Tiny Troopers, huge fun
In the never-ending race for cutting-edge graphics and complicated terms like anisotropic filtering and tessellation, we sometimes forget the most basic reason we play video games: to have fun. It may not teeter at the absolute bleeding edge of technology but Tiny Troopers is the most fun I have had in a recent title.
The concept is deceptively simple. You control a squad of miniature soldiers, and run them through 30 missions in hostile territory to thwart the enemy’s diabolical plans. The characters look like the result of an unholy union between bobble-head figures and Sackboy. The graphics, though cartoony, amplify the twisted sense of humor that is employed throughout the game. To top it all off, the game has some great sound effects, from explosions to the little snippets of responsive dialogue from your Tiny Troopers.
Simplicity in design, complexity in execution
The PC port of this well-received iOS title has very few controls for you to learn and they seldom get in the way of the action. Click to move, click to shoot, and click to toss a grenade, one shortcut for ordering supplies from HQ and another for the map. It may seem rudimentary, but it is slick in execution. The game offers enough depth with the various types of enemies, terrain challenges and other obstacles that it never feels like you only have the mouse to work with. The action is a frantic patchwork of clicks resulting in mushroom fireballs, exaggerated death animations, and fantastic sound. I actually burst out laughing when one of my dying troops let out a declarative “Game over man! Game over!” in a half-squeaky, half-gritty voice.
The game awards you command points for actions such as killing enemies, collecting scattered dog-tags, blowing up tanks and completing missions quickly and efficiently. You can spend these points to temporarily give your squad an edge, such as a faster firing rate for the next mission or to permanently unlock additional specialists like medics or delta troops. During missions, you can use command points to instantly reveal all points of interest on a map, including enemy positions and collectible item locations. You can also use them to call in much needed supplies from HQ that are promptly parachuted to a location close by.
You will find medals scattered throughout the levels, and these are very rare and extremely useful. Medals can be spent to permanently increase the statistics of your troops, such as their accuracy or health pools. The catch is that if you lose your troops, they die permanently, and the upgrades die with them.
Graphical considerations, environmental concerns
There is plenty of variety in the missions to keep the action fresh. You may start with a linear map and a mundane objective like “kill all enemy troops”. The initial few levels are really an extension of the tutorial level but they rapidly evolve into nonlinear, multi-objective affairs with advanced tactical options available at every turn. The command points that seemed oddly generous and plentiful in initial missions will dwindle fast. This will force you to make critical decisions about what to spend them on, and how to best keep your troops from dying.
The environments are beautifully crafted, littered with little details, dotted with collectibles, infested with enemies, and fraught with danger. There are day and night-time environments, adding some additional depth and visual relief. The explosions, lighting effects, bullet tracers and environmental details all have a gorgeously crafted, cartoonish appeal.
Hey, nobody’s perfect!
The game is not without some problems. This is a matter of personal opinion, but I found the fixed camera on my troopers to be slightly annoying. As the camera centers the action on your squad, you are unable to scroll and scout around. You can replay missions to get the three-star rating, but beyond that, there is limited replay value here. The price of this PC port on Steam is $7.99, which is $7 more than the iOS version. Bearing in mind the sheer amount of fun I have had with this title, I would gladly pay $7.99 for it, but the inexplicable rise in price in the PC port warrants at least a comment. I had some patching issues with my squad, but it was too infrequent to have any lasting impact on the game.
If you ever played the likes of Cannon Fodder or Commando back in the day, this is a must-own title for you. It is a spry little game with a lot of character. It can be challenging at times, and frustrating when you lose your well-upgraded Tiny Trooper, but more often than not, you will find yourself playing with a stupid grin on your face.
Pure, unadulterated fun.
Fixed camera can be annoying.