Title: Toy Soldiers HD
Developer: Signal Studios
Release Date: December 31, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Accelerate Games
Toy Soldiers was one of the most notable titles for the Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360. Long before services like the Microsoft Store and Game Pass we have today, the digital marketplace on Xbox consoles involved features like Microsoft Points and a free playable demo for every single game. Many of those inclusions are gone, but Toy Soldiers has made a comeback after numerous delays, this time in HD and on multiple gaming platforms.
What’s most charming about the game is its presentation. It presents World War I as toys and figurines, the kind of toys your great, great grandparents had in their collection and are probably worth a lot more money than your sealed Wii U games. These are the toy soldiers you play with, and they come in all shapes and sizes. However, they’re not just for show; these finely crafted goods pack some mean firepower too. The old-style tunes and classic World War I-style propaganda artwork bolster the vintage presentation.
The unfortunate aspect of the experience is that despite being on several platforms, you’ll be lucky to find anyone playing it online. Sadly, it was impossible to find an online match-up at the time of this review, and the situation will not improve, although the Steam community will likely fare a little better.
It’s a far cry from the attention the game received during the heyday of Xbox Live Arcade, so unless you have friends reasonably close by to have a smooth private match with, chances are you’re going to step into a server ghost town. That being said, there is a split-screen multiplayer mode that gets the job done nicely.
Still, it isn’t all multiplayer, as Toy Soldiers HD comes with a sizeable campaign mode that recreates several battles and moments from the war, allowing players to assume various armies from each side of the conflict. The single-player gameplay is primarily a tower defense affair, as you build and place units to survive wave after wave of enemy units. The main objective is to prevent enemy troops from entering your toy box. No one wants to mix up toys in the same box, and no one should have to share their toys either.
The gameplay feels straightforward, but the strategy gets more interesting with each new mission. New units are unlocked, and existing units become upgradeable. Strategy comes down to placing units in the right spots and upgrading the right ones. It’s also about knowing when to sell a unit to replace it with another.
Unlike most strategy games, where you sit back and watch everything happen, Toy Soldiers requires more player input. Cash is needed to pay for units and upgrades, and the fastest way to earn cash bonuses is by manually controlling a unit and attacking enemies head-on. This can be fun, especially since each unit plays quite differently. With faster cash generation, more units can be built and upgraded. Yet watching the AI do its thing can be pretty slow, and you can’t earn those cash multipliers either.
Missions progressively get more challenging, and while the gameplay variety doesn’t change up too much, the map designs can be interesting. Additionally, the occasional boss battles add a rewarding challenge and twist to the usual tower defense approach. There’s no shortage of missions here, though the single-player design eventually runs its course.
Toy Soldiers HD is a competent preservation of a classic Xbox Live Arcade Game. Even with an HD coat of paint, this release feels far less memorable than the game we saw over a decade ago. The single-player has plenty of content enhanced by a uniquely charming presentation and art style. Still, the tower defense gameplay can only stay fresh for so long before it runs thin. There’s hardly going to be an active online community for this one, so unless you’ve found some players to connect with, there won’t be much to keep you hooked.
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