Playing with toy soldiers has never been more fun.
Toy Soldiers is the first of the XBLA House Party titles to be released, being developed by Signal Studios. Taking the gamer back to a time when things were simpler and summers seemed to last for ever. Once again it is time to break out the collection of badly molded toy soldiers and defend the toybox.
Set in the imagination of a child, Toy Soldiers takes units and vehicles from WWI and recreates them from coloured plastic within the battlefield of a pre-built diorama. Toy Soldiers is a tower defence game with a couple of interesting twists thrown in.
As with any tower defence game, the player is given the task of defending their base, or toy box in this case, from wave after wave of increasingly powerful enemy units. These waves will travel doggedly along a pre-determined route until they reach their goal. The player may position defensive units, such as cannons or machine gun emplacements, along this route in an attempt to stem the tide. Each opposing unit that the player destroys will reward the player with cash, that can be used for unit upgrades or the purchase of extra units. Once the given number of waves has passed, and if the toybox is still intact, then the player moves to the next level.
Playing through the campaign will allow the player to unlock new units and new upgrades for existing units, to combat the ever increasing difficulty of the waves. After moving through the fairly simple campaign, the player will unlock campaign+ which will offer a higher level of difficulty. There is also survival mode which will challenge the player to continue working through wave after wave after wave forever, and the elite mode which I will get to later.
So far, pretty standard. Where Toy Soldiers differs though, is that it allows the player to take direct control of the units. Any of your weapon placements an be controlled directly, allowing the player to take matters into their own hands and add some human interaction to the proceedings. Later on in the game, tanks and planes will come into play that can also be controlled, which is a lot of fun. There is, however, a downside to all of this hands on action. Whilst in control of any unit, the player is unable to purchase, place or repair new units.
The elite mode offers a true level of complexity by removing the AI. This means that the player alone has to take control of the units and repel the tide of the enemy. This makes for some amazingly tense gaming.
Take the game online to test your skills against some human opponents, in what is another different way of playing. This time around the player must also control the offense, along with the defense. Trying to get the hang of this, as this mode is not covered by the campaign, was certainly a baptism of fire. Still, after a few games, and defeats, it is fairly simple to get the hang of. There are a number of different modes to get to grips with in multiplayer.
Toy Soldiers is, at heart, a simple tower defence game that offers a few interesting twists and turns along the way. These twists and turns are simply a novelty though and if the player has no interest in tower defence games, then this title will do nothing to change that. I, for one, am a big fan though and found this game to be quite engaging and a lot of fun. The controls are simple and the setting is delightful. Toy Soldiers is a great opening title for the XBLA House Party and we can only hope that the other upcoming titles mirror this games quality.