Toy Soldiers: Cold War Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, Aug 17, 2011 19:20

Making a game with an obvious nostalgic element to it is always a risk; are there enough people in the target audience to be worthwhile? Toy Soldiers: Cold War asks that question of those who enjoyed playing with military-themed toys and action figures of the 1980s, and the answer may be irrelevant. The slick 80s theme will make a very strong pull at the hearts of those who grew up in that time, but it doesn’t matter for the simple fact that this game can stand up on its own merits. Building upon the original game’s theme of tower defense with toys based on historical wars, Cold War keeps the familiar formula of mowing down tons of enemy troops and vehicles while giving you new ways to do it and making smart improvements.

Toy Soldiers: Cold WarStages in Cold War are played from two views; an overhead mode where you build defenses to protect your toy box from waves of invaders, followed by shooting segments where you get to actually use the toys you laid down. These are usually played in a third person perspective, letting you take control of machine gun turrets, anti-tank weaponry, and whatever else you picked out to deal with the enemies. You’ll be switching between these views frequently, both to repair damage the enemy inflicted on your turrets and to upgrade to better versions so players are never kept in one ’mode’ for too long. That’s a good thing, since each stage lasts about fifteen to thirty minutes and might otherwise become monotonous.

While the 80s presentation isn’t a crutch that Cold War relies on, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Most of the music sounds quite familiar to that era, and stages convincingly mix a child’s toy play-set (albeit one far fancier than most of us likely had) with random props of the time; it’s amusing to see missing parts of stages be filled in by things like an old 5.25” hard disk (the ones that were actually quite floppy!) or an early model cordless phone, and this sort of improvised play-area motif adds to the 80s charm.

Various new mechanics build upon that theme. Some are just improvements of features from the original game, offering new vehicles with heavier firepower appropriate to this era; a helicopter with missiles and chain guns is notably more impressive than a World War I biplane. Other features are more distinct, such as the “Barrages” you can earn by doing particularly well at the controls of one turret. Barrages are a random, one-use item that provides various benefits ranging from calling in an artillery strike or picking an area to carpet bomb, to the absolutely hilarious Commando. He’s an obvious parody of 80s action movie heroes, with massive muscles, no shirt, ammo bandoliers on his chest, and wielding a rocket launcher and machine gun at the same time while yelling intentionally awful one-liners; everything that gets in his path is easily crushed, though he only sticks around long enough to fend off one or two waves at most. Regardless, one of the major themes in this game is ’more firepower’, and it’s a lot of fun for that reason.

There are a few meaningful complaints to cover. With early stages being fairly short, Cold War is a little light on play time if you’re just focusing on the campaign levels. Various unlockable modes help to some extent however, as do a few mini-games and a survival mode. Co-op and versus play are also available, and these help to extend the game’s life a little more. Versus mode can be played online, though in my experience it seems to have a consistent half second to one second lag on everything you do; this isn’t game-ruining given the relatively slow pace of play, but it is kind of disappointing. Finally, mechanic repetition does set in after a while and may make this game best suited to playing in multiple short bursts. Regardless, there is enough content here to keep you entertained for several evenings and these gripes shouldn’t be seen as condemning the game, merely pointing out things it could have handled a little better. Soldiers: Cold War is thus basically the same game as the original, with user interface improvements and new weapons alongside a well done 1980s toy theme. If you enjoyed the previous game and want more, Cold War offers that. If you’re looking for an interesting take on the crowded tower defense genre, one that is fun to play and has plenty of 80s charm to go with it, this is a good choice. And if you’re interested in both Toy Soldiers games but can only afford one at the moment, Cold War gets my recommendation unless you strongly prefer the World War I theme of the original. Regardless of which of these situations describes you, give Toy Soldiers: Cold War a look since it does a fine job of earning its $15 USD/1200 Microsoft Points.

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Our Rating for Toy Soldiers: Cold War Review (XBLA)
6.5 Replay
Repetitive mechanics compete with plenty of hidden content, resulting in a game that will keep you coming back for a few more sessions after you finish the main campaign levels. Nonetheless, you’ll probably be through with it ’sooner’ rather than ’later.’
8.0 Graphics
A mostly convincing reproduction of 80s military action figure play-sets and room props adds a real nostalgic charm to the game. Most important things are clearly labeled on your user interface, making it easy to follow the action.
8.0 Sound
Booming weapon sound effects, intentionally bad but funny voice acting (imagine a deeper voice doing lines similar to what children likely shouted while playing with such toys), and oddly familiar 80s-sounding music adds up to some pretty good sound.
8.5 Gameplay
Easy to learn and play, with invading waves being very well paced; you have just enough time to repair and upgrade if you’re quick but you don’t get long to think on it. The variety of turrets and vehicles to use keeps things fun, and earning a Barrage lets you really unleash firepower on enemy hordes.
7.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
Various multiplayer options are offered and are reasonably fun. The biggest issue is that online play is either heavily connection reliant, or suffers from near-universal (but tolerable) lag.
8.0 Overall
Modest improvements upon the original Toy Soldiers, combined with a charming new theme, keep this game fun. It will entertain you for several days, and is well worth a look regardless of whether you normally enjoy tower defense games or not.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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