I try to hold on to this firm belief that you can’t go wrong with a tank game. Unfortunately, as any genre gets more crowded in the App Store there’s more opportunity for bad as well as good examples of how a particular type of game should be done. I think Panzer Panic falls somewhere squarely in between. It’s actually kind of a nifty game, and I really like the visual style, but the control scheme is very counter-intuitive to the fact that you actually have to control all of the tanks manually. A better balance between controls and game play is required before this game can truly shine.
In Panzer Panic you get to command a group of doodle tanks taking part in a battle on a paper playing field. Your job is to survive as many waves as you can before the enemy takes you down. You start out with three tanks and can gain extra tanks through acquiring power ups. The enemies come at you in waves, and the number of enemies is dependent on the wave. Here’s problem number one, though. The enemies are constantly in motion and fire as soon as they are within range. Your tanks, on the other hand, are all controlled manually by you, so if you’re off fighting enemies with one of your tanks, the rest of your squad could easily get flanked and destroyed before you can get back to them. Thankfully all of your tanks don’t have to be in the same spot, so you can leave the one you’re controlling once your fight is over and go back to the other ones.
This brings up problem number two – scrolling the battlefield. Sure you can try to scroll back to your troops that are getting destroyed, but scrolling requires you to drag with two fingers, and it takes two or three scrolls to get completely across the battlefield. That may not sound like much, but since it only takes a couple of hits for a tank to get destroyed… well, you can just imagine that time is not on your side. If nothing else it would be great if the battlefield would scroll automatically while you’re moving your tank. Then again, moving is another thing I don’t really like (you can tell I’m not a fan of the control scheme at all). To move your tank you drag it. Seems reasonable enough, but to fire you have to swipe from your tank in the direction you wish to fire. The issue is that sometimes a swipe is perceived as a drag, and instead of firing on your opponent you accidentally just move your tank forward a bit. Again, not a big deal except for that whole “two hits and you’re dead” thing. Since the game doesn’t appear to use anything simple like a single tap for anything, why not use that for firing? It would be so much easier than what they have currently implemented.
It should also be noted that there are “bits of paper” on the playing field that can block your shots and your tank as you try to move. These bits are indestructible. In a level playing field this wouldn’t be such an issue, but when you potentially have to race back to your tanks that are sitting ducks and then steer them around landscape before you can even attack the enemy, that doesn’t quite seem fair. Even if it takes a few shots, it would be nice if those things were destructible. Or, if they can’t always be destroyed, give me a power up that will let me temporarily clear them away. It would also be nice to have an easier way to get around the playing field. Maybe a mini-map or something. I’m just glad the playing field isn’t any bigger than it already is.
While I haven’t tried it yet (save for a quick round by myself), something I do find rather interesting is the 2 player mode. It’s played in hot seat fashion, which means you have to pass the device between players. To work around the fact that the game is technically real time – at least for one team – players get a limited amount of “action points” in order to do something. A bar appears in the appropriate color at the bottom of the screen, and it empties as you move or fire any one of your tanks. Once the meter is empty you give the device to the other player and they take their turn. It’s not quite as friendly as a wi-fi version might be, but at least you only need one copy of the game, and if you’re really in the mood but all alone you can actually play the game by yourself.
I really like Panzer Panic’s look. A lot of times the concept of “doodle” seems little more than an excuse for “I can’t draw”. In Panzer Panic’s case, however, it sets a style that looks pretty sharp. The tanks being rendered with graph paper is a nice touch, and weapons rendered as “ink bullets” is quite slick. The sound effects are also nicely done. I love hearing planes fly overhead, and the sound of the ink bullets splattering is great. There’s music that plays on occasion, but it would be nice if there was something that played all the time.
Panzer Panic is really frustrating for me. I like the look and I think there’s a lot of potential to the game. It’s a simple “survive as long as you can” type game with tanks, and that actually works quite well for me. I just can’t get over the controls. The more I play the game, the more I don’t like them. I really hope they decide to revisit the controls for a later version of the game, and at least consider multiple options if they don’t want to abandon the current control scheme. It’s not unplayable, but it’s certainly a lot more hair-pulling than it should be. I wouldn’t necessarily shy away from Panzer Panic, but I would proceed with caution. You might adjust just fine… but then you might experience the same frustrations I have.
Overall Score: 6/10
App Store Link