating a tank by hitting another object in between. It reminds me of the notifications in Call of Duty. It makes the game feel more arcade-style and more thrilling to play. This opens up a room for adding some medals and achievements, which from what I’ve read, the developer plans to add it in future updates.

Level Design

Smash Tanks! features different maps. In version 1.0.1 the developer added new maps to make each game feels different.

Tank hiding behind a crashed building.
That looks like a safe place, don’t you think?

The map consists of trees and buildings in most part, all are entirely destructible. You can fling a tank against the base of the building to undermine his stability and with consecutive hits to make it tumble down.  A building can easily eliminate a unit upon impact. Players need to use those structures as part of their strategic plan in either a defensive or offensive measure.

For example, I used it to prevent an enemy tank to grab a power-up by making sure the building falls down and block his way.  In another play, I used it to eliminate two enemies that were positioned very close to the building.

I have no doubt that the developer can add more structure variations to create a more dynamic gameplay experience. For example, adding bridges which you can use as a ramp to quickly move to the other side or make holes in the ground that can eliminate a unit if it lands or drive on it.

Although I have no doubts that the developer will improve the level design in future updates, the game still offers a nice selection of maps, each one with its own level design that promotes different tactical thinking each time you play the game.

Graphics & Sound Effects

I personally like the overall game design. The tanks look like cute little tank toys. The developer added a nice touch of humor by humanizing the tanks. It did it by adding nice little animations like when you aim, the tank is pulled upward, it moves up and down when idle and if you win, your tanks will start dancing with joy. All that is presented with very cute and cheerful sound effects and childish voices.

Triple tank kills, Armageddon power-up
Triple tank kills with the Armageddon power-up, the most devastating power-up you can get.

Smash Tanks! features really nice visual effects. It gives another visual dimension to the game when you see those 3D visual effects moving upwards out of the base gameplay area in augmented reality.

I still think that the game looks a bit anemic in terms of colors and details. There is no background to the base of the game, so it shows the surface on which the game is played on. This is why it looks nice on certain surfaces, but kind of pale and boring on others. I think maybe adding some touches of green grass around the edges can improve its aesthetics.  I also think it would render nicely with some weather effects—maybe adding some clouds or firestorm, make the game feel like a battlefield. On the other hand, it might contradict the cheerful and toy-ish art direction.

I can clearly tell the developer spent time fine-tuning the physics and animation to make the gameplay feel more bumpy, responsive and fun to play.

Overall, a great job in the graphics, animation and sound department. The attention to those fine details really paid off and the game feels engaging, amusing and fun to play because of that.

Things that I want to see in future updates

The core gameplay is great, but I cannot ignore the fact that the game lacks lots of game progression features. I’ve read that the developer plans to add medals and missions and other feature like that.

I think when an online matchmaking comes, it would be great to have ranking matches, a global leaderboard, skins and other similar features to add a high replay value and encourage players to invest more time in the game and try to get better. I think skins are a great option as it doesn’t break the balance of the game and motivate players to get better in the game and improve their skills. This also opens up a place for some seasonal specific events and skins as well, what is featured in many other competitive online multiplayer games offer.

On the positive side, it makes me feel good knowing that the developer is aware of all those things and plan to add some of those features in future updates. I usually don’t see developers bringing up their future plans in the game’s description on the app store. I applause the developer for mentioning this as this shows a commitment to make the game better and might convince players to keep an eye on future updates. This is one of the main reasons I will defiantly keep the game installed on my device, and I’m sure other people will do the same.

I think that being an ARKit only game limits its reach. This is an important point and crucial for multiplayer games. Adding a standard non-AR mode would allow many other players to play the game and therefore increase the player base and offer a faster matchmaking. Of course, to make this work, the game needs to support cross-play between AR and non-AR players.

Conclusion

I think Smash Tanks! is one of those games that can really grow and become very popular among players, but it limits itself due to lack of an online multiplayer mode. Having said that,  it makes me optimistic knowing that the developer has this mode planned for future updates.

Online multiplayer aside, Smash Tanks! turned out to be a fantastic game. I can say with confidence that this game easily enters my top 10 most favorite ARKit games. The gameplay is insanely addictive and fun. The physics and game controls are fluid and feel great.  The animations and sound effects add a lot of character to the game, making it more cheerful, amusing and enjoyable to play.

The destructible buildings, the turn-based gameplay, the power-ups and combo dynamics creates a gameplay that emphasizes tactical and creative thinking.

The local multiplayer is well made, targeting both one or two devices. It’s a phenomenal augmented reality game to play with friends.

The developer plans to add more maps and optimize the single-player experience. His main goal is to develop and grow the game with the community base on their feedback.

Smash Tanks! doesn’t feel like a complete game, but even at its current state, it’s super fun and addictive. Just looking at the list of the updates in version 1.0.1, this shows me the commitment of the developer making this a better game.

Overall, one of the must-have ARKit games on the App Store. I know that I’ll keep sending my feedback to the developer to make this an even better game.

Download Smash Tanks! from the App Store here: Smash Tanks! – :DUMPLING design

AR Critic Editor's Choice Award 2017

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