I was just pondering what games I've spent the most time with on the Wii and concluded that Tanks!, the 11th mini-game included in Wii Play, may be one of my favorite games this generation.

I've played my share of Bioshocks and Halos, Zeldas, Metroids, and Marios—they're all great. But I've spent just as much—if not more—time playing two-player Tanks matches than I've spent with any of these "hardcore" games.

Tanks is not one of Nintendo's "reinventing the wheel" completely new game experiences a la Brain Age or Wii Fit: it is an arcade game at heart. Like arcade games of old, a loss means you start from level one all over again. There is no fancy save feature in Tanks!

Using the nunchuk you steer a small blue toy tank through a toy-like environment of wooden blocks and destroy other tanks. You use the Wii remote to aim your gun. The A button lays a mine (which will blow you up if you stay too close) and the B trigger shoots bullets—five at a time, to be precise. Bullets ricochet once off any wall they hit, creating a bit of tactical depth for those who are into such things. Bullets can also collide with other bullets and stop them mid-flight. If you get hit by a mine, rocket, or bullet, you die; if you hit another tank with one of your mines or bullets, it dies. You start off facing one tank, and eventually fight crazy rocket tanks that are invisible and laugh at your silly opaque ways. It's very simple, and hella fun.

Single player mode gives you three lives and it's good practice. Multiplayer mode is where the magic happens though: you get just one life as does your partner (henceforth called the red tank). It's kind of a cooperative style of play, but you are not discouraged from killing each other, as long as you don't both die and lose the mission. God, don't lose the mission... starting over is rough.

Perhaps starting over is the key to Tanks, though. Maybe a modern game forcing you to own up to your mistakes is the real draw. Lately, I've been playing two-player with my good friend Matt (he's always the red tank). He's not a big gamer, but has gotten just as hooked on Tanks as me. Between bouts of studying (he's in doctor school) he comes down and hones his skills, even when I'm not around—starting over again and again, hoping to one day reach the fabled level 20. He's not going to be happy when I tell him there are actually 100 levels in the game!

I was reading the article Mattie Behrens wrote the other day about difficulty plateaus. (Check it out here, if you haven't yet read it.) He makes some very good points about the impossibility of continuing to improve your high scores in Wii Fit and Brain Age after playing them every day, though that's exactly how they're designed to be played. I started Wii Fit as someone with a BMI of 22, which is optimal, according to the game. I've also pretty much maxed out a lot of my scores in some exercises. The only reason I play is to maintain, but it's not the most motivating of reasons. Should Nintendo have to hold my hand at this point? After all, it's more a fitness tool than an actual game, and by now I should take some responsibility to use it how I see fit.

As a 24 year old MALE, I don't care for this ad...

There has to be a limit to the new challenges offered by any game, because we all have a limit to just how good we will ever be. I may never beat all 100 levels of Tanks (I'm terrible at it, by the way), but I'm glad it isn't holding my hand to make sure I do. At some point it should be up to the player to decide when a game has done its job. So many adventure games, MMOs, and RPGs these days spoil us into thinking that completing a game just takes long amounts of time, when sometimes it should just take some damn skill.