Side-scrolling games are a lost art these days. Everyone is so into being able to fly and fire in any direction possible that there's something lost in translation for a true firefight. Playing those old games and getting a feel for having little space to move while trying to defeat everything in front of you is still a massive challenge and can become one of the best experiences ever. At least in my humble opinion. So it was kinda cool to get a copy of a 16-bit designed side-scroll from Lead Money Games this week in Lil Tanks.
The story behind the game talks about an alien race called the Cuur, who are in search of a new home to live in and have deployed scouts throughout the galaxy to find that new home. Of course, one of those ships found Earth and disregarded the fact that it was already inhabited to get his people to come. Once they started taking over the planet, they showed to be better at combat and made the air unbreathable. So as a last ditch effort, we launched a secret project called "Lil Tanks" to combat them. You are an unseen soldier piloting one of these tanks in an effort to drive the alien threat off our world.
The game is basic in design as you pilot one big tank with a smaller tank next to you. You can do single player and have the smaller one follow you, or two-player and have your buddy control it. You're guiding the tank on the left side as you slowly make your way right, ala Gradius or R-Type, shooting all the enemies that come in your path and eventually a major boss to clear out the level and claim that part of the world for the good guys. Along the way, you'll be able to snag items that improve your gun's range and fire power, as well as improve your special weapon that you can only fire every so often. The enemies have specific patterns and weapons that you'll need to navigate through without being destroyed.
Whether it be on keyboard or controller, Lil Tanks is pretty easy to control and manage. You don't have a ton of space, but it's cool if you miss stuff because it just slides on by. There are a few levels where items will come back to hit you from behind, but you'll get a clear warning before it happens. The biggest challenge early on is your life bar as you only have two hearts and few ways to recover them. You'll end up dying in miserable fashion as you'll get snagged by a plasma hit that you didn't see coming with little you can do to save the fight. And when you die, it's back to the start of the campaign.
The 8-bit design and music are a lovely throwback to the era, including a poorly created map that only highlights where you're headed and the country it's in with a flag in the corner. The tunes often sound like a pair of Moog synthesizers going head-to-head in each mode that you select. You'll also have the option of fighting in an endless stream of enemies or taking on just the boss battles if you're so inclined. There's a great deal of competitiveness thrown into the game that will keep you entertained and coming back for more.
Lil Tanks is an awesome game on the surface, but it's also pretty short and the low life will keep you firmly in place for a while. The upgrades are fun as you can collect them and make every level a new experience as you move along, but once you die you lose everything. The game is at least worth a shot to play if this is one of your favorite genres, but I'm not entirely sure about buying it.