Toy Soldiers: Cold War Review
Game: Toy Soldiers: Cold War
Developer: Signal Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade Only
A lot of people enjoy tower defence games, and therefore, there are a lot of them out there, varying wildly in quality. Some of the thousands of tower defence titles are very original in the way that they allow the player to interact with the game world, Toy Soldiers: Cold War is one of those games, allowing the player to manually control each of the individual units if they decide that the A.I. System just isn’t pulling it’s weight. We’ve all had that one person on our team that doesn’t do exactly as they’re told, thankfully here we’re able to rectify that; if you want something done right, do it yourself.
Toy Soldiers: Cold War caught my eye from the moment I saw the screenshots and read the synopsis, finding out exactly what madness lay in store for me was another matter all together. Does the crazy nature of the game on the whole detract from the gameplay? Is your toy box even worth defending?
STORY: One of the biggest let downs with Toy Soldiers: Cold War is the lack of any real story. It would have been fun to see the soldiers mount a full scale war on some toys in another toy box or escape from the evil clutches of their owner or anything that would give the game a little bit more substance. As it stands the story revolves solely around taking out the opposing forces, which could be from anywhere. Another toy box, another country or even another world, it’s never explained. You’re given the task of destroying them all either way in order to maintain control of your area of the toy box.
Each mission of the game attempts to be based around a theme, usually originating from an 80’s movie, and that theme may present itself in the area that you’re playing in just by something that’s said by a character (they usually don’t say much but when they do you can be sure it’ll get a laugh). That being said, the “theme” of each mission goes out of the windows as soon as the game starts and each mission ends up being roughly the same as the others.
GRAPHICS: Toy Soldiers: Cold War is a good looking game. It’s not the best out there but considering that the characters are supposed to be models of toys of real people it doesn’t seem so important that they’re modelled anatomically correctly down to every single muscle fibre. They serve their purpose quite well but a little bit more time spent on the lighting and shader system wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.
While the models of the characters often seem a little lacklustre, the models of all of the artillery in the game are the opposite. Every single piece looks like it’s modelled with all of the care and attention they deserve all the way down to the minute actions that each of them perform while they’re doing mundane tasks such as reloading or even, sometimes, just sitting there doing nothing. Every movement looks fluid and well thought out, often causing the player to spend too much attention gazing at them while the enemy is coming at them in full force.
The 2D visuals in the game, from the menu system all the way through to the logo itself are well done and often parody the same things that the main game does themselves. This helps to maintain the whole joke throughout the entire game and will more often than not keep people laughing from the moment they start the game to the moment they turn it off.
SOUND: It’s impossible to talk about the audio in Toy Soldiers: Cold War without talking about the massive amount of 80’s movie references and one-liners, as they’re practically non-stop. If you played for just half an hour a day you’d probably hear enough references to Commando, Top Gun and Apocalypse Now to last you a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to stop hearing them. On the contrary, hearing them just brings back fond memories and will make most people want to keep playing, if only to see what those crazy toys are going to come out with next. The rest of the audio in the game does well to serve a purpose but isn’t anything amazing. At the end of the day, what is a toy rocket launcher supposed to sound like? More like a toy, or more like a rocket launcher? To that end the audio engineers at Signal Studios have done a good job of making the sounds a good mix as possible without them seeming to far on the scale towards either one.
GAMEPLAY: The main gameplay element of Toy Soldiers: Cold War revolves around placing artillery in certain key places on the map, upgrading them and maintaining them in order to take out the barrage of enemies that will come your way. The slightly unique take on the standard tower defence style of play is that the player can take manual control of any of these artillery stations and use them to take out the enemy themselves if they don’t think the A.I. Is doing the job the way they should, which most of the time, they don’t.
The game is played in a series of waves, with the breaks between the waves allowing the player a little bit of breathing room in order to upgrade and repair the weapons on the battlefield, which is something that you’ll need to plan for in order to make good use of the space that you’ve got due to the fact that, unlike other tower defence games where you can place the units wherever you feel like it, in Toy Soldiers: Cold War you’ve got to place the units in little pre-determined areas. This add another level to the game, as you’ve got to try and anticipate where the enemies might come from in order to decide whether you’re going to need to place an anti-tank in that one particular spot, an anti-aircraft, or neither. You don’t have to stick with your decision, you can always sell the item and place something else down, but that’s just wasting money that you could be spending on upgrading your battlefield, and that’s the last thing you want to be doing.
Once the level has finished you’ll be treated to a whole host of statistics about the battle you just played, everything you could ever possibly want to know will be laid out before you ready for you to scrutinise to your heart’s content, along with looking over (and maybe gloating a little bit) any medals that you just may have been awarded along the way. Each level has a series of mini challenges within the main challenge of just beating the level. This additional content gives the player that doesn’t see the battle itself as that much of a challenge something else to aim for and a reason to keep playing the game, even after they’ve finished all of the missions.
As well as the usual missions (that can take a while themselves to complete), there’s also a whole host of mini games and challenges that can be completed either on your own or with a friend. These mini games consist of using the special secondary features which a lot of the artillery items have in order perform certain feats, such as seeing how many points you can score while attempting to destroy cardboard cutouts of missiles, buildings and planes. These can add an additional layer to the game on the whole but none of them are anywhere near as fun as the main game itself. With a friend they’re a little bit more enjoyable but they still don’t add all that much to the game itself. They help to lengthen the life of the game and they’re a good distraction if you’ve played a few normal matches and want a little bit of a change of scenery, but in the end you won’t play them that much.
LONGEVITY: As long as you can continue to take all the cheesy one-liners and little jabs at that era of cinema, then you’re going to be playing Toy Soldiers: Cold War for a little while at least. The gameplay is easy enough to learn while also being rather tricky to master, that people who enjoy single player gaming will be able to find something to do, if even just for short bursts. The people who will get the most enjoyment out of it however, are the people who only find themselves engaging in multiplayer gaming. There’s nothing better than firing up a game and wasting your friends, and Toy Soldiers: Cold War is as fine a game as any to allow players to do just that.
VERDICT: Toy Soldiers: Cold War is definitely a game that is worth playing, if only for the parodies that will make anyone who grew up in the 80’s laugh from beginning to end. The gameplay is let down overall with the repetition of certain elements and the frustration caused by the fact that the A.I. system never seems to know exactly what to do with the situation given to it. At the end of the day though, Toy Soldiers: Cold War is a very funny title with some good, if flawed, gameplay and is certainly worth a play, though perhaps later on, at a discounted price.