I can’t really recall my childhood really well, but I do remember playing with those little plastic soldiers.
Now, while my method of play was pretty clean, some of my friends added a little bit of sadism to their soldiers: tying M-80s on their backs, frying them with a magnifying glass, you name it. Last year 3DO released a realtime strategy game called Army Men which incorporated these toy soldiers we all grew up with. While I never had the chance to play the original, I did get a chance to test out the sequel, Army Men II, which although it is definitely nothing new, it is still fun to play.
Army Men II begins in one of the most unusual battlegrounds I’ve ever known: the kitchen. Taking the role of the Sarge, you must lead your team of Greens (green plastic soldiers) to the portal leading back to their home world. However, in addition to the danger presented from the surroundings (fiery hot burners which can actually be controlled through shooting the switches) the ever annoying Tan Army is also lying in wait to stop your advance. Roaches add madness to this fun and disorienting opening level.
Once back in the real world, the game appears similar to other real time strategy games in the usual war surroundings. But what is different in this game compared to other RTS titles is that you only have control of one group of soldiers, with the most of the control directed towards the Sarge character. Included weaponry, besides the standard issue rifle, include a bazooka, hand grenades, a flame thrower, paratroops, and a magnifying glass (perfect against those pesky aforementioned roaches.)
Control of the troops is also reminiscent of the classic Cannon Fodder, where you primarily direct where the Sarge goes, but you also have the ability to send your other troops out, in addition to having them hold their current position or rallying them around the Sarge for protection.
As you progress in the game, your troops get more weapon types, and you will also face vehicles on both land and sea. PT boats, tanks and jeeps are enough to round out any adult child’s fantasy army.
The simplistic game play and graphic engines won’t really do much to arouse the senses, but it does help to make the game run on lower end systems; definitely a plus in this day of Pentium II minimum system requirements. Also, 3DO has added a lot of nice touches to the overall game, like the ability to burn trees which in turn melt enemy units, or mortar fire that explodes barrels and burns houses.
Army Men II is a great choice for someone who loves RTS action, yet does not have the money to buy a killer Pentium II or Pentium III rig. This title gets 3 Â½ Gems, with the extra Â½ bonus points coming from the low system requirements. Kids will love the game on its own merit, while adults will recall a simpler time when happiness was tying a firework to the back of an enemy troop. Ah, I love the smell of gunpowder in the morning!