We all know that it’s the year of the ARPG, also known as the Diablo Clone, but did you know it’s also the year of the Cannon Fodder clone. Hot on the heels of the release of Cannon Fodder 3 (a sequel more so than a clone) comes Tiny Troopers. The troopers in question follow each other in a line and snake their way around simple battlefields shooting at middle eastern-ish enemies. The Cannon Fodder clone isn’t exactly a genre I want to be awash with so does Tiny Troopers stand out from the (admittedly thin) crowd to become the messiah of a largely irrelevant style of gaming?
Sorry to say but Tiny Troopers isn’t much more than a mildly entertaining diversion. Which I suppose isn’t a bad thing but it’s just not that great. I have to say I much preferred my time spent with the racist Cannon Fodder 3 than Tiny Troopers. I think this is mainly due to Tiny Troopers starting its tour of duty as an iOS game which makes the game exhibit an overwhelming simpleness throughout. In fact Tiny Troopers originally lacked the directional key’s for movement and mouse for aiming control scheme Cannon Fodder-likes are known for and attempted a mouse only control scheme. The right-click to queue up move orders flew in the face of arcade combat as it was almost impossible to dodge bullets and shoot with any of the urgency required. Luckily a WASD control scheme was sanely patched into the game. This by no means makes it perfect but certainly pushed it out of the “Fuck, this is annoying to play” territory into the “This is kind of mindless fun” area.
One place Tiny Troopers has something up on Cannon Fodder 3 is in the graphics and art style department. Good clean lines and an attractive South Park inspired aesthetic makes the game look fresh and tasty. The troopers look much better than the frankly upsettingly weird and rude looking soldiers from Cannon Fodder 3. This game also spares us any bizarre CGI opening movies. The “bigness” of the design is obviously a symptom of being an iOS game, big ole’ touch screen buttons in the UI and units that are literally about the size of a finger held up to the screen. Big basic visual design isn’t a bad thing when it looks as nice and attractive as Tiny Troopers and the game is a pleasure to look at.
One thing that isn’t good to be basic and is also symptomatic of coming from an iOS background is the level design. While they look good enough they are bone-dry boring. Your troopers will slowly move around small sparsely populated maps which are all incredibly similar in feeling. The game also has an annoying habit of making you move to an extraction area once you have cleared the objectives (which are almost always kill all the enemies or destroy all buildings) but you have already cleared the level so you just slowly trudge back across already covered ground. There is a bit of exploration required in finding “Medals” to unlock training for your troops but the maps are so boring and plain that there is no wonder or excitement to this.
The gameplay itself is also overly simple and again this is clearly because the game was originally meant to be played on a touch screen. Enemies slowly tumble towards you, so you move sideways and shoot them and then shoot the buildings and tanks you see with rockets/grenades, rinse and repeat. It’s a slowed down, plodding version of Cannon Fodder, which might be great if you were playing it on you iPad (because you were really lame and you know, played games on an iPad) but on a PC there is much more scope for finicky and frenzied action. And that scope is realized in the much more enjoyable Cannon Fodder 3 where the action is exciting, varied and most importantly fun.
Tiny Troopers approach to unit upgrades and re-enforcement is much better than Cannon Fodder 3’s. Unit’s still level up over time, and that experience is all instantly lost when a trooper dies but you can also spend points gained during missions to upgrade units as a once off for the next round of destruction. Things like upgraded health and armor are available for every mission as well as the purchase of additional troops as you unlock them during the course of the game. It’s a nice system that actually adds meaning to the “points” you collect for killing enemies. You can also spend them during the mission to buy the equipment and weaponry you need as you need it rather than waiting for random power-ups and ammunition in Cannon Fodder 3. In this regard Tiny Trooper comes up trumps.
If you are in the unlikely position of fixing for a hit of Cannon Fodder-like action your best bet is with Cannon Fodder 3 rather than Tiny Troopers. Tiny Troopers has a pleasing presentation and a couple of nice ideas but its core gameplay is too slow, boring and clearly iOS based to be much fun to play. Maybe if I was playing it on an iPad it might get a higher score, but considering that won’t be happening any time soon I’m giving Tiny Troopers a 2/5.