This past week I had the pleasure of visiting the Microsoft Game Studio offices in Redmond, Washington, where I got to see and play Toy Soldiers, an upcoming XBLA exclusive. Here's our hands-on look at the title.
Everything about the game extenuates the theme of "Toy Soldiers," those little army men you may recall as a child, not the green ones a la Toy Story, but the classic toy soldiers. These little soldiers run across a hill as enemy soldiers open fire on them with an equally toyful machine gun turret. Violent in every way imaginable, the polystyrene men flying off in every which way is amusing in the most playful sense. This feeling of cute, cartoony destruction is incorporated into every aspect of the game, from the menus and sounds to animations and gunfire.
The good people at MGS sit me down and start a new game, beginning with a brief tutorial mission. It looks spectacular, using stylized graphics that further the "toy soldier" elements. At first, it looks like the Toy Soldier is a more combat-oriented take on your standard tower-defense game, but after taking control of several different weapons, I realize it's so much more than that.
Instead of the standard place-towers-wherever-you-like approach most tower defense games take, there are specified areas that are available for the placement of the varied weapons, including machine guns, mortars, and more. This is where Toy Soldiers sets itself apart from the everyday tower-defense game, allowing the player to take control of the defensive placement to stop enemy soldiers, planes, and tanks from entering your base.
I place a machine gun turret toward the front and a mortar launcher near the middle of my defensive grid. The timer at the top of the screen has been counting down, and is about to strike zero. It does, and a swarm of enemy soldiers came running down the hill in front of me. I quickly select my forward-most machine turret, switching the view from top-down to third-person, and pour on the hot lead.
The first wave in ruins, I to switch over to a mortar launcher and take out some stragglers. The mortar is devastating to enemies near ground zero, and I laugh as I watch them fly through the air and explode to pieces. The mortar launcher even features a "Shell Cam" that, when activated, follows the shell out of the launcher onto enemies below. Slight adjustments to the mortar’s trajectory can be made while using the shell cam, though users are obviously vulnerable.
My time with Toy Soldiers proves that the team has put a ton of effort into keeping the gameplay fresh and inventive. The sheer number of game boards, enemies, defensive placements, and controllable vehicles create such an immersive environment that losing track of time is a given. Toy Soldiers is shaping up to be one of the greatest XBLA games ever made, and one of my most anticipated titles of 2010.
Toy Soldiers is scheduled for release late Winter/early Spring 2010. As of this writing, no price has been announced.