iPhone review of the day: AlienTankz – ever played Heavy Weapon? Someone sure has

On iPhone
Alien Tank
Price: $0.99 US, £0.59 UK
Size: 20.6 MB
Get it now on iTunes:US (opens in new tab)/UK (opens in new tab)

Have you ever played Heavy Weapon? It’s an arcade-style shooter from the same folks who did Plants vs Zombies. If so, go ahead and skip this review. Heavy Weapon has yet to hit the iPhone, but you can buy AlienTankz, the RC Cola version of the PopCap classic.

From what we can gather, AlienTankz (also called Crazy Tanks by its icon and Alien Tank by its menu) puts you in the role of an alien who has crash-landed on Earth. Instead of following a Reese’s Pieces trail to a child’s closet, you convert your alien craft into an adorable three-wheeled tank and spray the sky with Contra-concentrated fire, eliminating attacking planes that are equally littering the screen with falling bombs.

Gameplay utilizes a simple but effective concept that translates beautifully to touch gaming. The screen moves along at a steady clip, and you can use your left thumb to move your tank side-to-side to avoid enemy fire and line up your shots. Your right thumb moves to dictate the angle of the tank’s cannon, from which a steady stream of shots erupt automatically, as long as it senses your thumb is pointing at something. It sounds simple enough, but when the sun is blacked out by bombs looking to take you down, you’ll find yourself almost wishing you paid more attention to angles and vectors in geometry. Almost.

There are plenty of power-ups to be had. Cards offering you shields, health, and extra fire will parachute from your fallen enemies’ planes. For each enemy plane you take down, you’ll rack up gold, which can be exchanged for upgraded missiles, lasers, and the like between missions.

Once you get to the end of the mission, a big “Warning” will flash and a boss will appear on screen. Hopefully you’ve saved your lives up, as these fights are tough from the get-go. The bosses aren’t as cool or imaginative as they could be, but they’re varied and interesting enough.

Be careful, though: once you die, a screen quickly comes up asking you if you want to continue. Unfortunatley, the “No” button is right where your right thumb is tapping the glass to fire. More than once we accidentally agreed to return to the beginning of the mission, losing all of our progress and gold to our itchy trigger finger.

Admittedly, AlienTankz is a decidedly inferior copy of PopCap’s stylish and smartly-executed Heavy Weapon, lacking the polish and style of the original. But until PopCap decides to release Heavy Weapon for the iPhone, you’ll be quite fine spending less than a buck on this plucky clone.

Apr 7, 2011

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