Xbox Live’s Block Party kicks off with Toy Soldiers. Toy Soldiers is a tower defense game. If you have been watching the trailers and following the press you might not have known this. I’m sure with good reason the PR team behind the game decided to exclude this information since there is an over abundance of tower defense games already on XBLA. When tower defense is done well and made to feel fresh again, it can be a lot of fun. Signal Studios has done this with their first XBLA release, Toy Soldiers.
The campaign allows you to experience 24 action packed missions playing as both the Allied and Central armies. Your goal on each map is to defend your toy box from wave after wave of oncoming troops and vehicles. This is done by building different defensive structures on specific build sites. Each map has a set number of areas where you can place your defensive structures, so you have to chose wisely. To be able to build you have to be able to afford the construction, and money is earned from every kill. The main feature that sets this apart from other tower defense games is the ability to control of any structure and take out the enemies on your own. You are able to zoom-in to the weapon’s point of view, use the left stick to aim and the right to fire. As you progress you also gain the chance to pilot airplanes and drive tanks as well. The easier difficulty provides a lot of fun for the casual player. As you increase the difficulty the game presents you with a real challenge. When set to the hardest difficulty, the towers no longer fire on their own. This means you know have to be able to bounce around to each one in order to take out the enemy. The bosses in this game are larger toys in many forms such as a huge tank, a railroad gun, and a zeppelin aircraft. Once the campaign has been completed, you then unlock the survival mode where you fight against countless waves of enemy toys desperately trying to defeat you. Also included is a two-player versus mode. This is playable locally in split screen or online. Here, each side sends waves of soldiers at the opponent with the Y button, but they also have to build units in order to defend their toy box from the waves being sent by the opponent. Toy Soldiers offers a lot of different options to players and should provide hours of entertainment.
The game stays true to its name and provides a toy like feel to all the models. The environment looks and feels like a WWI recreation someone would have in their basement. The backdrops for each level are painted on a piece of wood and certain areas are open so that you can see the rest of the room. The character animations are one of my favorite parts of the game. The soldiers have a look similar to the plastic toys but feature exaggerated animations. This really adds a lot of fun to the feel of the game. Seeing a soldier firing a gun at enemies while bouncing around in the seat was a nice touch. The sound effects are done well and help add to the feel of the game. While getting close to what war might sound like they also manage to keep the effects close to what plastic figures exploding would sound like. The music selection was excellent. Period specific music plays during loading and helps carry the WWI feel into the game.
Toy Soldiers is the best tower defense game on XBLA. It takes a genre that over time has continued to grow stale and brought new life to it. There were plenty of times that I was playing and never even thought it was a tower defense game. If you have been a bit skeptical about picking this up, at least give the demo a try. This is an excellent XBLA release and already one of my favorite games this year. Toy Soldiers is available now for 1200 MS Points.