Is shareware dead? Not on the Macintosh! A series of articles about really solid shareware games on OS X. This week, we take on CTSP Games’ homage to a classic: Pocket Tanks Deluxe.

Originally Developed by Blitwise Productions, and ported to Mac OS by Cornerstone TSP Games, Pocket Tanks brings the fun of Scorched Earth into a next-generation operating system near you. It’s got many of the things that make the original Scorch so much fun, and adds excellent graphics, a spiffy menu system, and decent sound to the mix. And you get all that for a scant $15.

When you start up the game, you get a bright, colorful, and very simple, menu. The menu system for the game is very well done, very simple, very eye catching. You can choose to play against another human using the same keyboard, or against a computer tank. You can choose from 8 tank colors (Another hold-over from the original Scorch), and name yourself accordingly. The computer AI is simple at low levels, and damn-near perfect at higher ones. It takes two things to defeat the computer at level 10: Luck, and perfect aim. It also doesn’t hurt to pick your weapons carefully. And, just like it’s older sibling, this one has a metric tonne of them.

While playing against the computer is all well and good, the real meat of this game comes from playing against a friend. One thing that is sorely missed is the ability to have up to 8 different players in one game. I fondly recall the carnage that ensued from having only 3 players involved, the name calling, the military-like planning and tension. You and your victim (er. I mean, opponent.) name yourselves and pick a color, and are taken to the weapon select screen. This, too, is different from the original. Instead of gaining money as you go along to purchase weapons per turn, you and your opponent take turns picking from a list of 20 weapons until the last one is chosen. With over 150 different weapons (Personal favorite: Chaos bomb), you’ll never get the same 10 twice. You’re then sent out on to the battlefield for tank-based combat.

The game physics are simple; select the angle and power of your turret, decide if you’d like to move your tank (You have 4 chances to move per game), and fire away. It’s not as simple as it sounds, though. You may, due to the effects of a bomb, become covered in dirt, and have to blast yourself free, or even stuck up against a huge mountain, and not have enough power to shoot over it.

[The real stars of this fun little game are the bombs. The shareware game comes with 20 different bombs, the deluxe version bumps that up to 60, and there’s tons more on the Pocket Tanks Depot webpage, some are free, and some require an extra registration fee. This is one area where I don’t agree with the developers. Once someone pays for the game, they should have access to all the weapons, or (if they’re dead set on getting another fee) be given the ability to create their own bombs with a weapon creation kit for an extra few dollars. I shudder to think of the huge community that could sprout up, given the chance to make their own weapons for this game. Add a few other widgets, such as networking, and bump the number of players to 8 (Some of these bombs just BEG for multiple players), and you’ve got a seriously rocking fan-supported community on your hands. But I digress.]

You’re given points based on how much of the explosion hits your opponent, and after 10 rounds, the one with the most points wins. C’mon, you gotta go best 2 out of 3.

This game is an absolute blast to play against a human opponent, and there’s even a couple neat options. For example, you can change the explosion and knock back levels. It goes from small (very small effect from bombs) to large (explosions can take up half the screen, and knock your tank several miles into the air).

Overall a very fun game, and very faithful to the classic DOS game, I just can’t wait for the day when someone makes this game networkable, and allows more than 2 people into the fray. As it stands, it’s worth your money to support this little guy, and you’re sure to hit Pocket Tanks whenever you’re feeling bored.

Thumbs up.

By Phil Nelson – 04/30/03

Screenshots for Macintosh Shareware Standouts (Pocket Tanks)