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Tank (Arcade) artwork

Tank (Arcade) review

"Introduction and History "

Introduction and History

Tank saved the world from Pong; people tired of bouncing balls back and forth in just slightly different ways. Atari released plenty of games between Pong and Tank, but sales were poor because the games were no fun to play.

In the early 1970s, Atari was virtually the only game in town, pun intended. In order to get wider distribution of it's games, Atari founded a secret subsidiary called Kee Games, named after Joe Keenan, Bushnell's partner in Atari. The idea worked; too well, in fact. Tank, Kee Games' first title, was so successful that companies in contract with Atari wanted it desperately. Kee Games was short lived and only produced a handful of games until it was dissolved back into Atari.

Tank invented implied violence in video gaming. While not a human is seen in the game, one naturally assumes that a person navigates the vehicles. When a vehicle explodes, so must the person. However, video games were still primitive at this point so no protests came of this.


While usage of a CPU in a video game was still a year off, Tank is the first game to use a ROM chip for graphics storage. As a result, Tank features realistic, or at least recognizable, pictures of tanks, a good step upward from the blocky graphics of Pong and company. Other than the tanks, the rest of the visuals are the standard lines and dots.


Tank's designers paid much more attention than normal to the sounds emitted from the machine. As a result, the tanks made motor noises as they moved and exploding noises as they, well, exploded. Beeping tanks would be annoying, I expect.

Controls and Mechanics

Two players navigate their tanks through mine filled-mazes attempting to blast away the other player before he does the same. Running over mines adds to the opposite player's score, so avoiding the dots on the ground is advisable. The player with the most kills at the end of the time limit wins the round.

Possibly the best part of Tank is its realistic dual-grip control mechanism. Push the left lever forward and the tank spins clockwise; push the right and the tank spins counter-clockwise. Push both forward and the tank moves forward in the direction it faces; Pulling both levers moves the tank backward from the direction it faces. Just piloting the tank took some practice but not too much to scare the novice away.


Navigating the mazes and avoiding mines is just a small part of playing Tank. The biggest challenge is killing the other player, which is both the fun and downfall of Tank. If the other player is too far above or below your skill level, the game is just no fun. Likewise, one needs an opponent to play in the first place, and we tread into the same territory as Pong with the lack of a computer opponent.


Tank was fun to play, no doubt about that, but why? Tank differed from Pong and friends in that players pro-actively sought each other, rather than waiting for the action to come to them. In Tank, the object is fight to win; in Pong, the object is to avoid losing. In Pong, there is no way to make better shots (to any meaningful extent) than the other player, no matter how much experience the player has; likewise, little planning and strategy is accomplished as Pong's controls and mechanics are so simple.

Tank allows players to attempt ambushes, hide behind walls for cover, and plan strategies in general. Much more could be done to win, which is why Tank was fun to play.


Tank is a good relief from Pong and kept Atari alive to release landmarks such as Breakout and Asteroids. Good game play and fun controls make Tank enjoyable to play.

whelkman's avatar
Community review by whelkman (May 26, 2008)

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