Giant Bomb Review

31 Comments

Toy Soldiers: Cold War Review

4
  • XBGS

Diversified, action-oriented tower defense combines with thick, thick '80s nostalgia to produce a worthy Toy Soldiers sequel.

Get in that turret! Kill that weird tank!

Toy Soldiers, the downloadable tiny tower defense series from Signal Studios, leaps almost a century from the mustard-gassed trenches of World War I to the soaring F-14s and guitar solos of the 1980s with its new sequel, Cold War. The core gameplay hook--tower defense that lets you jump into any of the turrets and emplacements you build so you can control them directly--remains more or less the same here, but a few key mechanical additions, a healthier selection of gameplay modes, and a lighthearted nostalgic tone make this a well-rounded package that closes out the Summer of Arcade with flair.

I really appreciated the uniquely antique stylings of the first Toy Soldiers; after all, how many World War I-themed games are even on the market? The whole America-versus-the-Iron-Curtain thing has been done to death, by comparison, so I approached Cold War with some hesitation. But the developers really run wild with the setting in a way that anyone who grew up in the '80s will probably appreciate. There are stylistic touches all over the place that nod toward G.I. Joe, Top Gun, "The Final Countdown," Ivan Drago, and more. Like in the first game, the action is framed in a bedroom toybox motif that lines the edges of the battlefield with stacked-up VHS tapes and monochrome-green CRT monitors. It all feels like it's of an era that I personally find very comforting, but maybe that's just me.

Some of the minigames are awfully strange.

The move to a modern setting allows the use of better military hardware, and that's where the tower defense feels a bit more robust and action-oriented in Cold War. Your towers, such as they are, still fall into the same basic categories of anti-infantry machine guns, armor-piercing rockets, long-range artillery, and so on, and now there's an anti-air category that helps you deal with the presence of personnel helicopters, fighter jets, and so on. There are quite a few vehicles of your own (battery-operated, of course) that you can hop into and fight with directly, including a couple of kinds each of helicopters and tanks, and an F-14. You can gain occasional super weapons like a massive artillery barrage, controllable AC-130, or the pinnacle of '80s destructive technology, the nuclear warhead. There's even a Rambo-lookin' commando you can control on foot to run around and mow down everything in sight with rockets and a machine gun. Suffice it to say, there's ample diversity among your units.

The 10-mission campaign does a decent job of letting you play with all this stuff and throws you into a wide array of environments, from a jungle to numerous cities, Egypt, and an aircraft carrier. These missions are all pretty straightforward, though. On the normal difficulty, it's generally quite obvious what sorts of turrets you need and where you need them to handily deal with the waves of enemies rolling through. At least hard difficulty is unlocked from the start, and there are two higher difficulties available for each mission after you finish them once. Also, the last boss is a real bastard, which kind of comes out of left field. Mission by mission, the campaign is chock-full of internal achievements (called decorations), challenges, and other milestones that chart your performance in about a zillion different ways, so there's a good feeling of progress throughout.

Look at that boom box! Look at that keytar!

In addition to the new toys, Cold War feels more diverse than its predecessor thanks to a better array of multiplayer options. The versus mode seems like the one you'll come back to the most, with three maps that pit you against a single opponent in a battle to use every single turret, vehicle, and special attack the game offers as you vie for supremacy. Since you make money from killing the other guy's stuff, these matches can go on for a long, long time--my first versus match lasted for a grueling 50 minutes--and can feel pretty epic as a result. There's also a cooperative wave-based survival mode that provides a pretty stiff challenge and makes you work together in a fast-paced, dynamic way. A smattering of bizarre minigames that use the game's mechanics to make you shoot down giant flies and guide missiles through weird rotating carnival obstacles rounds out the package and gives you even more to do once you're done with the story mode. Taken as a whole, there's a lot to do here, and it's all pretty good stuff.

As a ridiculous aside, I have to recognize this game's avatar awards as perhaps the best ever offered, with a mullet-and-headband combo for your head and a patched leather bomber jacket combining to make your stupid Xbox person look like an authentic Vietnam-vet peace protester of some sort. It's just nice to see a developer put some effort into this sort of thing well beyond the usual t-shirts and cheap bric-a-brac we typically get.

The sheer bulk of things to do in Cold War does a good job of offsetting a core campaign that's merely pretty decent, and the overall presentation of the package, wailing guitar solos and all, make it a game that tower defense fans ought to feel good about playing.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
31 Comments
Posted by Nizzleworth

video games

Posted by BertieWooster

Been a while since I dove into anything tower defense. Maybe now?

