Kukouri and Iceberg Interactive’s Tiny Troopers is not a sequel to Small Soldiers, the late Phil Hartman’s last movie about toy soldiers come to life due to being installed with military software. I found this realization slightly disappointing, but girded myself to enter the trenches of this mini war-game. What I found was that war… really never changes, even when the soldiers fighting look like vinyl one year olds with beards and mustaches painted on their faces.
Armed with between one and four miniscule marines, Tiny Troopers is a top down, point and shoot, carried over from the games first release on mobile platforms. Troop movement is performed by left clicking, shooting by right, and special weapons (grenades, missiles and air strikes) with a ctrl-click. Occasionally, my troops would get stuck on terrain, but simply clicking the ground closest to them and allowing all the troops to gather would unstick the stuck fairly quickly.
Split between a series of 30 missions, you guide your wee weapon-wielders around a fair sized map, often with the goal of simply killing all the enemy infantry or destroying enemy fortifications. About every ten missions, Tiny Troopers also like to throw in a survival mission, placing the small-scale servicemen in the center of a circular map, while enemy infantry surround them in waves. As the missions progress, more special soldiers are added into the enemy ranks, from bright red rapid fire machine gunners, to the binocular sporting, aerial strike commanders. There are also three difficulty levels available; each difficulty level adds more enemies to the opposition, and they hit a bit harder. Chosen prior to being deployed on a per mission basis, they offer between one and three stars (i.e. more points) as a reward at the end of the level.
Before every outing, single-mission only upgrades can be purchased using points accrued during previous missions. Since everything nets you points (killing other tiny troops, blowing up enemy emplacements, collecting Intel, or even disarming WMDs), there’s never a reason not to purchase some of them with every go. I found the rapid fire magazines to be the most useful, and at a very modest 5k points a use, I never went into a mission without them.
Also made available on as a single mission purchase are specialists, each coming equipped with either a number of otherwise readily available by airdrop special weapons, or a unique bonus, such as the Commando’s rapid fire machine gun. With the ability to purchase these specials for the entire squad, the only specialist worth its weight in points is the medic, as first aid kits are rather rare. Their ability to heal the other troops without requiring a med kit to drop made some challenges ridiculously easy.
If your diminutive death dealers survive the level, they can be granted a promotion, which gives a boost to stats like HP and accuracy. Also, scattered throughout most missions, minus the survival outings, are medals. Collecting these allows you to purchase permanent stat upgrades for your petite peashooters, as well as higher starting ranks for any replacement runts needed to fill the ranks when one of your troopers die.
Tiny Troopers is a nice looking game. Even when played on low settings, everything looks clean and simple, matching the aesthetic it looked like the designers were aiming for. The desert looks like a desert, just not a gritty, sandy desert.
Where I run into a problem is with the design of the tiny troopers themselves. On the mission select screen where they are present close up, they look very much like the vinyl dolls that clearly inspired Modnation Racers. From the top down mission perspective though, they look like babies, waddling along as though they had just learned to walk, and squeaking out phrases like “Stay Frosty” ad nauseum, all while blasting their enemy counter parts into little bright red blood pools. All I could picture while playing this was my own 16 month old, dressed in camo fatigues and chewing on a cigar, with an M-16 in one hand and a handful of Teddy Grahams in the other. Needless to say, I found the troop design more disturbing then cute.
Unfortunately, Tiny Troopers is a bit on the bland side, and is much better reserved for mobile devices then the PC. On mobiles, the quick nature of each map broken up between sittings could give the appearance of fun, but when strung together, any play session longer then one or two missions is very repetitive and by the numbers.
Combine that with the unnoticeable stat progression, and nothing ever seems to change or get better. I found myself often going over the entire map out of habit rather then amusement and curiosity, not really caring if I found progression medals or extra point goals along the way. Maybe I have come to expect too much from my budget titles, or maybe it was blowing through the 30 maps in three hours, but I am left with no desire to go back and try the harder difficulties.
I really can’t recommend Tiny Troopers for the PC. Even ignoring my own issues with the trooper design, I think the publisher’s are asking a lot and not delivering enough for the $9.99 price tag. While the controls are tight and responsive, I think this title is one better left to the quick play opportunities of the less expensive mobile market.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!