Often the best things come in the simplest packages. The idea behind Tanked Up, the latest game from UK developer Nitrome, is a simple one: race a tank through eight tracks of varying terrains while trying to blast your opponents to smithereens. You must win each race in order to unlock the next track, and the difficulty increases the farther along you go.
Each race is only two laps, but on the harder tracks it can be tough to keep your lead for that long. The main reason you'll find that it's hard to stay ahead is the unique control scheme: steer with the arrow keys while aiming and firing your turret using the mouse. Even after several races you'll find yourself occasionally overwhelmed by the task of firing in the opposite direction that you're steering and run yourself right into a wall, cursing a blue streak as the computer opponents pass you by.
Shooting is more defensive in this game than offensive. The tanks take a lot of damage before blowing up (which, unfortunately, they don't really do, they just sort of fizzle out), but when a tank is hit it stops dead in its tracks. That may be your main tactic: get out in front as early as possible, aim your turret behind you, and start shooting at your opponents to keep them at bay. It's hard to climb out from last place because you're every one's target.
The difficulty level overall is fairly easy, so the control issue becomes as much a part of the fun as the shooting and the racing. I never lost more than three times on one track before finally getting my act together and placing first. The computer opponents are sometimes as inept as you are, occasionally getting locked into clusters, firing all around and keeping everyone from getting anywhere.
The pixelated graphic style is great, reminding me of old shareware games (like Death Rally, which the gameplay in this game also reminds me of). The music fits the game well, but with my limited musical tastes I can only describe it as a blend of 80's Depeche Mode and funk.
All in all I had a great time playing, and managed to finish all eight tracks in probably around 30-45 minutes total playing time. I'd love to see this game become something of a franchise, mainly because I'd love to race on more tracks, see more hazards, and if it's possible race against human opponents.