It doesn’t feel like that long ago that at each industry event that I attended, the advice to budding game developers was “Don’t make couch multiplayer games. People don’t buy them”. Some developers didn’t get that memo, or they ignored that advice entirely and those teams went on to spark a renaissance in the genre. The results were Towerfall, Don’t Starve Together, Paperbound, Overcooked, Lovers In A Dangerous Space Time, Nidhogg and many more brilliant experiences that could only be played sitting next to each other on a couch. Treadnauts, a game by Topstitch Games, is the latest game to continue this trend by blending instant accessibility, oodles of customisation and highly competitive play into a smile inducing package.
Treadnauts is a local multiplayer game in which 1 to 4 players take control over colourful tanks to duke it out to be crowned the winner over multiple rounds. These aren’t any ordinary tanks though. Firstly, they can jump. I know, right? Secondly, they can stick to almost every surface in the game. The walls, the ceiling and environmental objects are all scalable. Lastly, combining the jumps with a shot of your turret cannons you in the opposite direction of fire, propelling you through the air like a steel trapeze artist. Squash your opponents with your tank tracks while spinning through the air and it’s just as deadly as a shell from a turret. There’s a subtlety to the combat too; Holding down the fire button when connected to the ground, the tank turret rises from directly ahead until it’s at a 90 degree angle pointing upwards, changing the trajectory of fire and only firing when you release the button. This means Treadnauts doesn’t just devolve into spamming (although that is a perfectly valid strategy when in the heat of battle and going turret to turret with someone). Everything is physics driven so the arc of fired shells are effected by gravity too; firing from the roof of an arena will have shells arc downwards but shells fired upwards won’t always reach the ceiling.
Almost everything is customisable in Treadnauts. When you begin the game, you’re give a small list of modifiers which effect play such as the ‘Winning conditions’ (switching to kills = points, last tank standing wins or team play) but the more you play the longer this list becomes. Eventually, you can tweak what weapons you can use, number of bots and how good they are, who gets shields, how big your tanks are, what speed they travel at, how many jumps they have (even allowing a Jet pack mode that allows you to fly around at will), size of tanks shells and much more. These optional tweaks have a profound effect on how the game plays and the steady drip feed of new elements means that Treadnauts stays fresher for much longer than most other games with the same type of play. It’s like each match is an experiment cooked up in a lab – “Let’s turn on the lasers and make them bounce around the level and also, let’s make everyone teeny tiny *mad scientist laugh*”.
I originally picked up Treadnauts to play with my kids – it was the summer holidays, it was raining and I’d heard the phrase ‘I’m bored’ more than 30 times in an hour – and as a family, we’ve really enjoyed playing it together. It’s a game that’s easy to pick up and play on the base settings (even for my 3 year old who was helping me out against his brothers and celebrated each win like he’d won the lottery. He had figured out the turret trajectory button presses but not quite the jumping or movement just yet. We’re working on that) with an instantly accessible nature. Played with youngsters, it’s all about the chaos and the explosions and the unlockable character that looks a little bit like Steven Universe in a duffle jacket. We’d mix up the modifiers to create truly monstrous play modes (like Large sized ‘Lobbers’ with a split shot which basically blew you up 50% of the time before you could get close to your opponents or Ghost shots that pause in the air before falling straight down after a delay) and have a lot of giggles doing so. We even had a ‘Winner picks the next area of play’ rule in place. But when the kids were in bed, things got serious.
Some of the pre-set game modifiers are built for competitive play and when you’ve got your gaming pals around, the tactical nature of Treadnauts comes to the fore. Flipping around levels, using your turret to propel you around, keeping that environmental object between you and the guy who’s got you in his sights is truly tense and a real testament to how deep this game can get. Some of the unlockable environments and levels offer new ways to take on opponents – one map has a line of mines behind a destructible wall which can be shot away to release the explosives on your unsuspecting foes. Another arena has a ball of electricity which, when shot, turns the colour of your tanks and destroys any other tank that gets in its way (until they shoot it and turn the tables back on you). There’s one map that’s akin to a match of Worms with destructible land separating each competitor that you have to shoot through before reaching your targets. There’s a plethora of little touches which make for fun but very heated battles for players with equal levels of skill.
Outside of multiplayer, Treadnauts comes with a single player firing range of sorts which tests the player to destroy a series of targets within a set time frame. These are a real test of your thumb dexterity and your understanding of the game play mechanics. There’s no way you can complete these tests simply trudging around and firing off when in range. You’re going to need to be firing off a shot mid jump to flip to the next platform and all manner of acrobats in order to meet the tight timelines. There’s a load of these to complete, keeping you relatively busy between mulitplayer sessions.
If I was to nit-pick for a second, and this is a minuscule issue with Treadnauts, it’s that I think the Yellow tank is unfairly disadvantaged because of the shape of the tank. Compared to the rest of the vehicles, this poor chappy has a shorter turret which makes it far harder to spot where your firing in the heat of the action and in some game play modes. I’m absolutely *not* using this as an excuse for losing a lot of times when playing as the Yellow tank. I’m not. Honest.
So Treadnauts is a fun couch multiplayer game that’s (I’m going to say it) easy to play but difficult to master. It’s an excellent session game that’d feel at home sandwiched between Nidhogg and Worms during a night of competitive gaming. It’s not a visual powerhouse but the art style is suited to the game play so who needs millions of polygons when you’ve got back flipping tanks that shoot ricocheting lasers? It’s not a game that’s going to keep you entertained for months but if you’re looking for something to keep the kids entertained during the last stretch of the summer holiday (that’s not Fortnite) or something new to add into your Friday night games session with a few beers and a pizza, you’ll get a lot out of Treadnauts. Just don’t pick the yellow tank.
Treadnauts is available now on PS4 (review version), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Developer: Topstitch Games
Publisher: Topstitch Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. Please see our review policy for more information.