Posted by Chippy180

The aesthetic of the game does make me feel that the developers put a lot of work into their sequel, but I've seen my fair share of tower defence and will probably hold off until it goes on sale(Assuming it ever does, Microsoft are weird with sales).

Posted by Swoxx

I really didn't get Jeff's problems with this game. Great review, mirrors my thoughts

Posted by Linkster7

Hate myself a bit for not considering buying this game before I read about the avatar rewards.

Hippie avatar would be awesome.

Posted by RiotBananas

I would buy this right now if it were on Steam.

Posted by Masha2932

loved the quick look

Posted by JoeyRavn

Yeah, looks great, but I'll wait for a sale...

Posted by MildMolasses

The Summer of 4-star games!

I only played the trial of the first Toy Soldiers game, and it didn't do much for me, so I don't really have much interest in this game. I'm kind of on the side of Jeff about this year's SoA releases in that, aside from Bastion, I didn't find the games all that interesting. I really look forward to this promotion because of how great the 2008/2009 games were, but this seemed to repeat last year where one game stood out to me, and the rest were decent, but nothing I wanted to invest my time into. I'm glad that people are really into these games though, because I really like the creativity that these games have, and hope that they all become successful

Posted by sirdesmond

I still need to grab the demo for this. I'm intrigued by it but probably shouldn't spend the money since I still have some of From Dust, lots of Bastion, and tons of Steam games to play.

Posted by kalmis

The first game had really cool avatar rewards as well. Pickelhaube and a gasmask

Posted by Winsord

This was the score I was expecting after yesterday's quicklook; fun, but not mindblowing. Hoping to pick this up sometime in the near future.

Posted by rcath

Wish I had an Xbox

Posted by buft

replayed some multiplayer offerings last night in the original Toy Soldiers, still incredibly fun. the addition of the commandos makes a huge difference from the small amount I played this morning it seems like the multiplayer is much more frantic than ever before as you switch from commando to turret and back. 
 
I can't wait to get some time to tackle the single player and the challenges.

Posted by PatVB

O was sold on this game the moment I found out that Ivan Drago and Rambo were in it.

Posted by jozzy

@MildMolasses said:

The Summer of 4-star games!

I bet Bastion would've gotten 5-stars ;)

Posted by SlimDogg95

Thinking that I must pick this up. I'll try the demo. But Rambo kind of has me sold already.

Posted by Arker101

Good review! I'll probably pick this up if I can find any time between all the games coming out.

Posted by kollay

Russian Guile is the worst Guile.

Posted by bybeach

I'm kind of interested in this game.

Online
Posted by Honk

Kind of annoyed.  I've tried to watch this video now 5 times since last night and it simply stops at a random and different place each time.  None of the other videos do that.
Posted by Undeadpool

@kollay said:

Russian Guile is the worst Guile.

He must kick you.

Posted by MisterMouse

woah that was a short review... good review though. But for some reason tower defense games never worked for me.

Posted by aspaceinvader

Great fun game, The jet controls can be configured in the options to a inverted southpaw which make them just like a regular flight sim., Glad the helicopter controls are so easy to pick up and play. Seems the guys forgot checking out the options on the main menu in the quick look. I expected the last boss to be hard as the first toy soldiers boss'es were all hard bastards to defeat. Over a i enjoyed this game, would recommend this game to anyone who wants a fun shooter.  

Edited by lockwoodx

At the beginning of the video Brad says "this is the toy story games with more stuff and rife with 80s stuff, I think that's alright, yeah kind of a good thing."

Then admits he never watched Rambo, warns that the game is mostly stale mates, watching brad take down 4 tanks with a foot soldier using a bazooka, and gives the game 4 stars....

Brad made Star Trek Online look fun... so when he gives something 4 stars, I expect it to be -1 star.

This is a 1 star game and Brad's opinion has gone to shit. He's still on vacation.

Posted by nemt

War...war never changes.

Posted by ricksan

they won't release it on PSN or PC? want so bad :(

Posted by Hi_Voltg3

I am loving this game so far. This one's for Jimmy!!!
Edited by Kombat

I purchased the original Toy Soldiers following the positive reception, but couldn't get into it. It's not for a lack of desire for tower defense -- Plants vs. Zombies and Field Runners were, in their own respective windows of time, staples of my free time. Something didn't click though, and as such this one probably won't find its way into my digital collection.

Great review. It sounds like a lot of fun for those who are in to this sort of thing.

Posted by mabber36
@MildMolasses: yes, i agree, this year is really weak
 
i enjoyed ms splosion man more than any of the 5 summer of arcade titles, don't know why it wasn't a part of this promotion
Posted by ChaosTony
@Swoxx: Jeff's not into Tower Defense in general.