Just when it seemed like nobody else was interested in the Vita’s Augmented Reality (AR) technology other than Sony, a pleasant surprise recently arrived at the PlayStation Store from Devils Details; this time with the magic of AR technology you are able to drive little tanks around your desk in Table Top Tanks.
The idea of driving tanks around and blowing stuff up has always been a young boys fantasy, playing on the carpet with nothing more than their imagination in full flow and a couple of plastic toys or with the advent of computers driving these iron bellied beasts in classics like the wire framed Battlezone or the huge MMO World of Tanks. Well now you can mix up reality with technology and use the Vita to project through its screen a little tank for you to drive around to your heart’s content and go to battle all on your table top.
Just by laying a few AR cards on a large play surface the game will beam onto your Vita’s screen, starting off with a solo campaign that will initially train you on the game modes and weapons available and then begin to mix up the different play types over a measly selection of levels. Once the screen has locked onto your play area your tank will be lifted onto the screen from its base hidden underground where you will then be challenged with shooting enemy tanks, collecting flags and returning them to base or shooting fixed targets. Fitted with a standard machine gun and tank shells you can deal with most enemies with a bit of skilful positioning and dodging but you also get plenty of power-ups to utilize, with multi-shot rockets and homing missiles to dish out the pain plus a few defensive items like shields, stealth cloak and repairs, plus you get to use a pretty awesome air strike that you can call in by swiping the direction of where you want the bombs to fall, essential on some of the later levels with targets being surrounded by impenetrable walls.
Aside from the brief solo campaign there is also a multiplayer mode, allowing up to four Vita owners battle it out and reign supreme of the desk. This is a lot more fun than the solo campaign, which is made even better by one of the more original elements of gameplay which is the create a map mode; where instead of walls and hazards being created by the game you can place real world objects to act as cover and obstacles. This is very easy to use and is easily the most exciting thing about the game, with you placing and object, say a can of drink, in front of the camera and then highlighting it on a grid and choosing the right shape, be it a ball or square which you can then stretch around the object telling the game that this item is solid. Before you know it your little tanks are battling it out around mouse mats, bottles and lunch boxes.
General control of the tank are straight forward with the control stick used for movement and shooting with the shoulder buttons, it’s very easy to enjoy the initial excitement of this tank based warfare, but problems creep in early on. The size of the game arenas are an issue, with even the smallest taking up far too much space, something that pulling the camera does not always rectify as then it can’t read the AR card, a common problem with this technology. Having a steady hand also is a must and even though moving the camera around is a necessity, it will often lose the lock, causing a break of play. This is made more cumbersome by some of the interactive touchscreen moments. However, once you have got passed these niggling issues there is quite a bit of fun to be had, with some really detailed tanks that have a solid feel and nice little touches like smoke or tread marks left of the floor adding to the realism making them appear to be right on the table in front of you.
Just like the addictive pulzAR that was released at the same time, Table Top Tanks is another great use of the AR technology however to get the most f this game you really do need to know other people who own this game as the solo campaign is over far too quickly.
Rating: Good Review Policy (version tested: PS Vita/PSN)