deathtank1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Death Tank Zwei, a hidden game found within Duke Nukem 3D for the Sega Saturn, published by Sega and released in the United States in 1997.]

Minigame as star attraction.

There are rarities, there are obscurities, and then there's Death Tank Zwei. Death Tank Zwei can't be bought, nor can it be downloaded. Its mere existence is not known to many, and earning the right to play it involves following a precise set of instructions, none of which are at all obvious or even hinted at. As elusive as it may be, however, Death Tank Zwei is easily the Saturn's best multiplayer game, outclassing even Guardian Heroes and the legendary 10-player Saturn Bomberman.

To play Death Tank Zwei, you'll first need to own copies of the Sega Saturn ports of Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. Boot up Quake, then create a save file in your Saturn's internal memory. Then start up Duke 3D and Death Tank Zwei should be accessible on the main menu.

Alternately, Death Tank Zwei can be unlocked by playing through Duke Nukem 3D and destroying every single toilet in the entire game.

Yeah, you're probably going to want to go with the save file method.

deathtank2.jpgNuts to your dated FPSes!

It's definitely worth the trouble, though, as Death Tank Zwei is one of the most fun multiplayer games available on any platform. Think Scorched Earth with up to seven players and you've got the basic gist of it. Unlike Worms and other Scorched Earth-alikes, however, Death Tank Zwei is not turn-based, and allows for every player to move and shoot at all times. The gameplay is more fast-paced and frenzied as a result, which makes an excellent pick-up-and-play party game.

All action takes place on a single screen, where up to seven player-controlled tanks are initially dropped onto a randomly-generated battleground. This terrain will change as the battle unfolds, as player shots will quickly blow away large chunks of the field. Players have access to a number of weapons, each of which have their own tactical uses and strengths, and all of which can be purchased with points earned by destroying opponents in previous rounds.

There would be more players in these shots but SOMEONE had to go and take his multitaps back to Florida!Death Tank! Death Tank! Death Tank!

This all may sound taxing at first, but Death Tank Zwei is beautifully simple in concept. The game is built on a foundation of quick multiplayer action -- there's no storyline, or even a single-player mode. The object is simply to humiliate up to six of your friends with your superior aiming skills. Or, failing that, your ability to stockpile weapons. Nothing beats hoarding an arsenal for several turns in anticipation for that one round where you'll suddenly use a combination of airstrikes, nukes, and Death's Heads to destroy your opponents before they even realize that the game has started.

Death Tank Zwei may at first glance appear to be nothing more than a throwaway minigame, but it contains all sorts of little touches that show that it was a labor of love. The occasional intrusion of rule variations like Blitz Rounds keep gameplay sessions fresh for extended periods of time, and the game even goes so far as to keep track of win/loss statistics for dozens of player profiles via the Saturn's internal battery. Hell, the title screen features its own thrash-metal theme song! With vocals! You can almost feel how bored the game's programmers must have been during the development of Duke Nukem 3D.

Really, if you're at all into multiplayer games, there are none I'd recommend higher than Death Tank Zwei. It was a hit at my last party, and I can see myself playing it for hours at a time with the right crowd. Just make sure you have plenty of jumpjet fuel on hand for when you call in the airstrikes.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]