It's not the size of the tank, it's how you use it.
As the FMV intro to Tiny Tank opens, we see Tiny, the cute protagonist of the videogame tale, standing in a television studio shooting a commercial. We hear the director in the background, ordering for the "Tinky tinky, clinky clinky" theme song to be cued up. Tiny's bright eyes glaze over as he tells the director his view on the song, in a high pitched, endearing voice:
"Tinky tinky, clinky clinky, what the $%#!@ is that?"
The foul-mouthed Tiny is doing a line of commercials for SenTrax, a global corporation who had previously taken over the Department of Defense. It seems that SenTrax is getting backlash from the voting public, who are tired of human-fought wars. To get the needed votes to continue warfare, SenTrax has devised a new strategy: use cute killing machines to wage battle so that the loss of human life in war will be a thing of the past.
The robot-war ad campaign is a complete success, and SenTrax gets the votes it needs. Unfortunately, the majority of the robots SenTrax uses are mean, sociopathic killing machines. Soon after the operation begins, a robot revolution lead by Tiny's arch-nemesis, Mutank, forces humans underground, and in the process nearly kill Tiny. One hundred years later, after being rebuilt by miniature Fix-It-Crabs, Tiny is ready to make life safe for humanity by destroying Mutank and his robot allies.
You control Tiny through 13 intense missions. Each mission requires you to destroy robots, pick up supplies and face off against either a robot boss or a central machine. The missions are huge, and traversing through them often takes strategy along with a shoot-now-ask-questions-later trigger finger. As you complete the first few missions, the game becomes increasingly more difficult, and simply shooting blindly will no longer suffice. In one cleverly designed mission called Raw Material Nano Mine, you have to find your way through a maze of pipe-work connected to a long tunnel in which giant slabs of rock churned out by a crushing machine are hurled in your path. The only way to complete the mission is to find the entrance to the final tunnel (via the onscreen map), and destroy the rock crusher machine.
Fortunately, the designers have added in-depth features beyond the usual scope of console shooters. For starters, 9 different guns can be accumulated. As you destroy more enemies, you collect shards of nanometal (the futuristic metal robots are made of) and robot brains. The nanometal is stored, and depending on the amount you have, your internal Fix-It-Crabs will replenish a portion of your health. The brains you collect are stored in Tiny's system. Brains can be allocated to different weapon parts, increasing their effectiveness. They can also be allocated to Teeny Weeny Tanks, which are mini versions of Tiny. Send two brains to the Teeny Weenies, and they will protect Tiny; send one and they will gather supplies; send none, and they will explode on the first enemy they can find. Aww, now isn't that cute?
Unfortunately, controlling Tiny can often be a frustrating experience. Moving forward requires pressing the 'forward' button, which gets annoying. Control response on the whole feels muddy. Whenever you get in heated combat with enemies, the lack of precise control makes for cheap battles. Another feature, the ability to jump, is flawed. When Tiny jumps, he always leaps forward. Using the jump feature often is pointless, because it usually lands you in the enemy target range.
Graphics in the missions make good use of lighting effects, and many of the explosions are nicely detailed. Also, the commercials Tiny does for SenTrax in-between levels are a funny diversion from the action. On the downside, the robots (including Tiny) could use smoother animations. Many of the robots move with jerky motions, and would benefit from more textured body frames. And because the levels in the game are large, details in the background usually aren't visible. This means that you'll have to rely far more on your radar to detect enemies than should be necessary.
Tint Tank excels in the sound department. Music is usually high energy (unless it is simulating the quirt barrenness of the desert missions), and gets you in the mood for robot slayin'. But, the real treat here is the great usage of speech during the missions. In certain sections of the missions, radio broadcasts from big brother Mutank can be heard. In these, he analyzes such pertinent issues as the coexistence of humans and robots and the robotic need for repetitive kinetic motion (e.g. dancing). The voice acting is fabulous, with Mutank's robotic arrogance only outdone by San Francisco Bay Area talk show hosts.
The game's only real downfall comes in its difficulty level. While the game has three different difficulty settings, the standard setting (normal) will prove to be too intense for most gamers. Often hordes of enemies keep coming to attack you. A preferable mission design would have been to have a pre-set number of specific enemies. On top of this, many enemies' attacks are insanely cheap, an aspect only made worse when they gang up upon you in pairs.
While the whole concept about Tiny Tank being a cute but bad-mouthed robot is integrated throughout the game, it's hard to buy. Sure, Tiny is an obnoxious, crass little guy, but is he such a rebel? I mean, where's the drug addiction, the wild late night parties, the involvement in the call-girl ring at Robotic Charlie Sheen's house? (Been there, done that. - Ed.)
In the final analysis, Tiny Tank is a long, well-made game. If you can bear the difficulty level, then the deep mix of strategy and action will keep you playing.