$1.994.5 starsReviews

‘Vector Tanks Extreme’: A Glowing Vector Ball of Insanity

Late last week we posted a preview of Vector Tanks Extreme, which was released just hours later through author (and retro lord) Peter Hirschberg’s new operation, BlipTime Studios. As I had the final build in-hand a few days before its official release, I knew the game was something to get excited about, but since then I’ve spent a great deal more time with the title and, well, I haven’t been disappointed. (I have, however, been blown to bits more times than I’d like to confess…)

First, let’s step back a moment and take a look at the overall Vector Tanks situation. Peter’s original Vector Tanks appeared in the App Store, published by Chillingo, just over one year ago. It delivered a stylized iPhone take on Ed Rotberg’s 1980 arcade classic Battlezone, with a large helping of modern-day retro, thanks to the lovely glowing vector effects that make the iPhone’s screen feel more like an Atari Quadrascan display than a 3.5-inch LCD. It’s some of the best retro gaming to be found in the App Store.

Early this year Peter parted ways with publisher Chillingo and formed his own studio, the aforementioned BlipTime Studios. In that transition, he brought Vector Tanks along — and with an update — but was unable to provide said update for free to those who purchased the Chillingo Vector Tanks release.

As Peter explains it,

…I apologize that there isn’t a way to upgrade. I worked with Apple to try and establish and upgrade path for my current customers but the final answer from Apple was that once you change the account under which an app is published, it will always appear as a “new" app and upgrading is NOT possible. I sincerely apologize. I did try and I know it sort of stinks. My hope is that the reduced price will serve as a good-faith gesture to my current customers who wish to pick up this updated version of Vector Tanks.

To soften the blow of the situation to those who purchased the original, and in honor of the release of Vector Tanks Extreme, Peter is offering the latest version of the original, Vector Tanks (Classic Version) [App Store] for free for one week. Everyone reading this post should just go grab it right now.

Now that we’ve got all that sorted, let’s move back to Vector Tanks Extreme. I had, earlier, described the original Vector Tanks as Battlezone on crack. Given that, Vector Tanks Extreme can only be described as Vector Tanks on crack — squared (and on fire, screaming while giving out wedgies). It’s one of the most intensive, white-knucle shooters I’ve ever played on any platform. And this is true even on the easiest setting. But, when you play at the INSANE difficulty level or in the game’s unlimited-lives, balls-to-the-wall, 2-minute Rage mode, it’s enough to necessitate a heavy dose of beta-blockers.

The game is basically an exercise in GO GO GO, watch the map to dodge enemy fire, swing behind an obstacle for shielding, and lay down the smack as fast and as hard as you can. And if the aforementioned obstacle is slowing you down, just blow it away. Like the original, Vector Tanks Extreme is controlled by left and right thumb sliders at the edges of the screen that guide the action of your tank’s tracks. It’s a tap to the screen to fire your weapons, and this time around there are more to be found lying about the battlefield. Canons, rapid fire turrets, rockets, rail guns, nukes — not a very good place to get caught in the crossfire.

Notching up the intensity of the virtual battlefield carnage are the encouraging quips of your in-game crew, consisting of the voices of both Jon St. John (the voice of Duke Nukem) and Jeff Straub. When I try to capture the essence of the game experience, I keep conjuring the image of the famous, ’80s Memorex advertisement. It’s pretty much like that, but on an iPhone. And with glowing vectors.

Vector Tanks Extreme uses the network to track global scoring, but things should get even more interesting when Peter releases the first major update, which will enable network competitive play. I’m quite anxious for that to land, but until then, single play against the game’s vicious AI is definitely keeping my hands full.

If all that gets your juices flowing, go grab Vector Tanks (Classic Version) [App Store] — for free (for a few more days) — and give it a try. And if you want to take that experience a fair piece beyond the next level, you know where to look. Vector Tanks Extreme. Can you take it?

App Store Link: Vector Tanks Extreme, $1.99