At the first mention of Toy Soldiers, there’s little doubt that you’ll be thinking of one of two things; either those little figures that every kid loves to play with, or the song by notorious 80’s warbler, Martika. Signal Studios are definitely thinking of the former. Clearly the world isn’t ready for a game based on a faded pop singers roller-coaster ride into obscurity…
When you first start Toy Soldiers, you may be surprised to find that it’s a Tower Defence game rather than a Real Time Strategy title suggested by the World War I setting. While Tower Defence is a genre that’s certainly been done to death of late on every current format you care to name, this one does offer something a little different in both content and approach.
The player is placed in charge of miniature soldiers on a tabletop battlefield, complete with charming incidental touches like being able to see the modern day area sited outside of the playset, wind up keys in some of the vehicles, or the volley and thunder of shells sailing overhead. The basic idea is to build your defences up to prevent the wave of enemies that swarm towards you from reaching your Toy Box (or base); let a certain number through and it’s game over. And swarm they will, with everything from cavalry, artillery, tanks, bi-planes and lots more besides. As the waves of troops are sent willingly over the top and to their doom, you can almost hear the brisk bleating of someone akin to General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Forth.
Toy Soldiers’ 3D approach allows you to take direct control of units, putting you in the hot seat to help destroy enemies. Mock re-enactments of various battles sees you positioning and manning mounted turrets, mortar positions, sniper towers and anti-air cannons at set points on the map and while the positions they can be fixed are predetermined, the choice of what to place there is entirely up to you. You can also take more of a back-seat management role, placing the units down and leaving them to it, but Toy Soldiers is a more fruitful experience if you take a hands on approach. Killing enemies gives you cash to construct units and while this is generated even when the AI makes a kill for you, there’s tonnes more money to be harvested if you take out multiple enemies at a time.
As well as being used to purchase units, this can also be spent on upgrading existing ones, improving their killing power. This is certainly needed when the game starts throwing more and more enemies and high powered units at you, let alone the giant enemy war machines which run the risk of riding roughshod straight through all your defences and smashing your Toy Box to pieces.
Toy Soldiers is charming right from the off, with its tinny 1900’s music and a rather astute political correctness which means you aren’t just shooting the dreaded Bosch, but also get to take on the British and French forces. In the same way that Plants Vs Zombies had a (albeit very different) style which made it worthwhile visiting, here the games approachable nature also makes it stand out from the onslaught of other Tower Defence titles that gamers can choose from. Aside from some slight niggles with the controls which the player can overcome with a bit of practice, the game is generally well thought out, never alienating players who may not usually play this type of game. Later levels do provide a challenge, but any player who’s gotten that far will probably be hooked by then.
With both local and online multiplayer to keep you going when the single player experience is done, Toy Soldiers has a lot of offer for fans and non-fans of the genre, making it definitely worth a look.