Armored Lab Force: VULVEHICLES Review – Tanks go boom

Gare – Tuesday, August 30, 2022 8:05 PM
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What happens when you give six quirky anime girls a dozen or so flying tanks to do with as they please? You guessed correctly: all hell breaks loose. And that’s the best part. Armored Lab Force: VULVEHICLES is a game that reminds me of something one would have played on the SNES back in the day – its retro charm is undeniable, and its gameplay is sufficiently varied and explosive.

In a galaxy far, far away…

There is a story of sorts, mind you. The game essentially has you go from mission to mission as you solve various intergalactic problems the only way you can – by blowing up absolutely everything in your way. Between each mission, you’ll get a visual novel-style dialogue scene with the heroines discussing the current situation while cracking jokes and engaging in comedic banter, though personally, I didn’t get much enjoyment out of them: the characters and their dialogues felt a bit flat, and the jokes never quite landed for me. That said, people intending to simply focus on the gameplay aspects of the title can, in my opinion, safely skip these segments without missing anything particularly important.

Variety’s the spice of life

Indeed, far more important than the fluffy banter between the heroines is the gameplay – the tanks, the explosions and the mayhem: the real meat and potatoes of VULVEHICLES. At the beginning of each of the game’s six major zones, you’ll get to pick which three space tanks to bring into battle – each girl has access to two, so you have twelve mechanical beasts to choose from, each with their unique shooting styles, ultimate weapons and various other characteristics. The variety here is quite refreshing, and there are plenty of different play styles to pick from across the twelve vehicles: one tank is capable of shooting a massive wave of vertical missiles to hit as many enemies as possible, another one can fire off projectiles in a circular formation, while yet another can unleash a massive horizontal laser beam to decimate everything in its path, just to name a few. The tanks are also capable of flying, albeit only for a limited amount of time, after which they’ll need to land on a solid surface to recharge; this, coupled with the fact that almost every platform and piece of land in the game is destructible (either by you or the bad guys), makes it a touch more important to calculate when and how far you’ll willing to fly while shooting down baddies and evading projectiles in order to make sure you never run out of safe landing spots.

Tactical tank-driving

Additionally, while your tanks may be able to dish out a lot of damage, they’re also relatively fragile themselves, so you won’t want to get hit too many times – and since sustained damage is carried over between levels, you may find that playing recklessly is not always be the best option. It’s also worth noting that the campaign of VULVEHICLES is divided up into six major zones, each consisting of four levels, and that you’re only allowed to repair or switch tanks after completely finishing a zone and defeating the boss at the end – in other words, it’s recommended to keep an eye on your resources to make sure that you have enough HP and special ammo left by the time you reach the big bad at the end. Don’t let this discourage you, though: there are several different difficulty modes available, so whether you’re looking for some chill retro shooting or a true test of your skills, you’ll find something that fits your style.

Closing thoughts

Overall, Armored Lab Force: VULVEHICLES is the definition of light-hearted retro fun. The twelve flying tanks are fun to control, and their varied repertoire of special abilities and vastly different styles of shooting can keep each level relatively fresh as you try different loadouts and combinations. Granted, the game itself is not particularly deep, and the storyline/dialogue scenes are mostly just forgettable filler, but the actual gameplay is solid enough where I can more or less recommend VULVEHICLES to anyone looking for a competently made, retro-style shooter.

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