Review: Toy Soldiers: Cold War

Travel back to childhood with me as you revisit those little green army men you used to play with. Didn’t have any? Maybe your brother, sister, or one of your friends had some. And they would probably play all sorts of convoluted “army games” with them, wouldn’t they? Anywhere could become a battlefield as long as they had some of the quintessential plastic soldiers. The idea has spawned many a movie, cartoon, and video game. And not too long ago, the concept arrived on the Xbox Live Arcade in the form of Toy Soldiers. Fast forward to summer 2011, and we’ve been graced with Toy Soldiers: Cold War, the sequel to the brilliantly intuitive Toy Soldiers. Best described as an RTS meets FPS meets childhood, it’s a battle royale between toy soldiers, Howitzers, tanks, and…bug spray?

Toy Soldiers pits you against hordes of vicious little army men who want to invade your toy box any way they possibly can. Wave after wave they’ll attempt to whittle away your defense until your toy box (home base) is successfully infiltrated. The name of the game is Cold War, so obviously these knock-down, drag-out brawls take place in large play areas that resemble small board games complete with foliage, buildings, and décor to match the area you’ve “traveled” to in the war. As you progress through each mission you’re treated to a brand new locale with gorgeous vintage art, nostalgic setpieces (a cassette lying in the middle of the road, a Viewmaster off to the side), and the grittiest toys this side of Xbox Live.

Your toy box is your nucleus; the most important part of your side’s defenses. Most of the time (except for a few rare instances where you will go on the offensive) you’re tasked with setting up your choice of armaments (anti-aircraft turrets, machine guns, artillery, makeshift cannons, etc.) around embankments that are controlled via AI soldiers. With money out of your cash pool you’ll purchase each piece of your defense, upgrade at will, and repair the battle-damaged turrets on the brink of destruction. However, as you unlock upgrades to the several different pieces of equipment after completing each stage, I found the progression to be a little slower than I wanted. I longed for a level 3 machine gun turret, but was relegated to an upgrade in an area I wasn’t so keen on, leaving me to defend my toy box from footsoldiers with larger artillery than necessary simply to stay safe from air raids and tank brigades.

Money and time management is integral to success, as well as the choice between human and AI control of each placement. You can choose to take control of each turret or piece of equipment and steer your team to victory, and doing so is a boon to your side as AI seems to fire much less frequently and much less accurately than if you decide to strap yourself in to a machine gun or the explosively powerful artillery. I preferred manning the anti-aircraft guns myself, as a human locking on over and over to the mammoth bombers wreaking havoc on my camp was much more beneficial than the computer’s sparse defenses. I chalked this up to playing on the game’s “easy” mode, but found that on higher difficulties I ran into the same situations. Thus, when tanks neared my toy box and I needed to blow them up (and fast), I preferred to take control.

Each mission offers secondary objectives other than simply surviving each wave of oncoming enemies, whether they arrive by plane, ATV, tank, or on foot. These decorations offer other goals to shoot for and seasoned vets will find the challenge of trying to meet the requirements for each decoration a reason to come back and play each level again – you know, despite the fact that it’s proper fun – and something for completionists to lust after long after the credits roll.

I found the varied environments, quips, and perks of battle (the Commando’s entrance via blister pack was a hilarious touch) extremely endearing and combat tight, but the camera proved to be a persistent annoyance. It’s often difficult to scan the area and tend to damaged turrets, etc. when the camera is too rigid to have a thorough look at the area. I found myself constantly fighting with it until hopping in an aircraft, when I had free reign of the area, and was able to break away from the constrictive viewpoints. As much as I enjoyed my time with Toy Soldiers: Cold War, this proved to be a substantial annoyance.

While these battle royales consistently deliver suspense, chills, and require some snap decisions, hopping into a combat HELO or a suped-up tank to roll over the plastic footsoldiers who dare stand in your way ceases to get old. It can get a little tedious and downright tough, but it’s good old-fashioned fun and an exemplary Summer of Arcade title that is well worth the asking price. And if you ever want to relive your childhood war fantasies, this is certainly a much more economical and less embarrassing alternative.

Comments are closed.