Pavel Tsarev's iDaTank [$1.99 / Lite] was released a few weeks ago but had some troubles, namely some crashing issues and a lack of a save function when the home button was pushed -- thankfully an update thrust out last week fixes those problems, meaning all of us can sit and enjoy the unique experience without having to worry about saving issues.

Nailing down what it is that makes iDaTank enjoyable is difficult. At its core, it’s a resource-hoarding exploration game where you're controlling a small tank as it moves around a small, three dimensional planet collecting resources and killing enemies. Somehow it also manages to feel a bit like a rogue-like, where permadeath can end your game quickly (although you can purchase more lives through the in-game economy), weapon upgrades are slowly seeded out and an RPG system lays underneath the hood to increase the tanks properties.

It doesn't fit into an easily definable genre-box, which is what makes it all the more appealing. The game play doesn't stretch much further than what you'll get from the outset -- you drive around, stripping planets of resources and killing enemies, but you still feel like you have to see what's at the end.

You control the tanks movement by sliding your finger in the direction you want to go -- there is no virtual joystick, but it feels similar, perhaps even better than one. The firing is done automatically, so even though it might look like a duel stick shooter, it's not. Somehow, the constant upgrades keep it interesting and as the game progresses, you can actually feel it change underneath your fingers. You get more control over your tank, more speed, weapons, storage -- the progression feels spot on, even though you'll have to grind a bit to get through later levels.

There are a total of 26 different levels, each subdivided into different subsections based on planet type. Each planet has its own alien life, is shaped differently and a few even have bosses, which if you run into unprepared, will absolutely slaughter you. That's made all the more difficult by the fact you can't back out and leave a planet if you find it too tough, which means you'll need to grind the early levels before you jump into some of the later ones, providing a serious challenge even if you're fully prepared. The goal of each planet is to capture a certain amount of resources, sometimes this means running over and delivering some blue crystals, other times you'll need to kill enemies or blow up giant egg things. You'll often need to make several trips from the resources to the delivery platform before you're finished with the level.

Picking which upgrades to use on your tank and your weapons is integral to your success in each mission. Weapons are handled by the same in-game economy as the lives, so you have to choose between the two. Tank upgrades are dispersed out when you reach a new level by gaining XP from killing aliens. There's also the whole permadeath thing that might turn some people off -- when you're out of lives, you have to start over at the very beginning of the game.

iDaTank is built in Unity and looks the part. The 3D graphics are simple, but they work with the overall atmosphere of the game, which is to say it's a minimal, but well-planned and well-executed idea. That said, the enemy animation is top-notch and the tank looks great as well -- like something pulled straight out of Jonathan Ive's brain if Apple suddenly decided to start making space-tanks. The interface continues the minimalist trend, almost to a fault as it takes a couple of taps to figure out what a button does instead of just one, but the uncluttered look works well with the rest of the game. It's a universal build, but it looks a little better on the iPhone's smaller screen then it does on iPad. However, the controls are a little smoother on iPad, so pick your fancy there if you have a choice.

Despite the ambiguous name, iDaTank is a surprisingly in-depth adventure game with a thin, but adequate layer of RPG elements added on top to keep you coming back for more. Like the best rogue-likes, it works like crack in that you'll manage to inch further and further into space through each playthrough before suddenly realizing it's three in the morning.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Artfoundry

    Played the lite version, and it was indeed fun - some unique mechanics like the aliens stealing and running off with the resources you're supposed to collect - pretty funny the first time I saw that.  But I just couldn't get past the controls - I would much rather have dual sticks.

    • Anonymous

      You basically do, only one isn't used for shooting. The other is used for movement though... just like as with dual stick shooters...

  • http://twitter.com/_ztj Zachery Jensen

    The tank looks like something from Jonathon Ive?  I think you mean Portal. It looks like what would happen if the lovely, and oh so friendly turrets from Portal were upgraded into tanks.

    Maybe a little TOO much like that.

  • Spleen

    Nice review, there is definitely more to this game than can be showed in screenshots and a brief discription.

    I was lucky enough to pick up the game for free thanks to a promo code posted in the forum topic. If you are at all interested in this game you should have a read, there are reviews/thoughts by other members and the dev is fairly active and asking for ideas on what to add/improve with the game: http://forums.toucharcade.com/showthread.php?t=97051

  • andrzej raczynski

    Permadeath after 3 lives ?!?!?  sale lost right there.  sounds like something that should be an option for some precious achievement or something, not a default mechanic.

    • Spleen

      You can buy more lives with points you gain from killing enemies. Just be careful with how you spend your points (don't use them on weapon upgrades when you only have 1 life left!) and you should be fine.

  • Pavel

    TouchArcade, thanks a lot ^_^

  • Apparent_symmetry

    I LOVE this game... tried out the lite version, and instantly knew I HAD to have the full. Since I got it (5 days ago...) it's been REALLY hard to pull myself away from it, even just to run to the kitchen to grab something to drink... =oP

    iDaTank is definitely going to end up in my top 10 of 2011 (probably end up in the top 3...), and I wholeheartedly recommend this to gamers, doesn't matter what genre you like, it's just an amazing game! 

iDaTank Reviewed by Thorin Klosowski on . Rating: 4