Reviewed on: PS3
Do you remember Cannon Fodder? That lovely little isometric squad based shooter with charisma to spare from the early 1990’s? It sure seems like developer Kukouri Mobile Entertainment do and in Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops they’ve crafted an enjoyable if pedestrian pseudo-homage to Sensible Software’s blaster of yesteryear that is best enjoyed in short bursts.
Containing both Tiny Troopers games that originally made a splash on mobile devices over the last couple of years; Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops is a responsive, lo-fi looking twin-stick shooter in which the player is tasked to guide a squad of miniature soldiers to victory across some fifty-eight different missions.
Like Cannon Fodder, Tiny Troopers allows players to direct multiple soldiers around a map and have them acting (and shooting) in unison. Equally, just like Sensible Software’s beloved classic, if a soldier falls in battle they’re pretty much gone for good, though here if you fork over the necessary amount of hard-won medals, they can be resurrected.
Conversely, reviving fallen soldiers is also something that players are encouraged to do, as the higher rank a solider becomes from completing missions, the more health they have and thus they become a more valuable asset as a result.
Success in Tiny Troopers comes from shooting a set amount of soldiers, demolishing a set number of buildings or destroying a set number of vehicles. Essentially, every mission pretty much has you killing a set amount of something. Some of the sorties deviate from this template however by giving you NPC’s to escort or on-rails sections in a vehicle, but overall, the game could certainly stand to having more variety in its missions than it presently does.
This somewhat disappointing lack of variety is something that permeates deep into the game itself too, as just about every enemy in the game can be vanquished fairly effortlessly by strafing in a circle around them whilst firing in their general direction. The efficacy of this tactic is such that it works equally well on big, hulking tanks as it does lone rookie enemy soldiers, with the only difference being how long it takes for them to bite the dust from your bullets.
Somewhat predictably, the token zombie mode manifests itself in Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops as an endless survival mode where the player can rack up points until they’re overwhelmed, but its presence largely fails to freshen up the template which is established elsewhere.
In addition to the mission objectives, other distractions appear on each stage for players to grab such as dog tags for additional score or medals that can be used to unlock extra soldier classes or revive fallen soldiers. Score in particular has uses beyond mere bragging rights too since it’s effectively a form of currency, it allows the player to unlock new upgrades for their soldiers in the form of increased damage, better armour and faster movement to name just a few.
Score can also be used to purchase additional troops for you to take into battle, but quite honestly, the level of challenge in the game is such that paying for extra soldiers never really seems to be a worthwhile pursuit.
Another use for score in Tiny Troopers is in how it can be used to purchase various care packages which can be dispatched to your squad in their hour of need. Such care packages can include anything from medi-kits to extra grenades and rockets, but for the most part, the game is fairly generous in providing such supplies around the map so such purchases are generally not required.
While score can be accrued easily enough with multipliers, collectable dogtags and other such trinkets, it can also be reduced too. If civilians (or their chickens – don’t ask) are caught in the crossfire, you can expect to lose between 50 and 250 points a time for each death, regardless of whether it was you who fired the shot or not. Annoyingly, the game’s auto targeting system can sometimes prove finicky; at times locking onto a lone villager amongst a squad of enemy soldiers and thus robbing you of points when accidental shots are fired.
Believe it or not there is actually a story of sorts in Tiny Troopers, but for the most part it doesn’t do a whole lot other than frame the action. Told through a series of light-hearted cut scenes after every eight or ten missions, they do a decent job of imparting the game’s quirky and almost quaint humour but ultimately it’s inconsequential fluff for the most part.
Given the game’s mobile origins, it comes as little surprise that Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops is an experience that’s best enjoyed on Vita. With its easily accessible gameplay and bite-sized missions that can be nailed in anywhere between two and fifteen minutes, the game is perfect fodder (no pun intended) for early morning commutes, lunch breaks or any other spontaneous periods of non-productivity that might arise. To this end, Tiny Troopers support for Cross-Buy and Cross-Save features proves to be much appreciated, as progress made at home on PS3 or PS4 can be resumed on the move with Vita and vice-versa.
Furthermore, the game also gives players the choice to use the touch screen controls that the mobile versions of the game have supported, but really, unless you like being intensely infuriated, you’re much better off sticking with the responsive and hassle-free physical controls.
In terms of aesthetics, the game’s basic, yet functional visuals are supported by cute and quirky looking soldiers and starkly colourful, if somewhat small, maps for the player to shoot about in. In sticking so close to the original mobile versions of the game though, some frustrating technical limitations become apparent and chief among these is terrain traversal. One such example is when you discover that your squad can only travel along flat ground or gentle inclines, it’s not uncommon to realise that you have to make your way around the entirety of the map just to reach an area at the bottom of a seemingly gentle and easily navigable hill.
So while the game doesn’t stray very far at all from its mobile origins then, folks should hopefully be enthused to know that the in-app purchases from the Android and iOS versions of the game are nowhere to be found in Tiny Troopers debut on PlayStation platforms. Here, progress is dictated by player skill and not by the size of their wallet.
Though it remains far too much tied to its mobile origins to stand out amongst other shooters, let alone survive direct comparisons to Sensible Software’s magnum opus, with its modest price, accessible bite-sized levels and sizable content offering, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops stands as an enjoyable, if ambitiously tame shooter.