|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Signal Studios|
|Pub: Microsoft Studios|
|Release: August 17, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence|
by Josh Engen
Toy Soldiers: Cold War is the sequel to last year's Toy Soldiers, a game that took parts of the tower defense genre and parts of the third-person shooter genre and threw them into a blender. The result was a quirky World War II title that proved popular with critics and gamers alike. TS:CW has taken the formula from the original and simply turned the clock forward by a few decades.
Essentially, players are given a godlike view of the map and are tasked with constructing towers that will obliterate wave after wave of tiny enemy solders. None of this should be unfamiliar to the seasoned tower defense player. However, what makes the Toy Soldiers franchise different is that players have the ability to manually operate these towers. Sure, the towers will automatically shoot the incoming enemies, but their effectiveness skyrockets when a player gets behind the wheel. Directly controlling the towers also allows the player to rack up bonus points, which can eventually result in special attacks like artillery barrages and the Commando.
The Commando is a good example of TS:CW's characteristic sense of humor. He looks like a pint-sized Rambo who dual-wields a rocket launcher and a machine gun. Pocket-Rambo gives players unlimited firepower for 30 seconds while he blurts out 1980's action movie clichés. Thus far, I've logged about ten hours in Cold War, and The Commando makes me giggle every time he shows up. I doubt he'll get old any time soon.
1980's-themed elements, like the Commando, are widespread throughout the game. VHS tapes are strewn across the battlegrounds. Soviet-era fighter jets are constantly trying to bombard your defenses. And players can create makeshift towers using fireworks, matches, and aerosol cans (remember aerosol cans?). All of this adds to the clever mixture of nostalgia and levity that makes Toy Soldiers: Cold War a particularly entertaining title.
At first I was a little concerned that TS:CW was overly similar to the original Toy Soldiers title. Even though the setting has moved from WW2 to the Cold War, the weaponry has essentially stayed the same. The graphics are often almost indistinguishable from those of the original, and only minor changes have been made to the controls. So, for fans of the original, TS:CW might initially seem like a glorified expansion pack. However, it soon becomes clear that this is not the case.
Even though the motif and graphics are similar, TS:CW has far more depth than it's predecessor. Upgraded towers and additional bonuses create a more complex system of money management than the original. Players rake in extra cash if they dispose of the enemies more quickly. However, your cash must be spent wisely in order to obtain the appropriate amount of firepower for any upcoming waves, while still saving enough to pay for repairs and rebuilds. Players are also given bonuses for any money that is left over at the end of the round—a prize that the United States military could never hope to win.
The new vehicles also add a unique strategic tier to Cold War. Consistent with the toy soldier motif, each vehicle is battery-powered and must be delivered back to its charging station before it explodes (just like real-life battery-powered toys). Like the Commando, the vehicles give players an extraordinary amount of firepower for short bursts. Without them, defeating bosses is impossible, so it's a good idea to save them until you absolutely need them.
For my money, the real fun of TS:CW is found in co-op mode, but I'm a sucker for a good co-op game. Cold War allows players to connect either locally or via XBox Live. The best part is that, while most multiplayer tower defense games only support a versus mode, TS:CW allows co-operative players to take on the entire campaign together.