Coverage Club is our weekly series of smaller impressions in the style of full reviews. Games can range from brand new titles hitting Early Access to older hidden gems that never got their due. No matter your preference, you’re sure to find something off the beaten path here.
Covered by Robert N. Adams
Tank 51 is a very straightforward game. Gigantic alien robots have invaded the planet. You have a tank. Your job is to blow up the aliens with your tank. I miss the days when games were this straightforward, and it was refreshing to go back to a simpler time, if only for a moment.
This game caught my attention because it reminded me a bit of Jackal, quite possibly my favorite game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. A game by Konami, Jackal had you moving through levels in a jeep with a machine-gun and grenades as you plowed through entire battalions of enemy troops and armor. Tank 51 is a similar game in that respect and it's just as barebones. There isn't much in the way of plot other than "kill the bad alien robots".
I came across a few problems in my time with Tank 51. There were no sounds for certain things like getting hit by an enemy attack or picking up an item. Power-ups like a laser upgrade for your tank and a protective energy shield exist, but there is no explanation of how they work. Does the laser last for a finite amount of time or a certain amount of shots? Does the shield protect you for a certain amount of damage or does it only stop one hit? These are things I had to find out through experimentation rather than any kind of on-screen tooltip.
Tank 51 also commits what may be a cardinal sin in a tank game. Abandoned and upended vehicles litter the game's eight levels, but you can't run over a single one. Running over smaller, punier vehicles is one of the best parts about driving a tank and I was disappointed that I couldn't do this. I also took issue with the fact that the tank had a rapid-fire machine gun-style weapon rather than a big, beefy cannon. I know that tanks with faster-firing small caliber guns exist, but they're just not as appealing as the classic image of a big gun that can take out an entire floor of an apartment complex with one shot.
Each level of the game introduces new enemies and occasionally new power-ups or puzzles. The levels all take place on the same style of map - only the level geometry and lighting changes. Most of the game's eight levels involve you just trying to make it to the end alive, but some of them add in special conditions like a boss fight or a timed survival event. Though billed as having a "very difficult campaign", I found I was able to complete it without too much hardship thanks to cautiously advancing and killing enemies from a distance.
In the end, I beat Tank 51 in a paltry 29 minutes (and I'm not even that good at twin-stick shooters). I replayed some of the levels a few times and had a generally enjoyable experience. Still, I feel like everything could be fleshed out a little more. There was no apparent way to make the game fullscreen or to rebind the controls. There's basically no options menu whatsoever. It's a complete title, but it is definitely lacking in some departments. Still, I had fun and I think it makes for a decent value considering the game's low price. If you enjoy twin-stick shooters, you'll most likely have fun playing Tank 51, even if that time will probably be pretty short.
Tank 51 was played on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher
Covered by Samuel Guglielmo
In a lonely and dark corner of The Mix sat a single dev. His TV didn’t work, which is a shame because it meant it was difficult for his game to get traction. Naturally, I marched over there to see what was on display. There I found A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher on the Nintendo Switch, which is good because it means I didn’t need a TV to play it. I’m also super glad I went and checked this corner out, as the game sure is unique.
Trackher has the game split right down the middle, which each half of the screen having a different gameplay style. On the left half, you have a SHMUP, with your ship moving around at the bottom and shooting targets that advance from the top. Without the ability to move up and down, it reminded me quite a bit of Space Invaders. On the right, you have a ship that can fully move in any direction but can’t attack. This ships job is to collect ammo and power-ups for the ship on the left.
This means you’re effectively playing two games at once. The left screen keeps adding more enemy types that approach my fighter in different ways. As far as I could tell, I was invincible on the left side, but failing to pay attention meant I wouldn’t be racking up any points. On the right side, I had to get strategic. I could only claim ammo and upgrades by stopping over them for a few seconds, but enemies keep spawning and flying around, trying to kill me. On the right side, I could actually die, so I needed to be far more careful. Combined, it makes for one hell of a hectic game that always kept me on my toes.
Another big feature of Trackher is that your score only matters if you “exist”. If you die you lose all the points you accumulated. However, you can choose to exit the level, stopping your run and saving the score you’ve got. How do you do this? Well, I’ll fully admit that I simply was not good enough at Trackher to find out. It’s a tough game, one that I would need to throw myself at over and over to discover its secrets.
Ultimately, A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher is an extremely creative take on the high score running arcade games. The single player split screen meant I had to pay attention to several elements at once, and I couldn’t just feel safe knowing I racked up a large score. I can see this being really interesting to anyone who wants to chase after a challenging high score.
A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher was sampled at E3 2018 at The Mix on Nintendo Switch. It is currently available on Steam Early Access and will be released in full sometime in 2018 on those platforms alongside PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
What do you think of this week’s Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another chance? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.