At first, Toy Soldiers fans -- like me -- might be disappointed at how much the gameplay in Toy Soldiers: Cold War resembles the original title. Although the concept is still miniature soldiers fighting in dioramas to protect their base from waves of attackers, the setting has changed from World War I to the Cold War. But the weapon types are the exact same, on the exact same position on the controller. 50 years of the most dramatic developments in weapons technology history has ever known, and we're still building chemical gas defenses? "So it's just a skin job," we sigh, settling in to play anyway because Toy Soldiers was a nifty little tower defense game, so how bad can it be? Little do we know what we're in for.
Soon enough we discover the dramatic effects of upgrading a weapon, the additional scoring tricks, the turbo bonus for unlimited ammo, how the new vehicles essentially bust open the gameplay, and the awesomely overpowered barrage powers. At which point we feel a bit foolish for worrying that this was just going to be more of the same. We gradually realize what a crazily generous, full-featured, and over-the-top energetic game this is. And we're all, like, "Yee haw!" In fact, that's my two-word review: yee-haw! I'd write it in all caps, but I don't want to be more obnoxiously ebullient than I already am.
But what about those of you who weren't already Toy Soldiers fans? Do your eyes glaze over at the prospect of yet another tower defense game? If so, I have two things to tell you. The first is that this isn't just a tower defense game. Toy Soldiers encourages you to get in there and shoot, playing it like an action game with a crazy spread of hands-on weapons and vehicles. Developer Signal Studios manages to infuse their games with a remarkable amount of action-game kick and infectious grin-inducing enthusiasm. The original game managed this despite its quaint buttoned-up World War I setting. But there is no such restriction in Cold War, which revels in 80s cheeseball action as surely as Ronald Reagan reveled in defense spending. You'll range from Vietnam to the steps of the White House, fending off the men and machines of the 70s and 80s, including some wildly imaginative bosses. You've never fought a submarine vs. aircraft carrier battle quite like you'll fight here.
The second thing I want to tell you is that Toy Soldiers: Cold War has everything you could want in a tower defense game, and then some. So let's try a quick exercise. I want you to think of something that should be a great tower defense game. Because I'll bet you dollars to donuts it's in here. You want an easy way to replay a failed level without having to slog through the whole level again? It's in here. You can rewind through as many waves as you want for a do-over, resetting your progress to just before everything went pear-shaped. You want minigames? They're in here, in spades. And they're not just cheap set-ups from the main game. You want challenges and alternate strategies on each level to encourage replay? You got it. Level up the unique challenges for each map and fill your decorations case. You want high scores and leaderboards and frequent reminders how you're doing in comparison to other people on your friends list? They're in here.
You want co-op? Of course you do. This is exactly the multiplayer game you're looking for, with co-op in every mode. Need help in a campaign mission? Bring a friend. You want an endless survival mode, playable with a friend online or in splitscreen? You got it. You want a head-to-head mode, playable online or in split-screen, with different weapons for each side, and the option to spend your money on defenses, offensive waves, drivable vehicles, or superpowers? That's all in here. In fact, I'm about ready to call the versus mode a bona-fide real-time strategy game.
It's already very nearly an action game. You'll drop napalm from an F-14 Tomcat, guide massive Soviet rockets, spew guided missiles from an Apache helicopter, and man the guns on a Spectre gunship. You'll run around as Rambo, mowing down everything while hollering amusing Ramboisms with a voice that sounds more like Homer Simpson than Sylvester Stallone. You'll call in a tactical nuke. Does that sound like a tower defense game?
But really, why quibble with genre in such a generous package? If you buy just one tower defense game this year, well, knock yourself out. But if you want a really good action game with some tower defense, some great scoring challenges, some wonderful multiplayer support, some great graphics, and a wonderful sense of humor, you can't go wrong with Toy Soldiers: Cold War. Yee-haw!