Tiny Troopers takes aim at making war cute

There’s a theory that because of video games, movies, and television, we’ve all been over exposed to violence and no longer view it seriously. Perhaps nothing better tests this theory than a game like Tiny Troopers, a war game that mixes puddles of blood and piles of bullets with cute visuals and quirky humor. Is it innocent or offensive? Is it clever or insensitive? Most importantly, is it good?

Chillingo’s latest title puts you in control of your own personal squad of soldiers as you take on missions in attempts to wipe out enemy hostiles and eliminate the terrorist threat. There’s thirty missions to play through, all with considerable amount of content and selectable difficulty. Tasks are well varied: sometimes you’ll be freeing hostages, while other levels have you performing escort for imbedded journalists. While your objectives are displayed prominently on the map, you’ll be served will by searching around and exploring as much as possible because there are plenty of hidden items scattered across the foreign land.

The miniature militia of Tiny Troopers is controlled with taps to move and to target, with drag controls for using special items like grenades and rocket launchers. Combat is smooth–you can shoot and attack while on the run, or stand in place for a more focused attack. It’s easy to navigate through even the stickiest of situations with a few taps. The one thing that would be a welcome addition would be some type of formation options, but the game works just fine without it.

Before going into each mission, you’ll have the ability to purchase some upgrades and reinforcements that will serve to save your squad from being overwhelmed by enemies. In the middle of a mission, there is an option to call for items drops via helicopter. Anything from health to weapons can be airlifted to your location. It’ll definitely come in handy in some of the later levels.

Tiny Troopers

Every time you finish a mission successfully, your troops will gain rank. Those troops stay with for as long as you keep them alive, with their rank displayed prominently above them. When they die, they’re gone forever and you start with some new recruits. While this should make you feel attachment to your veterans, the rank really doesn’t feel like any benefit, and there seems to be little difference between standard troops aside from their names. It was a good attempt to make it feel a little more heavy when a character died, but it fails in its execution–especially considering you can purchase upgrades and specialists for every mission regardless of normal troops’ rank.

The real pain of death comes not from the loss of one of your soldiers but at the loss of command points. This is your currency in game, and when your troops die you lose their collected cash. So when you head into that level where you have to demolish some building and you’ve no money for explosives, you’ll wish you had those hardened veterans back on your squad. This is where the in-app purchases comes in, and it’s a pretty solid way of making you buy into it. Rather than force it on you directly, they just make it extremely appealing to have that extra fire power, which is far easier to acquire with a little real world cash. It’s tricky and a little irritating, but rather smart as well.

Tiny Troopers

The subject matter obviously isn’t as cute as the graphics, and some moments in the game really play to the seriousness of the topic. The game tries to add weight to the lives of your own soldiers, but also has moments that feel a little too “real” for the game. Gunned-down enemies leave behind a sizable pool of blood, and there are occasionally moments where a shot combatant will still be alive on the ground, asking for a mercy kill. Because of the cartoony feel of the title, it feels funny–dark, but funny.

There are some very slight issues with this title, but they are anything but debilitating. Because you cannot control troops individually, you’ll occasionally have one get stuck and have to go back for him. The temptation of in-app purchases are made much stronger because of the permanency of death, and the humor of Tiny Troopers is definitely not for everyone. All of that said, this is an excellent title. It’s a blast, the controls are smooth, and the missions are unique. Tiny Troopers heads into the trenches and emerges victorious, as this is one war you won’t want to pull your troops out of.