Tiny Troopers: Joint Op's - HighrezGaming

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Tiny Troopers: Joint Op's / 10th of March 2016

Very few games have managed to make war as humorous or as downright fun to play as Sensible Software’s majestic Cannon Fodder, and this was the primary thought rummaging around my head as I played Tiny Troopers, a twin-stick shooter that has made the transition from iOS to PC and now onto PS4 and Xbox One. It is a game that tries to inject a quirky sense of humour into its top-down battlefields where groups of player controlled troops do battle with enemy soldiers and vehicles in somewhat diminutive slices of action orientated gameplay and repetitive missions.

There might something of a plot to the main campaign of Tiny Troopers, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it is, it’s really just a case of jumping into to one of the numerous, bite-sized missions to lay waste to any and all opposing forces. To do this, the player must control their entire team as one, much like Cannon Fodder, utilising the left stick to move and the right stick to fire, whilst additional buttons are used to alternate between standard and special weaponry, which includes grenades and rocket launchers. An interesting feature that the game has is that the player - who gains points from collecting intel, killing enemies, disarming weapons and finding collectibles – has the ability to utilise these points as a form of currency to summon supply drops, where both devices with advanced capabilities can be subpoenaed, along with health packs or spec. ops troops. There’s also a multiplier system in place that rewards a string of consecutive kills with a spell of increased point scoring which can quadruple a player’s earnings, and this, as it turns out, is rather important. Outside of combat, these points can also be saved up and spent on vital troop upgrades - extra health, additional weapon damage, increased accuracy and so on – new types of camouflage and even spec ops troops to use on a mission by mission basis. These upgrades and in-game supply drops are essential to the survival of the player’s troops, who can, in an XCOM-like way, be vanquished, permanently.
Troops can earn experience for successfully completing missions, when enough has been garnered, they rank up, and each time that they do so, they earn an additional amount of health, making them more effective and resilient soldiers in the field. Well, on paper anyway. The problem is, it’s just so easy to lose one or even all of your troops when hit with a surprise attack from grenadiers, air strikes or armoured vehicles, and doing so feels inordinately cruel, because whilst they can be brought back to life if sufficient medals are kept in reserve, the odds are most certainly against you as most levels only offer a single collectible medal which then cannot be picked up again on any subsequent playthroughs. Losing any advanced trooper feels like starting the game over again as they’ll need to be upgraded in order to survive later levels, it’s certainly a welcome feature to have upgradeable soldiers, it just shouldn’t feel like a slap in the face to lose any of them.

Thankfully, I’m happy to note that in the transition from the PC version, which was released back in 2012, the control issues have been addressed, making for a more intuitive controller layout. Tiny Troopers is, after all, a twin-stick shooter, which meant that playing it with a keyboard and mouse was far from practical, though sadly many of the problems that plagued that version have still carried over. The AI for instance is pretty woeful, with enemy troops and vehicles easily lured to their doom by a small burst of fire that sees them charge forwards to their doom, though granted, this can be a real life saver when it comes to tackling vehicles with heavy weapons.
Again, much like the earlier release, there isn’t much to look at with Tiny Trooper: Joint Ops, it’s mobile origins shine through in its visuals as much as its bite-sized levels, with overly simplistic models, shoddy textures and no real effects to write home about, when we’ve seen the likes of Ori and the Blind Forest and Layers of Fear showcase what can be achieved with the Unity development environment, Tiny Troopers feels more than a tad underwhelming. Likewise, the audio is pretty unspectacular, especially the voice acting which, whilst obviously deliberately poor, just comes across as being awful. The thoroughly generic music does little to help matters either, but then there are a couple of additional positives to help counteract that.

An area where the console version of Tiny Troopers blows away its 2012 brethren is in the range of content that’s available in it, with two different campaigns and a separate zombie survival mode. Whilst the core gameplay never changes, it does mean that there are a total of fifty-eight missions to play through and four zombie maps to conquer in the search of high scores, sure, the core gameplay and repetitive mission design mean that this isn’t a game that lends itself well to extended periods of play, but it certainly does have enough to keep players coming back to it for some short bursts of action.
With its rinse and repeat mission design, ploddingly paced gameplay and overly cruel troop loss, it’s quite hard to recommend Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops to anyone, most of the elements of a decent game are there, but it just doesn’t quite come together as well as I would like it to. Still, if the developer can ditch the mobile shenanigans and create a new title from the ground up for console and PC, it might actually be interesting to see what they can come with using this release as the foundation for a new project, perhaps I’d get my new Cannon Fodder after all.
James Paton
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