At a recent conference on gaming, I heard a speaker make a very interesting point: by far, the largest group of gamers out there right now is women between the ages of 30 and 50. It was a shocking statement that was met with laughter from most of the audience until the speaker (Brenda Brathwaite) pointed out that Flash-based online games are being played by stay-at-home mothers and working women in enormous numbers every day. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking of games in terms of explosions and polygons, but as Brenda pointed out, that is only a small part of the gaming community. With that in mind, I have set out to find some well made, interesting games that are browser based. Flashbang is the result.
Published in August 2008, Bubble Tanks 2 is the sequel to the award-winning and shockingly-titled Bubble Tanks from Hero Interactive. The point of the game is to move your tank around through bubbles, destroying other tanks. As you destroy other tanks, they drop bubbles which you can pick up, increasing your life and allowing you to level up. A counter in the lower right lets you know how many bubbles you have remaining before your next level up. Lose enough bubbles, however, and you’ll drop back to the previous level, losing your skill ups. Luckily, there are also several bubbles around that contain no enemies but plenty of bubbles to pop and grab. If you get into trouble, jump into a few of these and make yourself a bit stronger.
Controls are simple enough: use the WASD keys to move and the mouse for aiming and firing. Holding down the left mouse button fires continuously. If you come to the edge of a bubble that you are inside, you will jump out of it and into an adjoining bubble. The danger is that you don’t know what’s in that new bubble. It could be a safe haven, or it could be a nest of enemy bubbles. Think of Geometry Wars on Xbox as a guide for the controls — this is very similar.
The graphics are simple and certainly easy on the eyes. The bubbles are constantly growing, shrinking, and popping, but not to the point that you are distracted by them in any way. The way the tanks grow as they take on more bubbles is organic and interesting — I wanted to keep playing just to see my tank get bigger and cooler looking. The music was a nice surprise here; it’s a bit like being at a spa underwater. The soothing music helps to keep the player from becoming too stressed out by the difficulty of some of the bubbles.
It’s nice to see a “war” or “shooting” game with no real violence (although someone should really do something about bubble-to-bubble violence. It’s a killer). The way that you level and lose levels gives the game a nice story, although not an explicit one. The story is individual to the player, and changes depending on the success or failure the player finds as they move from bubble to bubble.
Armor Games users give Bubble Tanks 2 a 9.2 out of 10. I find that very hard to argue with, although it could be a little low. I’ll call it a 9.5.