Squishy Tank Review for Nintendo DS

Tanks Match Three

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.

Squishy Tank screenshot

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.

Squishy Tank screenshot

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.

Squishy Tank screenshot

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.

The other modes don’t have Story Mode’s personality or sense of accomplishment, but they promise hours of fun for high-score junkies. There’s Survival and Time Attack, which are just what they sound like. There’s also Quest, which gives you specific challenges to complete on the game board. Of the extra modes, Quest is our favorite; the special tasks provide a sense of variety that Story Mode doesn’t. Survival and Time Attack, meanwhile, get repetitive in a hurry without funny cutscenes to break up the action, though there’s the option of watching the cutscenes by themselves.

Squishy Tank screenshot

Also, the cartridge includes three simple arcade-style shooter games (one is sort of like Space Invaders, and the other two are shooting galleries), as well as various costumes. You can dress up the tanks on what’s called the Collection Screen and tease them by poking them with the stylus, which provokes some adorable angry responses (and eventually an explosion).

In terms of presentation, the game excels, despite the fact that it doesn’t exactly push the DS to its limit. The tanks are depicted in a well-done anime art style, which gives the game a unique look. The game board is easy enough to read and comprehend (though, being colorblind, we found some of the block colors a little too similar), and the stylus controls have never failed us. The sound is good, especially the comical high-pitched voices that ring out during the cutscenes, though some of the effects can become repetitive and grating and the music is a little hyper.

Squishy Tank is an almost painfully simple game, but Natsume makes up for it by offering the title at a relatively painless price of $20. For puzzle gamers who want to test their reflexes and are on tight budgets — especially small kids who can’t handle more complicated tasks — it’s a decent buy. It offers a clever and amusing story, simple gameplay that many will find entertaining (at least in short bursts), and some of the cutest little war machines you’ll ever see. Again, this game is not for everyone, and for that matter it’s not for most people, but there’s a lot of value here for its target audience.

The visuals don’t push the DS to its limits, but the anime art style is very well done. 5.0 Control
This game requires high-speed, precise tapping, but the stylus never fails. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are kind of annoying sometimes, but the cutscenes sound great. 2.6

Play Value
This is a very simple, very mindless game that’s definitely not for everyone, but many gamers will find it to be fun in short bursts.

3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Fast-paced, addictive puzzle action! Quickly tap on identically colored blocks of three or more so you can regain precious seconds on the stage timer!
  • Battle through the four challenging game modes and you’ll unlock a trio of fun arcade mini games and even a new wardrobe of squishy tank accessories!
  • As you finish each stage in Story Mode, you’ll unlock a new animated episode featuring Squishy Tank mishaps, miscalculations, and mechanized mayhem.
  • Share a demo of the game with family and friends via local wireless DS Single-Card Download Play.

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