Block Party begins this month and as an aperitif, Toy Soldiers has been released on Xbox Live. Now, controlling little plastic men may not sound like fun but add in the tower defence, shoot-em-up gameplay offered and you have a completely new and enjoyable experience.
The premise is simple; the detailed battlefield is set upon a table surrounded by lamps and war time posters and your little plastic men must defend the beloved toy box from any enemy soldiers. Each of the units has a certain charm and appeal (like a wind-up key on the side of every tin tank) provoking those childhood memories and forcing you to fall in love once again. The first time you fire up Toy Soldiers, you are given a rather flattering gas mask for your Avatar and a selection of GamerPics. It’s the little things that make us smile.
Every unit can be deployed very quickly with only a few button presses, which is perfect for this style of game and even better for the online battles. As great as the controls are, we found using the planes and mortars overly difficult. The bombing runs require too much luck and any form of target reticule is missing. An alternative camera angle is offered but this then over-complicates any form of flying. Also, zooming in and out with the right analogue stick can be finicky, costing valuable time, but by the end of the campaign we were used to the niggles.
The ability to assume control of the units is something new to this genre and we found ourselves constantly going back to use it. In fact, the feature is so good we were often distracted and our toy box was overrun by infantry. They were quickly dealt with by our planes though…
The campaign is a good length and once completed, Campaign+ (the German version) and Survival mode are unlocked. Both campaigns are very similar, with no real differences in the way you play but it’s good to have the option to play on. Survival mode places you against endless waves of enemies and are perfect for the leaderboards, which track your score over each of the modes and add the extra layer of competition that Live excels at.
Although the textures aren’t as crisp as we would have liked, everything else is very detailed. The ground becomes desolated from the barrage of artillery, the buildings crumble from bomb raids and the toy box disintegrates if the boss gets too close. All of the character models are akin to their real-life counterparts and as they slowly degrade, springs and other toy debris ping out of place. This level of detail makes the whole experience even more enjoyable and easily conceals the flaws.
- Perfect controls for quick deployments
- Not just your standard tower defence game
- Amazing levels of detail
- Certain units are difficult to control
- Some textures are basic
- An offensive campaign would have been a nice addition
Toy Soldiers is by far one of the more solid and refined experiences available on the XBLA. Signal Studios have taken the standard tower defence game and given it that little extra, changing the way this genre should be played. Expect to be playing this long into the future.