We are in a gaming world where the intellectual property rights to old beloved games remains under lock and key, but the legal lines are drawn in such a way that, every now and then, a game appears which uncannily walks and talks just like one of the hall-of-famers, but has no ties with the original developers. A copycat, in other words. All of which means that gamers of a certain age will find something distressingly familiar about Tiny Troopers.
There are so many elements lifted wholesale from Sensible Software’s ’93 stone cold classic Cannon Fodder that I don’t know where to begin. It’s a top down squad-based shooter, cartoonish in style, with the objective to guide your unit through the war zone and clear it of enemy units and structures. Your boys are armed with machine guns, but extra ordinance can either be found strewn about the levels, or purchase directly with ‘command points’, the requisite in-game currency, more of which is earned through completion of missions and collection of items like dog tags or intel packets strewn across the battlefield. Also available for hire are specialists like the grenadier or medic. Fortunately the game is possible to beat with the basic setup, but the option is there if you feel the need for a bit of extra firepower. Another collectable is medals; cash these in for troop training, allowing your new recruits to enter the fray with a higher rank straight away.
The graphics are pleasingly of a high standard; each squad member is uniquely rendered on the mission briefing, ready for action as a chopper swoops in to deposit them onto each level’s vibrantly coloured pseudo 3D landscape. A range of display modes are catered for, and the game can be run windowed if preferred. Sadly the camera angle is fixed in such a way that forces approaching from the bottom of the screen can be obscured and can rudely get the drop on you.
In a fondly-remembered mechanic again lifted from Cannon Fodder, each unit is individually named, and once they bite the bullet they’re gone for good; a fresh recruit takes their place, and their fallen comrade enters the hall of soldiers past. In practice this just means that any experience your guy has built up over the missions (reflected in his increasing rank) is lost, but psychological impact of this is nevertheless a little tangible, as everyone who mourned after Jools and Jops can attest to.
Marshalling the troops is equally identical; they are controlled as one unit, moving where they are clicked to and shooting any enemies which are also clicked. Unfortunately, in a flaw it shares with dungeon crawler Torchlight, kill commands don’t lock; if the button is pressed, your guy will fire off a few rounds, but won’t finish the job unless you keep clicking that mouse. Admittedly this behaviour is also lifted from its inspired parent game, but it’s redundant and there’s no reason for it here. In addition to this, sometimes the pathfinding goes a bit screwy and causes a sole private to hit a snag and go wandering into the line of fire. Aim carefully, as the engagement areas often have citizens wandering about, and there are penalties for friendly fire.
Sound design can’t be faulted, the explosions are hefty and the atmospherics of crickets and faint radio chatter in the night missions are great for tension. Another aspect it shares with Cannon Fodder is the seemingly inappropriate but arguably ironic attitude it has towards the notion of war itself. Your men chirrup little acknowledgements like ‘stay frosty’ and ‘hoo-rah!’ in a gung-ho yet chipmunk style, yet some enemies lie writhing, bleeding and wailing on the ground if you fail to finish them off. It can sometimes be a little jarring given how the rest of the game presents itself.
Hardened RTS veterans may be disappointed at the lack of depth on offer here; this is an iOS port and it shows. There just isn’t much more to it than guiding your platoon across the map and ridding it of opposing forces, with some occasional escort missions The entire campaign can be cleared in a few hours, and while there are a range of difficulty options available, as long as you have enough command points to get new gear / reinforcements parachuted in, you won’t be facing too much of a challenge.
This is not the first recent game put out that borrows certain elements from more successful games, but it definitely feels like the most blatant. While the sentiment of paying tribute to a fond-remembered game of yesteryear is appreciated, it doesn’t quite come together.
Lock 'n' load, little ones