Being the fifth and final game of the 2011 Microsoft Summer of Arcade, Toy Soldiers: Cold War had some pretty high standards set for it with the games that came out before it. I went into the trial feeling pretty lukewarm after finding out that it was another tower defense shooter. After all, Trenched had just debuted on XBLA in the last couple of months and that game provided me with the quirky tower defense game I’d been looking for since Plants vs. Zombies. Lo and behold what I found was a solid game with a blast of nostalgia.
The game took me back to my childhood in the 80′s. If you were a boy growing up during that time, more than likely you had a collection of G.I. Joe’s that you’d play with. They were probably used to create giant, thrilling battles on your floor, your desk, or whatever space you could find. That same epic experience is reborn in Toy Soldiers: Cold War from Signal Studios. You must defend your base from the evil communists as they try to bombard you with troops, tanks, and aerial assaults.
As waves of enemies are sent against you, you’ll need to place various turrets in emplacement areas in order to take them out. The turrets are varied in their purpose. Machine guns are best for taking out infantry, while anti-tank and anti-air guns are necessary for wiping out the vehicles that will attack you. The turrets will fire autonomously, but you can also take over one at any time in order to use it and earn special performance bonuses. There’s a great feeling of satisfaction when you mow down whole enemy lines of infantry or fire that last shot that finally causes the tank to explode or the plane to crash. You earn money by defeating enemies which can in turn be used to purchase turrets that can be placed across the battlefield and upgraded.
Defeating multiple enemies in a row will earn you a bonus which is selected at random. Bonuses can be an aerial assault which lets you control the fire during an assault flyby. There’s also an artillery attack that’s great for taking out any ground-based units. The best bonus, in my opinion, is the Commando which unleashes a playable version of what might as well be called a Rambo knockoff. The Commando comes complete with mullet, bandana, an arsenal of weaponry, and a few cheesy one-liners you’d expect from a Stallone movie. It’s yet another wonderful nod to the over the top 1980′s. Even the music pays homage to that decade with its soaring rock anthem style.
The full version of the game includes co-op support which I can only imagine will be awesome. You’ll each have the opportunity to earn your own bonuses and even the playing field as you’ll need all the help you can get to overcome the superior number of enemies thrown at you. At times, there will be boss fights where coordination is a necessity. In the trial, for instance, you’ll encounter a multi-purpose vehicle that flies, rolls like a tank, and deploys smaller vehicles and troops. I can definitely see where having a friend to replace destroyed turrets or man the appropriate turret at all times would be key to surviving.
I have to admit that out of all of this year’s Summer of Arcade games, this was probably the one that I was least looking forward to. It ended up being the most surprising. It’s a shame it had to launch so close to the similar Trenched, but all of the 1980′s homages give it a unique and humorous coat of paint that’s hard not to enjoy.
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