Toy Soldiers: Cold War is the last offering from Xbox 360’s Summer of Arcade, featuring such awesome games as Bastion, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and to a lesser extent Fruit Ninja Kinect. I wasn’t able to play the original Toy Soldiers game but when I saw TS:CW’s core gameplay, and being the huge tower defense fan that I am, I immediately bought it when it was launched last week.
So basically Toy Soldiers: Cold War is a tower defense game set during the World War II era, but unlike most tower defense games the amount of towers you can use in a game is very limited but more importantly you can control a single tower any time you please.
Some of the new features in this sequel are:
1) Multiplayer/Co-op – offers a great advantage in completing some of the games harder levels as e.g. your friend can focus on tower upgrades/repairs while you focus on controlling them but keep in mind that you each have a separate money bank so don’t hog all the kills for yourself.
2) Mini-games and Survival Modes – mini-games are great if you want to take a break from defending your toy box and just want to focus on killing stuff.
3) Barrages (a-la COD kill-strikes) – rack up 20x kills in a row while controlling a tower and it goes into overdrive; rack up 40x kills and you get a random barrage, a random ‘super’ that you can use by pressing (Y) .
4) More weapons and vehicles! – being set during world war II means you get different towers that can all be upgraded as well as vehicles that include tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.
5) Wave Rewind – allows you to replay one wave so you can do better instead of replaying the whole mission, a feature that I kept forgetting to use *facepalm*.
You start the campaign off with 2 difficulty settings: casual and normal while the harder modes, elite and general(hardest difficulty which doesn’t allow you to control towers) are unlocked after you finish a mission once. There are a total of 11 missions that took me about 3.5 hours to complete (average of 20 mins per mission). You get a higher score by being more aggressive and pressing (X) which allows waves to come in faster so really good players could probably finish this game in 3 hours or so. Your overall score after each mission is determined by how many lives left are in your toy box (perfect 20 gets a bonus), your aggression, how much money you save and some other stuff that has to do with completing challenges or other feats such as saving a tower, killing an enemy that’s in front of your toy box etc. On top of that, there are 2 decorations /medals that you can get once you finish a specific task in the game. Some are as easy as doing a barrel roll using a fighter jet while some are a bit more difficult like killing a certain number of infantry using only napalm bombs. There are two achievements that you can get once you complete all 22 decorations. If that’s not enough for you, there are also 3 challenges per mission which are specific objectives that get progressively harder as you complete one. For instance machine gun challenge level 1 could ask you to kill 50x infantry in one mission, level 2 could ask for 100x and level 3 would be 500x. Some missions also have boss battles which really add excitement and chaos to an already intense game. Though the campaign may be short it was still a lot of fun and there’s definitely incentive to replay certain missions to get the decorations and finish the challenges and possibly even get a platinum rank.
The basic training/tutorial is very helpful as it gives you a chance to play two mini-games as well as a basic mission complete with upgrades and vehicles. However, there were a few important tips that I wish were brought up. One of my biggest complaints with the game would have to be the camera controls; it’s very frustrating to see into the distance as I can’t seem to tilt the camera in any meaningful way and some invisible walls are irritating as well. The camera issues are also obvious when trying to control vehicles especially when you’re trying to drop napalm bombs using the fighter jet. The tutorial could’ve mentioned even in passing that pressing the left trigger speeds up camera movement, or how about pressing the directional keys while controlling a turret helps you switch to a different turret. These tips could alleviate some of the frustration brought about by the lousy camera as well as improve the player’s game.
The overall presentation of the game is something worth mentioning as well. You’ll appreciate the level design and the background music even if you’re only vaguely aware of such films as Rambo and Top Gun. It’s almost always fun to be able to summon a toy version of Rambo and just blast enemies with his unlimited RPG weapon, and I said almost because I would hope that they remove this barrage in versus mode due to it’s overpowered-ness. Versus is probably the only mode that I didn’t enjoy playing because I couldn’t even see past my own base unless I send Rambo or a vehicle to scout so in the end it’s just two guys blindly sending in their own troops hoping that they somehow manage to infiltrate the enemies’ defenses.
Even though TS:CW is essentially a tower defense game it manages to bring challenges and strategic adjustments that you won’t find in other TD games such as defense grid. For instance, in a normal tower defense game, placing lots of towers or at least upgrading them as soon as you seems to be the cookie cutter strategy but in TS:CW it’s not always the case. Upgrading an anti-tank II tower to anti-tank III certainly gives it a damage boost but limits it’s fire rate to one rocket that can be controlled, so having one anti-tank III that you control is an advantage but having two or more seems like a waste as the AI is not smart enough to use the guided missiles.
Having limited spaces to place turrets adds to the challenge of the game but in some maps I felt that there were spots that were completely useless unless you place an anti-tank III and control it all the time. It’s great that towers don’t live up to their full potential when you don’t manually control them but some towers like the mortar and artillery seem almost non-existent if left alone. I also enjoy being able to use vehicles (flying ones especially) but using them just highlights how under-powered turrets can be while being controlled by the AI; instead of the vehicles being there as support, more often than not they actually become your main defense.
For 1,200 Microsoft Points you get an interesting take on the tower defense genre, a campaign that lasts 3-4 hrs, multiplayer/co-op modes, mini-games and 3 unlockable items for your avatar plus a gamer pic. Not a bad package if I do say so myself, but if you’re still unsure you can always download the demo so you can test out the game first.