In their second installment of the series, Signal Studios made their best attempt at successfully translating a popular online game genre into the console business. If you’re a fan of “defend the castle” gaming genres and you are looking for a few hours of entertainment then this game could be for you. If you are looking for a game you could play repeatedly both by yourself and with friends until your thumbs blister, then steer clear.
The short campaign, which roughly took 5 hours to complete, is repetitive and rather boring. The poor attempt at a storyline is based off the cold war between Russia and the United States, taking a fictional approach to the physical combat that could have been. The storyline is virtually non-existent and you don’t even follow a unit or soldier through the campaign. Besides the short briefings before each level, which in many instances is shown too quickly to actually read in their entirety, there is little continuity in the game. While the game focuses primarily on a single player option, a multi-player option is also available, although not developed anywhere near its’ full potential.
Like every other of its kind, as you successfully progress through the levels, both the computers and your own units increase in strength, although the layouts of the levels remain relatively unchanged. The overall game experience doesn’t change much other than the upgrade in units you achieve. There is the occasional boss but they don’t offer much of a challenge or any inventive twist. They have a big gun or two and spout troops like they would if you weren’t playing a boss.
The graphics are acceptable, but nothing to rave about. The levels themselves are relatively small when compared to games like Halo wars and Civilizations for xbox 360, but they fit the necessary size for the game style. They could have been bigger in order to give you more turrets and the computer more insertion points. This could provide the need to be more strategic and increase difficulty or fun. While they do incorporate some physical items, such as other dolls and children’s toys to make it feel like you are playing in toy world, the overall experience differs only slightly from a traditional cartoon-like battle game. When the units are destroyed, they break apart into plastic pieces with no blood, which along with the toy theme makes this war game a little more kid friendly.
There are a few positives to this game. Unlike its online counterparts, you are able to control the turrets individually and vehicles such as tanks, helicopters, and a fighter jet. This allows you to make the difference in battle instead of depending on the AI to fight your battle. Since the AI is only a moderate help, it is necessary for you to assist in the victory. This feature is one of the few saving graces of the game, but again a flaw arises as vehicles run out of power, limiting your ability to use them successfully for the duration of each round of attacks. The turret control is quite an entertaining feature. Mortars and artillery can be pretty difficult to control due to terrible view options, but the rest of the turrets can actually be pretty fun. Another non-unique feature are the bonus kill streak awards. These involve bomber runs, nuclear missiles, and a special forces GI (which dominates all). These are both useful and rather entertaining when you are able to achieve them.
Aside from the main campaign, you can also sharpen skills and spend a little time playing mini games. These also leave something to be desired. Though it is fun to have unlimited ammo and countless enemies to shoot at, without the worry of your base getting destroyed, the short time limit of 30-60 seconds fails to give you enough time to really enjoy it. The Survival mode can provide at least 20 – 30 minutes of fun, although with the same premise as the main campaign, can lose its’ entertainment factor quickly.
Blast Factor: At $10, I don’t consider Toy Soldiers to be a waste of money; however, buyers beware, you are getting a game worth $10 and not much more. I do consider it to be a great way to pass a snowed-in winter afternoon, without having to dish out $60 for many other mainstream games. Although this genre can be found scattered through the virtual bins of Internet free gaming websites, the Xbox controls and mediocre graphics add a little something extra that cannot be obtained in the PC realm. The fun wore off too quick to even spend the $10, but the hours playing Toy Soldiers can serve as an excellent placeholder waiting for the newest release of your favorite game. My advice is to spend $1 on a bin of toy soldiers, gather up some of your friends and host your own Cold War fictional combat reenactment.