Toy Soldiers is a tower defense game, although none of its promotional materials contain the words “tower” or “defense.” This was probably a calculated decision, as the tower defense genre is overcrowded with copycat clones and mediocre me-toos. But for classification purposes, Toy Soldiers is tower defense. It’s also one of the good tower defense games, so fans of the genre will want to check it out (there are tower defense fans out there, right?).
Players return to their days of youth spent lying on the bedroom floor, reconstructing epic battles with plastic toys strewn from wall to wall. This isn’t a realistic war simulation. Instead, you’ll find cartoonish, exaggerated soldiers that explode into plastic bits and gigantic table lamps looming over the battlefield. Your goal on each map is to defend your toy box from wave after wave of oncoming troops and vehicles. To do so you build defenses at specific build sites around the map. In order to build you have to be able to afford the construction, and money is earned from every kill.
One feature that sets Toy Soldiers apart from other tower defense games is the ability to take control of any towers and mow down the enemy on your own. You can zoom-in to the weapon’s point of view, use the left stick to aim and the right to fire. There are also opportunities to pilot powerful vehicles like bombers and super tanks. In this way the game is well-suited to both thoughtful, strategic gamers and those looking for a more action-packed experience. On the hardest difficulty, though, your towers won’t fire on their own — if any enemies are going to be defeated, it will only be at your hands. That means you have to constantly jump from tower to tower, and if you take a break to build something, no bad guys are being killed. Good luck with that.
While Toy Soldiers boasts impressive vistas and epic conflicts, your arsenal is pretty meager. There are only six units at your disposal, meaning your strategic options are somewhat limited. I understand if the developer was going for a more streamlined, action-focused strategy game, but I could have used more variety to work with.
Despite this minor gripe I found Toy Soldiers to be quite enjoyable and was always eager to see what the next level had in store. The maps are all varied and every few stages you’ll have to defeat an impressive, giant boss. There are specific secondary objectives on each map that encourage you to try different techniques you may not have thought of. For instance, you may be asked to save up a certain amount of money or snipe a target number of soldiers.
Zooming around the battlefield is a breeze thanks to an optional bird’s-eye view and the ability to speed up your cursor by holding the left trigger. But while down in the battlefield I found the fixed camera angle a little inadequate at times. You can swing the camera around in 360 degrees and tilt it up and down — to a certain degree. But I would have appreciated more control to get a feel for my surroundings.
Toy Soldiers includes a two-player versus mode, 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. It’s a fun little diversion that will extend your Toy Soldiers experience a short while after you’ve completed the campaign (which will take you several hours on normal difficulty).