I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a strange interest in poker. If you share a similar interest there’s the option to find online casino sites reviewed over at Spinathon. I have no interest whatsoever in gambling, no real affinity for any other card games, but poker has an unusual hold on me. Whether it’s dating back to old games on the 8-bit and 16-bit computers, gaming on the PS3 and PSP and even oddly enough, watching it on television it’s one of those games that’s captured my attention.
Thomas Hopper obvious shares my enthusiasm for the game so when it came to this PlayStation Mobile title he decided to add a new spin on the age old turn based tactics game and changed the combat itself in ways that no-one could ever imagine and Super Tank Poker was born…
As with many PlayStation Mobile games, the storyline throws you right into the middle of a fairly clichéd plot. You’re a soldier on one of two opposing forces and basically you’ve been tasked with defending against an invading force. Heading up a task force, you and your troops have been sent off to an island to deal with the attackers to protect your country. At your disposal is a varied squad of tanks, each with different strengths and weaknesses and essentially you have to traverse the island defeating each group of opponents that you encounter to reach the island’s capital city.
In essence it’s a turn-based strategy game. The island is presented as a forced-perpsective top-down view map and you control the movement of your squad (represented by a solitary tank) and all the opposing squads (represented by red circles). Each squad you want to attack has a “chip” value and you need to earn a set number through battles you win before you can attack them and the squads get progressively tougher the further you move across the island. Once you find a squad that you want to attack, the game moves from the map screen to the battle screen, opening up a secondary map.
Here, you see an overview of your squad and the opposing side, each taking turns to move individual units. Each turn follows a set phase split into three elements – movement (with each tank having a set range), direction (enabling you to decide which direction you tank faces for attacking) and the attack itself. If you decide to attack an opponent, rather than using attack / defensive / damage scoring that you would expect, the game changes again to a poker sub-game. Each tank’s health is represented by a number of poker chips and you have to bet these against the CPU in a hand of 5-card poker. If you win, then the CPU’s tank loses the number of chips in the pot from their “chip health”. Once a tank runs out of chips, they are destroyed and removed from the battle. This continues until one side has lost all of their tanks.
At the start of each hand of poker, initial bets (blinds) are made but unlike regular poker the amount of this blind is determined not by the seating and relative “dealer” position of the player but the direction the tanks face prior to entering battle. If you are hiding in cover when you attack and your opponent can’t see you, they pay a higher blind that you will. If you attack them from behind and are in their blind spot, you may not need to use any chips at all for your initial bet.
It’s quite a limited version of poker and shys away from the more popular Texas Hold-Em seen on television and more commonly played in tournaments and offers limited betting options (it doesn’t offer the opportunity to raise bets, only call them for example) but it still adds a novel twist on the less interactive combat seen in many other games of this type. Certainly, deciding whether to risk everything on a bluff and hope that the CPU will take a chance or that you can whittle them down slowly really keeps the tension high and gives the game far more long-lasting appeal than you would expect.
If you are successful at an encounter, you’ll be awarded a number of chips and then you can progress to the next. Again you’ll see what the chip requirement is to take on that challenge, what you can win if you’re successful and what type of encounter it is. Type of encounter? Yes. there are multiple battle types as well as the straightforward ground based combat, other levels set you challenges to overcome. Each level is introduced by one of your opponents and they tell you on screen what you will need to do and the more complex the mission, the greater the reward. Variations on the standard missions include a defensive survival-type mssion where you simply have to last for a set number of turns against a never-ending onslaught of opponents and a capture-the-flag style mission when you have to defeat a specific command vehicle at the other side of the terrain. All of these provide greater depth and variety in the gameplay throughout.
With over 30 missions to play through there’s plenty to keep you going and you certainly won’t get bored for a while, but what happens when you do finally complete the game? This is where the game’s Skirmish Mode comes into play. Here you can select to play a one-off user created mission using any of the maps from the game setting the number and type tanks in play including the heavily-armoured MCVs effectively giving the game a near unlimited lifespan.
As with all of his other games, Thomas Hopper has adopted a retro look and feel for the game, this time recreating the look and feel of a SNES title with some great visual effects on display. The graphics themselves have a great retro feel to them and are well drawn and move smoothly throughout the game. My only grip is the music which is, to be honest, quite irritating and grates after just a couple of minutes but fortunately there’s an option to turn this off. I know Thomas does everything himself with his games but maybe there is someone out there who loves his work and could contribute the odd track or two now and then as a change there could really enhance the game.
Ignoring the music though, this is a real gem of a title. It’s incredibly addictive and the sort of title that you could pick up planning on playing for a few minutes as a quick filler between other games and then realise that you’ve been playing it for well over an hour. It’s fun, offers a real challenge to players whether you love poker or not, and with the Skirmish Mode there’s no chance that you’ll grow tired or it or find that you’ll exhaust everything that game has to offer. I can’t say anything more really apart from the fact that Super Tank Poker really has to be an essential part of every PlayStation Mobile fan’s collection.
At A Glance
- Title: Super Tank Poker
- Publisher: TACS Games
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Cross Play: N / A
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 16Mb