|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Natsume||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Natsume||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 6, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
In Squishy Tank, you start with a grid filled with blocks of different colors. When three or more blocks of the same color are grouped together, you can tap one with the stylus to eliminate them, and new blocks slide in to replace them. If you eliminate enough blocks of each color before time runs out, you beat the stage. A variety of power-ups clear out blocks and give you more time.
That's pretty much all there is to it; stunningly unoriginal, Zookeeper-style match-three gameplay. The overwhelming majority of gamers will give up on this after a half-hour or so, and even hardcore puzzle fanatics will be hard-pressed to stick around for more than a few hours. We'll confess that, without the duty to play the game out for the purpose of writing this review, we'd have been in the half-hour camp.
Still, there's a very small group of puzzle fans who might like this: the ones who want to test their reflexes with some mindless fun rather than exercise their brains. In the earlier stages, you can win by simply tapping randomly on the screen, but soon, the time limits get shorter and the game demands that you eliminate a higher number of blocks of more specific colors.
As everything gets tougher, you have to react quickly and accurately to the screen in front of you. There's even an element of strategy in trying to put big groups of blocks together (which earn you more time), and you can make things even more frantic by adjusting the difficulty settings.
We doubt that anyone will play this for hours at a time, but in short bursts, many will find it's not so bad. The maddeningly fast tapping this game requires makes it great for a quick break from work, or as a convenient distraction when you're feeling restless.
The core of the game is its Story Mode, which consists of four episodes of 20 rounds apiece. Unlike most puzzle games, Squishy Tank actually excels in terms of its actual story. The idea is that a group of amazingly cute "squishy tanks" are training for battle (you blow them up when you match blocks), and the interplay between their cartoonish personalities, the drill sergeant's military lingo-laced brashness, and frequent references to classic war movies makes for some laugh-out-loud moments.
The developers (Japan's Natsume) did a great job of crafting Story Mode to fit the game's strengths. There's a little bit of story after each of the four rounds, and the cutscenes (capably translated from Japanese) give players a quick and entertaining break without lasting too long. Further, you can choose any episode from the start screen, so you don't lose your progress by playing an episode here and an episode there when your schedule permits.