Short Version: Toy Soldiers is a fun WWI-themed tower defense game that will appeal to fans and newcomers of the genre alike. You would be hard-pressed to find a better gaming experience for 1200 Microsoft points ($15.00).
Signal Studios’ newest Xbox Live Arcade title, Toy Soldiers, is a unique tower-defense game that features those plastic-toy soldiers you may remember from your childhood. The game replicates the trench warfare of World War I and takes place on a diorama in a child’s bedroom. The main combatants are the English and the Germans, but some other WWI countries also make an appearance.
In keeping with the children’s theme, the combatants merely break apart when killed or destroyed, and the game is devoid of any blood or gore, making the title as family friendly as any war game could possibly be. If you’re a war buff, you won’t find historical accuracy or realism here. However, you will find one of the most fun and addictive Xbox Live Arcade titles available today.
The gist of Toy Soldiers is to defend your Toy Box (or base) from waves of attacking troops. Let too many troops past your defenses and you lose the battle. As with any tower-defense game, placement of your units is critical to your success. In Toy Soldiers, you are limited to placing your stationary weaponry in predetermined fixed locations, which may irk some experienced tower-defense gamers. However, you can install barbed wire on most paths or roads, so if placed properly, you can funnel your enemies right into your units (or cause them to become sitting ducks). The barbed wire is also useful for blocking the main entry to your Toy Box.
Weapon units in the game include machine guns, mortars, howitzers, anti-aircraft weapons, and chemical weapons. As you would expect, each weapon has strengths and weaknesses, so placement and utilizing them at the proper moments are the keys to success.
What makes this game different from some other tower-defense games, which offer only a passive experience, is that you can take control of the various stationary weaponry at your disposal and individual vehicles, including a Red Baron-like bi-plane, bombers, and tanks. In fact, controlling these units directly is usually more effective than the AI. While individually controlling most units is fairly simple, air combat requires a little more patience. The bi-planes’ controls are a little cumbersome, but they make sense given that you are flying a low-tech bi-plane with a machine gun mounted on front. Players can also make use of snipers, but I did not find this unit particularly useful during my playthrough of the campaign.
As you progress through the game, you will unlock upgrades for your weapon types that will allow you to increase their range or damage output. Additionally, you’ll find all of your unlocked weapons in your Display Case, where you can review their potency.
Each enemy unit that you destroy will earn you money so that you can either buy, upgrade, or repair weapon stations. You will also need money in order to place barbed wire. Hitting a series of enemies in a row can result in a multiplier, which will earn you cash quicker. Destroying the enemy’s stationary weaponry will allow you install your own weapons in their place.
The single-player campaign mode offers 24 levels, each featuring a distinct battlefield and objective. Some levels will focus on tank battles and dogfights, while others will be an all out blitz. On certain levels during the final wave of enemies, you will have to prevent a boss such as the Uber Tank or The Zeppelin from reaching your Toy Box. Additionally, at the beginning of each level, players will be presented with a special objective, which if completed, grants players a Ration Ticket that can be redeemed for special in-game camera effects.