The first thing we noticed about NormalTanks is the sense of impact you get from shooting an enemy. This game is from BeatShapers, the development studio who previously gave us BreakQuest on the Playstation Minis service. Despite being polar opposites, the game's feel somewhat similar. BreakQuest had a very heavy, physics-driven approach to it's block-busting gameplay. Despite being a top-down shooter, NormalTanks maintains some of that feeling.
Playing as a tank, your immediate goal is to essentially navigate a host of varying stages and utilise your tank's cannon to destroy a range of on-screen threats. What's key about this game is the way the shooting feels. There's no floaty orb-like bullets here — everything feels like it has an impact. And that's very much where the BreakQuest comparison lies: this game has weight. That really adds to the experience though, as NormalTanks is all about heavy fire power and thick armour.
Originally a PC game, NormalTanks has adopted a few control issues in the switch to PSP (and of course PS3). The Portable's lack of a second analogue nub means turret rotation is assigned to the face-buttons. Tapping the face-buttons moves the turret in 45 degree increments, while holding it moves the turret all the way round to the direction you're pressing. You can auto-aim with the PSP's analogue nub, but we found it best to use the face-buttons. It takes about 30 minutes or so to adjust, but by that time you'll be picking off opposing tanks with relative, although not ideal, ease.
Controlling the tank, you'll be privy to two main methods of firepower — a machine gun and a shell majig. The shell's obviously the more powerful of the weapons and, honestly, there's little reason to use the machine gun. Some more nimble enemies are hard to hit consistently with the shells but aside from that, most enemies are rather static. Naturally, all the weapons can be upgraded to devastating levels, by picking up dropped upgrades that litter the ground.
Strikingly, NormalTanks is a rather pretty game - even when played on the "blown-up" Playstation 3. The sprites are sharp and environments are thoroughly detailed. There are eight levels to playthrough across three different difficulty settings so you get your money's worth.
NormalTanks is a pretty unambitious game in all honesty. It's a homage to classic retro shooters that'll occupy your attention for the odd 20 minutes here and there. It's not an insult to describe the game as unambitious, because everything it does, it does adequately. The controls can take some adjustment, but it's in the feel of the weaponry that you'll get most enjoyment. The guns are just fun to fire. And that's all you could ask for of a game in this genre.