Aug 16, 2011

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Toy Soldiers: Cold War Review

Toy Soldiers: Cold War Review

The Summer Of Arcade this year has been consistently great and Microsoft is looking to end the event with a bang, releasing a sequel to last years well-received Toy Soldiers.  Looking to build upon the formula that worked so well for the first, Signal Studios comes back with Toy Soldiers: Cold War.  Applying the third-person shooter/tower defense with the 80s Cold War setting sounds like a winning combination, but how does the final product fare?

Toy Soldiers: Cold War virtually has no story but it doesn’t need one with the type of game it’s trying to be.  Everything is set in a huge play area and while everything appears to be life-sized to the player, many other background items show how tiny everything is when scaled.  Large VHS tapes, dice, and cards show how incredibly small your soldiers and accompanying vehicles truly are and help give the feel that you are playing in a child’s setting.  These details made me appreciate the developers attempts to somewhat put us in the minds of children and how vivid their imaginations can be when it comes to their toys.  Aside from feeling like a child, the main game objectives are to protect your toy box from other invading toy soldiers and to defeat huge bosses.  Where the enemy forces come from, beats me but keeping in mind that this is viewed from a child’s perspective, it really doesn’t need to be explained.

Gameplay is set in a third-person perspective with set plots of land open for placing stationary turrets.  These range from gunners, to anti-tank guns, to mortar teams and cover all types of forces the enemy sends your way.  While your turrets can act on their own, there are benefits to directly controlling each individual unit.  Aside from being able to target any enemy on the battlefield near and far, after racking up enough kills in a row you’re entitled to one of a number of barrages.  These barrages are similar to CoD and their killstreak awards granting players nukes, AC-130s, and the Rambo inspired Commando letting players control an overpowered soldier armed to the teeth for a limited time.  Besides controlling these barrages, the only other time players can free roam with weapons are in the different vehicles.  Helicopters, fighter jets, and tanks are at your disposal running on fuel that can be collected in different areas of the map.  When a vehicle is destroyed or runs out of fuel, players must wait for them to recharge and respawn to continue the carnage.  Timing your vehicle usage can be crucial to succeeding and players are going to need every advantage they can to defeat the waves of enemy charges.  Luckily, switching between turrets and vehicles is simple and aside from a slow scrolling icon, there were rarely any instances of issues.

Enemies attack in waves, gradually increasing in numbers and strength.  Some waves consist of foot soldiers while others attack in vehicles from ATVs to choppers.  As the waves continue, each force begins to improve with better weapons, larger groups, and different techniques.  The easily dealt with foot soldiers may now be armed with cannons and have higher healths as opposed to the dinky rifles they used in earlier waves.  Luckily, as with the enemy forces, players turrets can be upgraded as well though it’s often limited.  There are only a set number of turrets to choose from and each can be upgraded twice (if the upgrade is unlocked.)  Like most tower defense games, upon defeating enemies, currency is dropped and used to either place, repair, or upgrade turrets.  This system is tried and true and if anything, gaining money was never an issue as I typically had more then enough to cover my needs.  Of course, with higher difficulties there will indeed be higher prices and tougher enemies so challenge shouldn’t be an issue.  Throw in the fact that waves can be sent at an alarming rate and some levels end with enormous boss battles and you’re definitely going to get your share of challenging game play in Toy Soldiers: Cold War.

Each level has different settings like jungles and cities but they don’t really have much bearing on the game play.  The formula remains the same throughout with minor goals set and “decorations” players can earn by either taking out a certain amount of enemies with a specific turret or maybe destroying 20 vehicles.  These are nice extras and definitely add to the replay value but in the end they’re pretty superficial.  Aside from earning decorations, the main campaign is pretty limited and can be beaten in an afternoon.  The ride is enjoyable but felt short overall lasting only a few hours.  With the (likely) DLC in the future, it’ll obviously add to the length but as is it was pretty limited.  Thankfully, there are multiple extras that can be explored after the game including survival modes and other multiplayer options.

Playing games is enjoyable solo but with games like Toy Soldiers: Cold War, the enjoyment is increased with friends.  Multiplayer is limited to two people but personally feels better with them being one-on-one affairs.  The campaign can be completed and decorations can be earned again with friends and to be honest it didn’t feel like the difficulty increased with an added partner.  This is likely due to the multiple difficulties given though so that isn’t really an issue.  Money isn’t shared but each player can build or modify every turret around so overall the campaign is exactly what you’d expect.  The versus mode, on the other hand, was incredibly fun and battles can range from five minutes to close to twenty-five.  Each player is given a toy box and must defend it while sending forces out to attack the other players toybox.  Attempting to spend money constantly sending forces out against your opponent while increasing your own is rewarding and quickly can become intense.  There seemed to be no sign of lag neither regardless of how frenzied the action became.  The multiplayer was thoroughly enjoyable and you’ll find yourself extending “one more match” easily to five.

Toy Soldiers: Cold War is one of the best tower-defense titles I’ve played in the arcade.  Aside from Plants Vs Zombies, I’d rate this higher then anything else that I’ve played in that respective genre (including Trenched.) The gameplay is enjoyable and the controls are perfect.  From the moment you start the game up, you’ll easily fall in love with Signals latest title.  The length may not be the longest and there are some minor camera and scrolling issues but overall this is a very well put together title.  Even though this is the last title in this years Summer of Arcade, if given the choice make sure it’s one of the first that you download.

Toy Soldiers: Cold War
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade
Genre: Shooter
Release Date: 8/17/11
Developer: Signal Studios
Publisher: Xbox Live Arcade
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
MSRP: 1200 MS Points