Tiny Troopers Review (PC)
If Tiny Troopers sounds familiar, it may be because it’s already on your iPhone. The popular mobile game from Kukouri Mobile Entertainment has finally made the jump to PC. Sound strange? Maybe, but being an RTS based off of old favourites like Cannon Fodder and Commandos, perhaps it’s only fitting that this RTS has made a trip to its motherland.
Players control a squad of soldiers who can shoot their way through 30 different missions in enemy territory – ranging from taking out hostiles to rescuing hostages to escorting journalists. While firepower might seem like the central mechanic to the game, it’s not. In true RTS fashion, firepower is only a result – the true path to success is managing your resources, or in this case specifically, Command Points.
Players are allotted CPs for killing enemy soldiers, or finding collectable objects within levels. These points can then be used at the beginning of each mission to prep your squad with weapon and defensive upgrades, as well as to purchase additional members for your squad. There are also options for buying extra help mid-mission as well – be it airstrikes, ammo, or health.
Combat is straightforward, boiling down to pointing at clicking at enemy targets, with soldiers mowing down their targets in a hail of bullets. The player controls their units as a single group through hostile territory. The group moves smoothly, with no members getting hung up on geometry, or suddenly taking a meandering tour of the area. However, the control scheme was not without its hitches. Trying to control unit movement while simultaneously aiming at targets with the mouse proved to be frustrating when battles became hectic. Fortunately, a WASD movement option was recently added to Tiny Troopers, improving player control in firefights significantly.
There isn’t a lot of variation in combat. With no class differences, or ability to control and position units separately, tactics are very limited, so it’s easy for the game to fall into a repetition of point and click. Even specialist soldiers, who can be hired on to the squad, usually employ the same weapons that players can find on missions. There is little diversity in common enemy tactics as well. Infantry enemies are cannon fodder. Their questionable strategy incorporates coming at the player single file, making squads easy to defeat by simply holding your ground and shooting.
Fortunately, there are other enemies that help to provide a needed change of pace. Suicide bombers are always dangerous fun to tackle. (Did I really just write that sentence?) Brandishing an arsenal of dynamite, they chased down my squad in firefights in like a fatalistic Benny Hill tribute. Camouflaged soldiers are also a constant threat. Suddenly ambushing your squad from out of the trees, they can quickly turn a deceptively easy fight into a much more challenging one.
In the end, mission successes hinge on what bonuses or weapons the player selects before each level. Make a mistake and be prepared to have your sense of progression wiped away. CPs spent on a failed mission are gone for good, along with any leveled squad members, and it’s easy to suddenly find yourself too poor to afford a crew that can successfully complete a level. Rather than being able to learn from mistakes and try new tactics in the level, I often had no choice but to grind through old missions with a skeleton crew until I had enough CPs to afford the necessary upgrades/ soldiers I needed to complete a the mission properly. It’s a drastic sidestep that risks turning players away, especially early on when they are still getting a handle on the game. This repetitive nature might not be so bad for a mobile game, which people use to pass the time away in doctor’s office or on the bus, but sitting down at the computer to play involves a lot more attention and investment from users. It’s much easier for players to turn away to something else if they get frustrated.
On the art end of things, Tiny Troopers looks fantastic. Originally, I didn’t have high expectations for a game making the move from a tiny mobile screen to a full-sized computer, but there is a lot detail in the environment. Textures are appropriately colourful, and the lighting in night missions is unexpectedly elegant. Things can begin to look a little jagged around the edges playing at a 1920×1080 resolution, but that’s to be expected when moving to a significantly bigger screen.
Because of the rich detail, maps are fun to explore. Unfortunately, the games isometric camera can hinder the player during fights, not shifting over far enough to show nearby adversaries. A lot of fire comes from off-screen, making it difficult to aim at targets. The HUD doesn’t help in this matter, often shielding up attacking enemies from view.
Character designs are reminiscent of Worms – small and cute, and somewhat unsettling for this very reason as you watch them die, twitching in pools of their own blood.
+ Challenging enemy specialists
+ Eye-catching environmental design
+ Smooth squad movement control scheme (WASD only)
– Repetitive combat
– “Lose everything” punishments may drive away players away early on
– Camera often hinders ability to see attacking enemies
If you are looking for a light RTS game that embodies the spirit of classic games such as Cannon Fodder, Tiny Troopers could be what you’re looking for. However, repetitive combat and non-constructive punishments may make it hard to stick around.