Toy Soldiers did quite well on XBLA last year when it was released. A bit of a sleeper hit, it sold almost half a million copies and gathered quite a following; so much so, that Microsoft decided to put the sequel, Toy Soldiers: Cold War, in their coveted Summer of Arcade line up.
At its core, TS:CW is a tower defence game. The idea is to strategically place turrets around the map in order to prevent the opposing side from reaching your toy box. I say “toy box” because that is exactly what it is. The whole map is a model battlefield with various toys and 80’s paraphernalia scattered about the field of war. With things like cassette tapes and Rubik’s cubes lying about, it really adds some nostalgia to the proceedings. The soundtrack also adds to the atmosphere, with the title screen music sounding a lot like the theme from Top Gun.
To start off with, your weapons arsenal is pretty slim, with only a handful of turrets to choose from; but these are fine to help you get the job done. The tutorial level will ease you into it, but if you have played the first game, you won’t have any problems knowing what to do. Turrets can’t be built just anywhere on the map, only in certain placements. There are also two different sizes of placements, and although you can build things like gun, anti-tank and mortar turrets in either placement; turrets for larger weaponry, like anti-aircraft turrets, can only be put on the larger placements. This really adds strategy to the game and means you really have to think hard about what to put and where.
You also gain money as you destroy the enemies, which you can then use to build new turrets or repair damaged ones (your enemies will attack the turrets as they come into range). But saving money will improve your final score, so try not to be too flash with your cash.
Placing turrets is just one thing you can do to protect your toy box. As with the original, you can enter a turret and control it yourself. This is a must if you want to make it through the later levels, because even though the AI can handle the turrets quite competently, there is nothing quite like a human brain for mowing down soldiers. It is also how you activate two of the new features introduced in Cold War.
Whenever you take control of a turret, you will earn the right to build up combos; the more enemies you kill, the higher the combo. As the combo builds up, it not only increases your score multiplier, but also unlocks bonuses. The first is unlocked when you reach 20x combo; its called Turbocharge and will not only increase the power of your turret, but also gives you infinite ammo, which means that you won’t need to reload, giving you a great chance to hit the next bonus. Barrage is unlocked when you hit the 40x combo and gives you a perk to use in combat.
By pressing the Y button you can call in a bomb raid or an artillery strike or even your very own Rambo to control. There are several Barrage bonuses to unlock and use as you progress through the game, but Rambo is, by far, the best. When controlling him you can fire guns and rocket launchers simultaneously and listen to him shout Rambo quotes at the enemy; it is hilarious. The barrages don’t last that long, so it is best to save them for when you are in a tight spot and then try and get the most out of them while activated.
Also, as with the first game, you can control vehicles on all the maps. There are tanks, choppers and jets. The Chopper is the best of the three, but only appears on a few levels; both the tank and the jet can be a bit cumbersome to control, which normally wouldn’t be so bad, but in one case you need the use the jet to defeat a boss. The vehicles are unlimited, but you will only find one type on each map. You also have to watch the battery level, or you will crash and burn. You need to make sure you land on a charge pad and wait for it to juice back up before using it again.
The game itself is a meaty beast, boasting eleven single player missions, 6 mini games, a survival mode and online multiplayer. The multiplayer can be either co-op or versus. In co-op, you team up with a friend and take on the enemy; both can place and control turrets, but there is only one vehicle, so only one of you can control it.
Versus is where the fun is really at though; you each pick sides and attempt to take control of your opponent’s toy box. You have to work quickly and cleverly to win at this, because not only do you have to think about what forces to send over, but also what turrets will be best to defend. Both cost money, which means you have to be really smart with your available funds. Both modes work fine online, with little to no lag.
Another thing that adds longevity to TS:CW are the leaderboards. In each mission, there are medals and distinctions to earn, and these add to your final mission score. As you finish a mission, it will show you how well you have done compared to your friends; its easy to compare and means that you will probably end up going back to try and beat their score. There are also five difficulty levels, so the completionist in you may want to try the harder settings for a really, really tough challenge.
Toy Soldiers: Cold War is a very fleshed out game; with plenty to keep you occupied for hours and hours. That said, beneath it all it is still just a tower defence game and as such, may not appeal to everyone.
However, if you were even a little bit entertained by the first game, you will absolutely love Cold War. It has the gameplay you loved, but now with enhanced multiplayer and lots of extra modes, it really does add to the original and is well worth the 1200msp asking price.
Review copy provided by publisher. Both versions played through completion.