Gameplay in its purest form
This came at the height of Sensible Software's stab at global domination. The developer released a series of games staring tiny sprites that made no apologies for their comparative simplicity at the time by wrapping around them games which were simple to pick up, but extremely hard to put back down.
The "Sensible Soccer" franchise had already cemented the developer as a fans favourite; Its zenith, "Sensible World Of Soccer", was the first, and last of its kind, before copyrights, and image rights within the sport put paid to another developer putting in every single division from every single league in the world - with all the right players intact, and a full management role to play alongside the on the field action.
With Cannon Fodder, the developer put these tiny sprites in a combat / puzzle game consisting of Jungle, Desert and Ice levels (some often split over two or three parts). Simplicity was the key - left click makes the team move to that spot, right click fires their guns at the spot. Holding right click and pressing left made you throw grenades or fire bazookas.
You could split the team up to hold certain points of the map, or perhaps use some of the vehicles scattered around to get to awkward to reach areas, or perhaps to storm an enemy area.
There were various puzzle elements, sometimes platform based (making jumps in vehicles on ice) or environmental "switches" that had to be found and used. But really that was it. Hordes of enemy would swarm you as you tried to make your way through the scrolling landscape (a step up from the Atari ST version which had screens switching when you reached the boundary).
At times the difficulty was overwhelming on later levels, but that was part of its charm, and it never reached the point where you thought it was impossible. Just when you thought you were going to finally beat that level a stray grenade would find itself next to a hut which would blow its roof off onto your members. Ouch.
The soldier sprites themselves were part of its charm. All were given names (early ones being developers like Jools and Jonny) and when they died they appeared on the main menu screen as gravestones as the rest of the soldiers you had built up by completing missions marched past inline. Keeping them alive was important in that they gained rank and were better able to handle things on their own if you split them up. This also added a little to difficulty as if one of your oldest soldiers died it almost made completing the level irrelevant - or at least it did to me. Id like to say I completed it with Jools alive, but sadly the difficulty got so hard later on, even I wasn't that obsessive!
Finally the music was there to add a bit of humour into proceedings. The title track "WAR! Has Never Been So Much Fun" cheerfully sung like any old pop song was the start, but every mission started with some pop culture reference and was accompanied by a cheerful ditty. On completion, the sprites would jump up and down along with an equally happy tune. It was all very cute, happy and rather funny in comparison with the flying gibs and blood splatter that had preceded it.
There was some controversy at release regarding the poppy on the cover and the context that has with the Royal British Legion which was unfortunate, but that never interefered with its simple concept but perfect execution.
I have played this, and its follow up, many times over the years - Atari ST, Amiga and through emulation on the pc, and everytime it brings a smile to my face. It's so pure in its simplicity, yet so overwhelming in its challenge. I can't think of a better game I have ever played, even in this day of next gen graphics and 87 button / key combinations, nothing comes close.
This is one game screaming out to be given an update, 2 generations of gamers have possibly missed this gem, and there really hasn't been anything out there to beat or even match it. To anyone out there who has never played this game, do yourself a favour and pick it up via WinUA or similar emulation, its free and will love you like a puppy for it.
And developers - please someone give us Cannon Fodder 3! The world needs CF3.