DIF-1 Laser Tank
for PC (DOS)

Alternate Titles: 雷射坦克
Company: Softstar
Year: 1991
Genre: Action
Theme: Science Fiction / War
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 306
Review by LostInSpace (2024-01-27)

The idea of a vehicle that moves along a grid and attacks incoming enemies along the lines appeared as early as 1980 in the arcade game Targ. This strangely limited basic principle from the early 8-bit era was nevertheless reused many times in the course of computer history. With DIF-1 Laser Tank, a clone was even released for the DOS-PC in 1991. Thanks to its completely English language interface, the game's Taiwanese origin is barely recognisable. Nevertheless, this remarkable action-game met with virtually no response in the West.

The background story is told in a slide show of quite nice-looking images, unfortunately still without voice output: in a far future the central computer system for protecting the planets inhabited by humans has been hacked by the villain Sandan. The defence machines stationed on these eight planets are therefore now under his control. So they are going to attack the hero called Lemon who must fight his way through this massive onslaught of friendly fire in order to reach the boss of each planet. By eliminating the boss, the planets can be recaptured. He receives instructions from the lovable female communications soldier Shally, who observes the mission from the base on Earth.

Shally is calling

She shows up after each victory on the communication device and briefs Lemon about special features of the new planet, like new kinds of enemies and such. Essentially, the difficulty level is very hard right from the start, but only increases in small steps. This is because the weak enemies at the beginning are easier for the player to defeat due to the armour's low protective shield. The later opponents are stronger, but the shooting power and shield energy of your own vehicle are also increased accordingly. To do so, you have to grind all sorts of bonus items on the one-screen map and keep up the motivation for a quite long distance of 48 level. In the typical manner of an arcade game you get no save points but only some continues for reaching that goal.

The gameplay mixes various aspects: the ability to react quickly is of course important when you come under direct fire. You are therefore well advised to keep always an overview of enemy movements so that their attacks come not unexpected. The clever use of cover and free firing ranges furthermore allows you to take advantage of the terrain to adopt a tactical approach that utilises the superior shooting power of your own tank. This somewhat reduces the speed of the gameplay and allows you to decimate your opponents with stubborn auto-fire from a safe position.

The battle on the planets is a tough but balanced challenge up to that point. The final bosses, on the other hand, make DIF-1 Laser Tank a practically impossible game. The entire playing field empties out and a huge sprite appears, leaving the player's comparatively tiny tank at its mercy. You are quickly pushed into a corner and lose one life after another. Direct fire is as good as useless. Instead, bombs are placed around the final boss, which explode like clouds.

Final boss

Without this downside, DIF-1 Laser Tank would be an unconditional recommendation for anyone who likes this type of easily accessible games. I like the graphics with the futuristic tanks firing laser beams. Combined with the cool sound-effects, you get an inviting playground for fun arcade-shooting. There is also a good amount of variety in each level by different enemy types and upgrades for your own vehicle. In the long term, however, only absolute hardcore players will enjoy DIF-1 Laser Tank, which probably explains why the title is so unknown in our region.

A strange insider gag at the end: At the top of the high score list is a certain Fabulous Furlough. Did the programmers mean to tell us that the player should enjoy his time-out from everyday combat/war with this game?

Comments (1) [Post comment]

The large lettering of Chinese characters on the splash screen is pretty much the only thing that makes DIF-1 Laser Tank recognisable as a title from the Far East. With a good American publisher, the game would certainly have been much better known to Western audiences and might even have been a success there. In any case, the developer softstar – not to be confused with sunsoft – still exists on the market today.