Tank Commander

reviewed by John F. Foden



Issue 12

Nov/Dec 84

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Creative Sparks.... 32k cassette.... 1/2 players....

For those of you who are too long in the tooth or slow on the trigger for conventional shoot-em-ups and cannot get into war games such as Eastern Front, this may be the answer. Tank Commander is a great mixture of strategy and action. You will find yourself in command of a lone tank that must venture forth from its base in the foothills of the western mountains onto a coastal plain defended by computer controlled enemy forces. You are given a birds-eye view of the action which takes place over a terrain consisting of about ten smooth scrolling screens. The terrain includes ranges of low hills, forests, swamps, rivers and roads as well as civilian housing and various military installations. Each mission is different and may require you to rescue a secret agent or go forth and destroy enemy tanks, fuel dumps or command posts. You start with a limited supply of fuel and ammunition which have to be replenished periodically by returning to base.

Your tank is joystick controlled and may take a little bit of getting used to. Forward and backward movement of the handle causes the tank to move forward or reverse, whilst left and right cause the vehicle to turn on the spot Left or right movement whilst pressing the trigger rotates the gun turret and releasing the trigger fires a shell.

Your tank can travel over any terrain except the hills and rivers. The latter may only be crossed via road bridges. A realistic feature here is that your vehicle's maximum speed varies with the type of terrain being traversed with maximum speed being attained only on the roads Beware of minefields when travelling across open county and keep an eagle eye out for enemy tanks. These are fairly fast moving and can attack in groups as well as individually;. Although fairly fast movers, enemy tanks are slow to fire at least on the lower skill levels, and are not too difficult to out manoeuvre and destroy.

A more serious threat are fixed gun emplacements usually located near to the enemy command posts. Not only are they difficult to spot, but their guns have a greater range than your own. Use the small ranges of hills as cover when trying to get close enough to destroy these gun emplacements but, beware, the occasional shell may find its way through. The most dangerous weapon possessed by the enemy is a rocket-firing aircraft Your tank cannot shoot down this aircraft and must try to dodge the missiles. All is not lost however, a warning tone sounds immediately prior to an enemy attack and, providing your reflexes are fast enough, you can press SELECT to call up your own fighter plane. Movement and firing of your aircraft while it is on the screen is controlled with the same joystick Your own airstrikes will help drain your fuel and ammunition reserves.

When located, and in range, enemy targets can be shelled and blown up from any angle. Explosions produce realistic sound and visual effects. Avoid hitting civilian houses since this reduces your points total. At the end of a successful mission you are awarded bonus points and a new mission, harder than the last and with a different landscape. You start each mission with five lives.

The game has a couple of very useful features. Pressing OPTION at any time during play reveals a map of the complete battlezone and pressing the Space Bar will pause the game. Although generally good, the instructions do not point out that you must press the ESC key to resume play (at least you have to on an 800XL). Loading instructions do not mention that both the OPTION and START must be pressed when switching on XL models during a boot load.

Tank Commander can be played by 1 or 2 players and has 5 levels of difficulty. It is a game that combines arcade action with a degree of strategy to produce an absorbing blend. At a price of 8.95 it should become a firm favourite.