Tower Defence games are pretty much similar to each other. You place down towers to stop enemies getting in. This concept can only satisfy for so long before it becomes very dull and repetitive. Well, that’s what I thought. Out of the blue, new XBLA title Toy Soldiers comes along and wipes the floor clean. A new idea on a reused concept can go a long way.
Toy Soldiers is a 3D Tower Defence game with a twist. You can actually control your units for yourself, which adds a whole new layer of gameplay. For instance, if you place a turret down, you can control the turret yourself using the left stick to aim and the right trigger to shoot. With so many different units to try out, this quickly becomes very fun and fresh, instead of another take on a tower defence game. Tanks and Planes can gain control of the playing field for you, driving them to enemies and enemy turrets to destroy them and make room for your own. There’s nothing more satisfying than destroying a highly upgraded enemy unit. If only you could see the look on their face.
With the title being Toy Soldiers, the miniature figurines come to life in splendid animation. Even when your turret has to reload, you can see the soldiers working away trying to get ammunition in, and watching their hats flies off as a rocket fires from the cannon. When they die, they burst into a miniature explosion of cogs and screws, which brings originality and relation to what the game is all about; toy soldiers fighting in a giant box in someone’s room. What may seem childish is really one of the best ideas for a fresh look at a genre in existence.
The graphics are very unique too, adding a slight film grain over to make it look like a war movie, and cogs on vehicles that turn when they drive. These are some great graphics, some of the best you’ll find on an Xbox Live Arcade game. The various battlefields are very detailed, capturing tiny features such as sandbags flying about when an explosion is nearby, instead of most games where the geometry simply disappears when hit. All of the little figurines are designed to look like toy soldiers, but their liveliness and animations make it feel like Toy Story.
Enemies can vary from soldiers, to grenadiers, to horse riding soldiers, to tanks, to planes and even to the largest bosses such as the deadly Tsar Tank which rips across the battlefield tearing down your defences whilst spawning hordes of enemy soldiers, to The Zeppelin which towers high in the skies and requires very highly upgraded anti aircraft units to destroy. The whole game is based around defending your Toy Box (your tower). You must kill enemies before they get inside it, and there’s a limit to how many enemy units can get inside the Toy Box before you are defeated. However, if you are not quick in killing the bosses, they’ll tear through your box regardless!
Multiplayer is a case of defending your Toy Box from the enemy whilst sending out your own units such as tanks or planes to infiltrate the enemy’s Toy Box. It’s a case of being one step ahead of the other, setting up the right tools for the right job. Infantry will take machine guns to take out effectively and anti aircraft to take out waves of planes. There will be a lot of turret replacing that’ll decide whether you win or lose. When you see a weak spot in the enemy’s defences, send out the cavalry and overwhelm them, leaving their Toy Box defenceless and leaving you victorious. This is very cleverly executed, but I was a little downed to see there wasn’t any cooperative play in the Campaign, which would have suited very nicely.
The game is surprisingly long, with a lengthy campaign to keep you busy, and there’s also the multiplayer. You get Ration Tickets for completing certain challenges in each level such as destroying enemy targets. There’s also Avatar Awards to unlock too, as well as the achievements to get on with. Hopefully this game will be supported in future with downloadable content, but at the moment it’ll get on just fine without it.
Overall, Toy Soldiers is an amazing game, taking a fresh spin on a repetitive genre and making it into something very special, with lots to complete and some great unique features too. Will the next Xbox Live Block Party title be able to top this amazing benchmark? We’ll find out, but as of now this is one of the best titles on Xbox Live Arcade. We salute you, Toy Soldiers.
Reviewer: Ben Gray