Back in the day, Xbox Live Arcade was one of the key reasons I preferred Microsoft’s machine to PlayStation’s idiosyncratic third effort. The carefully curated indie platform regularly produced some of the most fun, exciting, and innovative titles available at the time, and amongst my favourites was the tower defence title Toy Soldiers. It was relatively straightforward – stop the German war toys from invading your toy box – but the WW1 tabletop world that served as its setting made for an engrossing and tactical game.
Now, as is the fashion, we’re getting to experience it again. That HD at the end of the title should tell you that it’s much the same game, but in a higher resolution. I was definitely very excited to play it again, and there were some feels to be found as I loaded it up for the first time, but those feels were immediately tempered by one very key realisation; Toy Soldiers HD does not look very good.
OK, so this is a game that was first created when a 58″ 4K TV was a ludicrous idea, but when you’ve administered an HD on the end of your remaster’s title, I think you’re allowed to be surprised to discover that it feels more like it’s displaying at 540p. To say that the result is rough-looking would be a disservice to sandpaper but, fortunately for Toy Soldiers HD, looks aren’t everything.
You’re given an initial stack of cash with which to set out your gun-laden stall, and each diorama-esque level has a number of sites where you can stick your armaments. Smaller spots can house a single gun emplacement or mortar, while bigger sites equal bigger guns – or lots of little ones if you prefer.
As with all tower defence games, it’s up to you to protect your base from the oncoming hordes. Each wave will fling themselves at you with reckless abandon, thus imitating the tragic reality of warfare. It’s toys though, so it’s all a bit of fun. Just don’t think too hard about it like I just have.
As enemy troops are vanquished, you earn more moolah, which you can then exchange for more munitions. You can also use that money to upgrade your existing emplacements, making them even better at gunning down toy tanks and the like.
Sometimes you’ll feel like the automatic AI control of your towers isn’t blowing up the right troops in the right places though. Toy Soldiers HD rolls out one of its key tricks by giving you the option to take direct control of whichever destructive tower you fancy, suddenly making the whole experience more direct and hands-on than the majority of tower defence titles. While it might look rough around the edges – and on the surfaces too to be fair – the gameplay holds up incredibly well. I found myself really enjoying the experience once again, with some brain-massaging tactical action just what’s needed right now.
There’s been the chance to add in some new material to the mix as well, with Toy Soldiers HD benefitting from the addition of a few new levels, some extra skins and bundling in all of the DLC the original received. This makes it the current definitive version of the game – until someone has another go at it – and it remains as likeable as ever, despite being a decidedly unremarkable and unambitious remaster.