For quite a lot of its duration, Tank! Tank! Tank! isn't a particularly brilliant video game. It's a simplified spin on Earth Defense Force, which I love, but since EDF is hardly the most complex of enterprises in the first place, paring it back even more leaves you with something that can feel a bit threadbare. Throughout the grindy campaign, you're dropped into a series of bland little arenas and tasked with finishing off hordes of mechanical spiders, dinosaurs, floating heads, sea serpents and the odd ten-storey mammoth, while accidentally bringing any surrounding skyscrapers, boulders and temples down in weightless chunks. The primitive geometry and texture work betray the game's origins as an arcade title, while the targeting reticule is so vast and the lock-on so generous that, for your first few hours at least, you'll rarely have to give much thought to anything as taxing as aiming.
The tanks you steadily unlock as you work through the main campaign - either with a local co-op partner or an AI team-mate - come with pleasantly cartoonish weapon attachments, but the different turrets, laser beams and rocket launchers on offer rarely feel particularly exciting to play with, even when you're swapping your main guns out for the more exotic power-ups that drop from your foes. Equally, while you can upgrade each vehicle's stats and pick between a range of classes, the handling is so lifeless that you'll struggle to really care much about the nuances. There's no room for gimmicky Wii U cleverness, either, since the touch-screen is generally used to display unimportant vehicle dials during the heat of battle, or else needed to give one player a specific view of the action during games involving more than one person.
As for the repetitive story mode, the best thing about that - discounting the line, "The lunar base is being attacked by giant eyeballs," which I believe is actually plagiarised from Tolstoy - is that you can use the GamePad camera to take a shot of your own face that will then hover above your tank, and you can even stick a funny hat on it, or encase it in an astronaut's helmet, or maybe put it behind cartoon bars using a surprisingly entertaining range of templates. The worst thing is that progress relies on earning medals, so you have to complete the same boring handful of stages over and over using different tanks in order to open up the next boring handful of stages. Now and then there's a real spike in difficulty, and this grows more and more frequent as the campaign wears on and gets increasingly boss-heavy.
To summarise thus far, then: yes, for a lot of its duration, Tank! Tank! Tank! is a letdown.
Enter My Kong mode.
How can I put this? My Kong mode is a local multiplayer game type that takes the person holding the GamePad and transforms them into a giant mechanical gorilla. Using the GamePad camera, their leering face is then mapped to the gorilla's head, and they'll view the level on the touch-screen, positioned high above the action and looking down on the chaos that unfolds. If you're playing as the gorilla, you'll have various pummelling attacks you can pull off with the triggers, and you can bring the pad down suddenly to execute a brilliant bottom-slam on your enemies. You can shake the pad to build up energy, and then - fully powered and glowing gold - you can race around at double speed, letting loose with a flurry of bus-sized punches before leaning forward and producing a gigantic laser blast from your coccyx.
If you're thinking, “Wait, do gorillas even have a coccyges?” you're missing the finer point I'm trying to make here: one of you can be a giant earth-shattering monster, while three of your friends scud about beneath your feet trying to take you down with heavy artillery. Suddenly, Tank! Tank! Tank! earns all those exclamation points in its title, and becomes a hilarious - if rather shallow - party game that channels that good old Rampage spirit. Giant robot gorillas are great. Giant robot gorillas pulling off wrestling moves - with simple, but surprisingly effective animations - are better. Giant robot gorillas pulling off wrestling moves while wandering to and fro with your actual face wrapped around their skulls are even better yet. In the space of a single mode, Namco Bandai's rather throwaway game discovers a sense of weight and purpose and character, while simultaneously becoming one of the funniest things you can do with your Wii U during these quiet early days of the launch window.
It is just one mode, however, and while elsewhere the local multiplayer offers semi-acceptable spins on deathmatch, team deathmatch (like all vs modes, it's capped at four players) and a kind of co-op gauntlet where you get together to take on bosses, My Kong remains the one element of Tank! Tank! Tank! that's likely to earn a lasting place in your heart. If only this was just the start of the designers' party game creativity, eh? Instead, it's the high point of a fairly limited package that quickly runs out of ideas.