Friday, 29 June 2012

Hovertank 3D (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

To find a colourful FPS, I'm going right back to the start. I want to see 8 by 8 pixel unreadable scribbles against a backdrop of wall-to-wall magenta.

It's not-quite-id-software-yet's...

"In HOVERTANK 3-D you play mercenary Brick Sledge, hired by a beneficent organization to rescue people from cities targeted for limited nuclear strikes. Get in, get 'em, and get out, before the missile hits."

"Climb on board your new HOVERTANK and go to it!"

Rescuing people from nuclear strikes in a hovertank?

You needn't big it up so much, you had me at 'Brick Sledge'!

What's this game actually called anyway? Is it called HOVERTANK as on the title screen, or HOVERTANK 3-D as in the online help or HOVERTANK ONE?

Things sure escalate quickly in the future...

"These scientists are developing clean fuels! This is outrageous!"

"We could buy them out, boss?"


Yow! That was bizarre! What the hell was that?

Okay, I'm in my tank now.

Hey, it's that guy from the title screen of The Catacomb Abyss 3D! Doesn't look that much like a Pinky demon now that I see him up close.

I wonder how the monster design process goes at id Software...

"Hey Adrian, we need a scary mutant for our tank game!"


"Cool, alright! Now... we need one for this not-tank game about a wizard!"


"Great, like it. Now you're a space marine fighting demons appear!"


Fire the cannoooooon!

Right. Good. The cannon works.

The controls are simple in this one: move forward, backward, rotate, boost and shoot. Infinite ammo, no health pickups. No strafe.

There's no use key so there's no chance of me having to 'Use' every wall to find secret passages! Yay!

If it turns out I have to shoot every wall to progress, there'll be blood.

Did I mention yet that the camera continually bobs up and down?

I think I'm gonna be sick...

Ooh, a hostage. I guess I'd better engage MAXIMUM SPEED and my automatic innocent-grabbing safety net. I hope I've got one of those because otherwise this is going to go horribly wrong.


Don't sound too excited. I only rescued you from certain death from the nuclear strike that's scheduled for less than two minutes from now.

"Gate detected."

At least, I think that's what he said. It was really low pitched and clipped a lot. It sounded more like "Bub-dik-dik-dik."

Collecting all the hostages makes the exit appear on the radar, and I've got to scoot off and find the thing before the missile hits.

So that's what that thing I saw at the start of the level was! Well, I'm sure they can replace this temp sprite with something a little less kiddie-looking come the final release.

In we go!


The boss is only too happy to hand over the readies, as I rescued every single hostage! (That's makes a pleasant change.) It's $10,000 for every rescuee and $100 for every second remaining on the clock.

You really shouldn't give a heartless mercenary like Brick Sledge that kind of deal... what's to stop him from teleporting to the danger zone, flooding it with fire and teleporting back in five seconds?

"Yeah, I had a look. There was no-one there. That'll be thirty-k. And you can repair and re-load my hovertank for free while you're at it."

"Sir! We've located the philanthropists and do-gooders."

"Excellent. Have they damaged our interests?"

"Well... not exactly. I'd say... 'irritated'."


The Mitchell estate is... another flat coloured maze of blocks. I'm starting to see a flaw in my plan to see a colourful game.

Eat my cannon! Octo-UFO!

EGADS! There's one of them right behind me!

They're everywhere!

AAARGGGGHHHH! Get offa me!

Ugh. Damn it.

Chicanes everywhere.

Obscuring most of the level behind a wall makes the game run better, but in hiding most of the level, especially when all every wall is one of only five colours, locating landmarks is impossible.

You have no idea how much I wish I had a map right now. A compass at least. You've got a radar, stick a bloody N on it. I'd suggest that they at least give these identical rooms names, but they did end up doing that in The Catacomb Abyss 3D, so good for them.

Yep, that sounds like the coalition government to me.

The Hovertank cannon takes time to recharge, so you need to pick your shots carefully. One shot kills almost anything, and a charged-up shot travels through multiple enemies.


I thought I'd hold the button down so I'd be ready if I suddenly see multiple enemies, but whenever I see a hostage, I let go of the charge button so I can drive up to rescue them... and releasing the charge button fires the cannon.

Well there's $20,000 I'm not gonna see again.

This is fast becoming a mess. I can't find the hostages before the mutants kill 'em!

The hostages appear on the radar as white dots... or is it green dots? Yellow dots?

Darn it! This hovertank drives like... a tank! I can't see a damn thing from this lousy narrow view angle, either. I don't take damage from bumping into the walls like in some vehicle combat games, though.

Oh dear. The man's not too happy this time. I only saved three hostages...

You know what? I think that window in the background is actually a mirror, and I've really driven the hovertank right through the wall of the man's office and put my turret in his face.

Enemy hovertank!

These sounds are awful... there's no mixing, they all queue up, play in alternate slices and clip all over the place. I'm pretty sure most of them are just the programmers doing silly 'whoop' and 'shlurp' noises into the microphone. The enemy hovertank sounds like cartoon spitball noises.

I'm getting attacked from all sides here! I think I'm running over some of the enemies by backing up, damaging my tank even further.

I'm not gonna last much longer.


The end. You get one life and fix or six knocks before you're a bang.

I got a high score! That makes it all better. I don't get to type my name in so nobody will ever know it was me, but I got a high score!

And, if I'm interested in playing through the game to see the ending, I can choose to start on any of the levels I've reached! There's an FPS nicety that was lost for a while in the early 2000s...

You can go home now. I'm not going to be playing this game again. Between this and Bart's Nightmare, I've learned my lesson. No more colourful games from me, ever.

What game should I play next? I consult the postbag!

A resource management sim set in space, you say? Don't get very many of them around these parts... I'll give it a shot.

1 comment:

  1. ...

    With the people in this game, I'm imagining corporate bigshots in the ballroom of an orbiting ion cannon satellite. WIth a guy on a grand piano and a huge window to watch the cannon fire at the Earth when dinner starts. Or dinner ends. Or a CEO enters. Any time someone pulls the switch, really.

    And of course some drunken idiot scion of a robotics firm out in the country gets hold of the nuclear stockpile and tries to write his girl's name on the planet.


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