Super Trench Attack is a joke. It's a decent joke, certainly one that was meant to be funny instead of the unfortunate product of poor design, poor planning, or both, but it's also a joke that doesn't quite know when it stops getting a laugh. It's like a stand up comedian that knows he's beginning to lose the audience, but just keeps pushing forward, never adjusting because that's just not part of the material he has prepared.
A mix of Dr. Katz animation and a World War I Hogan's Heroes, Super Trench Attack follows a new recruit into the Green Army. I named mine Mac. Involved in a war with the Black Army, Mac's arrives just after the BA rolls up on the GA's beach using an invasion plan similar to the one used at Normandy. Given a gun, a health kit, and a kick in the butt, Mac's journey through the horrors of war is of the Rambo trajectory; he is the problem solver, the one man army, an indispensable weapon of Green justice.
It's this single-warrior-does-it-all-conceit that serves as the drive through the whole story. It's the main theme and the central joke, and it's effective because no one ever really admits that it's happening. The drill sergeant that teaches you the combat basics at the beginning of the game constantly refers to you as a fumbling rookie, and soldiers in the field trade bullets with the enemy as though you were not simply going to stroll through, dropping fools left and right.
This “Real War meets Unknowing Action Star” works until the second half when the female base commander is captured, and then [TROPE ALERT] the story shifts from taking on the Black Army for the sake of the war, to “we have to rescue our dear commander and you're the only one that can do it.” In the back of my mind, I'd like to say that I expected something like this to happen, but given the first half's go-get-the-Black-Army attitude, the move from war tale to princess in peril was both a surprise and huge let down. It shouldn't have been, given the action hero motif, but I would be lying if I said it didn't just rip the wind right out of my sails.
The gameplay also loses its way as the game moves into the latter half. It's a simple system, built around using your mouse as the crosshairs and the keyboard for general movement, but there's not enough depth to keep it intriguing the whole way through. What few concepts there are between point and shoot deal with precision, making things like head shots and foot shots both a very real and very useful thing. As silly as it sounds, the foot shot is the quickest way to handle soldiers with riot/tower shields, making it easy to charge them with your dreaded, clothes cutting, combat knife. Beyond that, combat is simply point, click, shoot, repeat. Normal sequences are sometimes broken up by neat Hogan's Alley type shooting areas, but these are few and far between.
It doesn't help that the AI is of the “walk towards the shooting end of that gun” variety. Alone, or even in small groups, Mac faces very little difficulty in dispatching the standard trooper. The situation becomes more perilous when you face groups of shield bearers, or the dreaded “Fat Soldier with a shotgun who is difficult to take down because he is fat.”
I do have to say that boss battles are handled quite well. There are not a lot of them, but they tend towards the unique and include some of the more hilarious dialog in the game. Conversations between Mac and the Black Admiral were an early game highlight, as he is just unable to comprehend just how badly he gets beaten.
Mac gains experience as he fights, with each level gained culminating in a skill point for a very basic skill tree. There are some real useful abilities to put points into, like regenerating health, and stronger weapons, but they're doled out slowly, and with no way I saw to redo your choices, there's not a lot of room to experiment to see what works and what doesn't. I found the regenerating health to be the most helpful by far, but others may find some hidden gems if they're willing to grind out levels for additional points.
For the completionist interested in doing absolutely everything, Mac's tent has a medal box which serves as Super Trench Attack's achievement system. The majority are milestone achievements, which you get after completing story missions, but there are others that have to do with lighting all the torches on the beach, or collecting furniture and enemy tchotchkes. Looking at those, and realizing that I only collected like 3 pieces of furniture out of something around 20, tells me that there is some depth if you choose to look for it.
With it's “throw everything at the dart board to see what sticks” approach to humor, and it's lack of combat appeal, there's not much I can recommend about Super Trench Attack. What started as an original take on war turns into your standard run of the mill action game, and at that point, well, there is no point. Super Trench Attack ends up as a casualty of its own war.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!