Game Review: Toy Soldiers: Cold War
Release: August 2011
Developer: Signal Studios
Available Platforms: XBLA
Players: 1 (and multiplayer)
MSRP: $15 (1200 MSP)
ESRB Rating: T
Toy Soldiers: Cold War is technically a sequel to the original Toy Soldiers, another XBLA release from a few years ago. While the original is a strong title despite several flaws, I’d suggest jumping directly into Cold War. The title serves as both a solid reinvention of the original, and the perfect late-August release to send off 2011’s Summer of Arcade. Here’s why…
Cold War is a Real Time Strategy title optimized for console play. What I’ve always loved about the series is that it’s one of the few that works on consoles despite the lack of a keyboard. Through radial menus, you place units at various strategic points across the map, and do your best to survive wave after wave of enemies. There are also remote units that can travel freely across the map, such as tanks and helicopters. The catch to these remote units is that they operate on a battery that slowly drains, and can only be recharged by “docking” the unit on a battery charge station. The other game play mechanic that can be crucial to surviving a huge wave of enemies are the kill streak bonuses. If you can fill the kill bar to the lower left of the screen using a single unit, you’ll receive a randomly generated, one-time-use bonus unit (could be a bombing run, could be a Rambo-like mercenary) that can lay waste to a huge chunk of the map.
What separates the Toy Soldier series from others is that you have the ability to take control of these placed units on the fly, and manually gun down whatever may be bearing down the road towards you. You do this by hovering the control icon over a unit, and tapping A. At this point, you’re presented with a list of command options including repairing the unit, upgrading it (the ability to use specific upgrades are usually doled out at the end of each level, and are dependent on how well you performed), or just selling it off (useful if you realize too little too late that you’ve made a poor placement decision). It’s a concept that takes a bit of a learning curve, but once you’ve adjusted, it’s great fun.
The best part of Cold War is its 80’s motif; the whole game brings you back to playing on the front room floor while watching cartoons, while at the same time engaging the mature, adult side of your brain with well-thought out maps and the need to think strategically on the fly. Rambo, GI Joe, Top Gun, The Final Countdown – it’s all in this game. Being that the target audience is mostly children of the 80’s, the presentation is pitch-perfect and very appealing. Developer Signal Studios pulls a lot of great humor from the units (in particular the Rambo and Drago-esque bonus units), and the controls are more than adequate.
If anything, Cold War’s biggest problem is that the level progression and difficulty curve can seem erratic at times. The game opens fairly difficult for a tutorial level, then levels off into several moderately-difficult levels, only to spike dramatically again towards the end. A bit more restructuring and balance testing could have helped. Also, the game does go by fairly quickly. Multiplayer helps, but still, the core game shouldn’t take you longer than a few hours. While the controls are adequate, they never feel quite intuitive (although it can be argued there’s no way around that when dealing with radial menus, and option built upon option). Lastly, I’m not sure what a resolution could be, but there were times where the camera was a hindrance to seeing my surroundings and planning strategies. Ultimately, I was able to deal with it, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment overall.
Toy Soldiers: Cold War is a solid release in the RTS genre. It greatly improves upon the original, and is the best farewell to Summer of Arcade I’ve seen in a few years now. If you have fond memories of 80’s pop culture, and dig on strategy, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be playing this game.
-Fun game play.
-Multiplayer is fun, but not the main draw.
8 out of 10