Review: Tiny Troopers

TinyTroopers

Games designed for iOS devices that are then brought to other platforms have an advantage that typically can’t be said for the opposite.  By that I mean, a game designed for a keyboard and mouse or game pad often faces the difficulty of being brought to iOS devices which offer limited input options by comparison.  The age old question of do virtual analog sticks and buttons actually work on a screen that can’t provide any tactile feedback just doesn’t apply to a game once it is brought to PC, where it can have two or three ways to be controlled. The question that does apply, however, is whether or not the game is better for the additional inputs.

Developer Kukouri has stepped up to the plate with a Steam version of their iOS title Tiny Troopers, and I’m happy to say that they have knocked this version out of the indie ballpark.  The premise is simple: Command two or more soldiers through various battlefields, taking out infantry, towers and tanks while collecting hidden medals and intel.  On iOS the player taps to move in the desired direction and taps on an enemy to toggle a sticky lock-on until the enemy is dead.  In the Steam version, movement can be done by left clicking and then shooting by holding down the right mouse button, or using WASD keys to move while shooting with the left mouse button.  A third option (which I didn’t try because I don’t have a gaming laptop) utilizes the touchpad and keys.

Missions in the game are relatively short due to the original nature of the game being from the iOS ecosystem where games traditionally need to be played in “snackable” sessions.  While short, they vary enough by rotating out objectives and presenting each map with a unique strategic layout.  Most missions boil down to killing every enemy and vehicle in sight, but some branch out from there to include objectives like escorting journalists and surviving the occasional horde rush.  What sets this game apart is the fact that it is an odd mix of quick play, strategy, and action-shooter, all played out on a rich, cartoonish battlefield.

The fact that the soldiers you lead into battle resemble background characters from South Park is only enhanced by minimal voice work throughout the game.  I can’t help but feel a bit giddy (in a sick, demented sort of way of course) whenever I hear an enemy trooper screaming out in gurgling pain after he has been mowed down by my squad.  Troops shout out cliched phrases like “Stay frosty!” but when mixed with the cartoon look of the models and the high-pitched voice work it’s hard not to crack a devious smile.

The game is segmented into three sets of 10 levels and each level can be played on three different difficulty levels.  Each mission starts out with a purchase screen where money earned from the previous mission can be spent to upgrade armor, weapon damage and accuracy, and to enlist additional specialized soldiers to your army.  The specialized soldier classes bring additional weapon types to the team, including things like grenades, rockets, and air strikes. (These different weapons can also be found randomly from dead enemies or hidden within a map.) The one downside is the cost for each of these upgrades is fairly high compared to how much money is earned during any particular mission.  Die early in a mission after spending all of your funds to upgrade, and all that money and all those upgrades are gone for good.

My one minor complaint about the game is that the mini-map doesn’t seem to scope to the same level as the actual game field.  The map looks like a black and white satellite photo and the scale of where the troops you control in relation to any given objective highlighted on the map doesn’t quite line up with the actual movement of troops on the battlefield.  To exacerbate this problem, the camera view doesn’t scroll beyond the field of view of the troopers.  This makes sense, but at the same time the game feels like an RTS and I’ve been conditioned to be able to move the mouse to the edge of the screen and have the camera continue to move out of the view of the troops I’m controlling.  This is only a small gripe, but one that I found myself getting caught up on as I would constantly want to move the view of the camera to be able to see what’s ahead in game versus trying to guesstimate with the mini-map.

Steam achievements add an additional level of replay beyond the three levels of difficulty for each map and while I can appreciate that the developers provided additional, if somewhat artificial replay options, this game is a perfect example of a polished one-time 6-7 hour indie experience that’s easy on the wallet and entertains from start to finish. Tiny Troopers looks amazing at 1920×1080 and offers enough strategy and upgrades during the first full playthrough to keep gamers interested without feeling like they are simply grinding to reach the end of the game.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Fun blend of action and strategy
+ Leveling system for units and weapons
+ Cute art style

Cons:
- Upgrades don’t carry over to the next level
- Game view doesn’t scroll past characters

Game Info:
Platform: PC/Mac (previously released for iOS)
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Developer: Kukouri
Release Date: 8/24/2012
Genre: Action/Strategy
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.