Tiny Troopers

The iPhone is full of great little games that put a casual take on hardcore genres.  This is especially true of modern military shooters and the countless simple army games on mobile devices.  In the case of Tiny Troopers, the developer Kukouri tossed aside the gritty realism that permeates most “Army Guy” games, and made a simple, cute game that put players in command of a squad of child-like soldiers who shoot people and blow stuff up.  It was ported to the PC recently, and is an example of why a game can be great for one platform but still be mediocre for another.

Tiny Troopers works well on the iphone.  It consists of 30 short missions with simple objectives, that can be played in a few minutes. Players are given a small squad of adorable soldiers who move in unison, and can fire machine guns or use special weapons like grenades and rocket launchers. A typical mission involves clearing patrolling enemies while progressing to a specific point on the map, then blowing up something at that point.

It’s basic action gaming, and includes a few variations to shake things up.  Sometimes there are escort missions, sometimes a powerful boss, and there are frequently innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.  Hit one of them (Or an animal) and players loose “Command Points” which serve as the game’s currency.

The way Tiny Troopers handles currency is one of the better aspects.  These Command Points can be used to buy temporary buffs that last for one mission (Extra damage, extra range, etc), but can also be used to augment the squad with a Specialist.  Each specialist has a unique set of abilities, like a Medic who heals, or a grenadier with extra grenades.

The Command points can also be earned mid-mission, and spent to call down supply drops of healing supplies, extra ammo, or reinforcements if the team loses a few members.

Sadly, when a squad member does die, that can be a big problem.  Each member of the team will level up after a mission or two, and if they die, they are dead for good, and replaced by a first-level character. The missions get challenging fairly quickly and its possible to lose powerful characters due to a single mistake (Or a quick experiment with the hard mode).

These deaths can occur in quick and unfair ways. The combat is based on the tactic of constantly moving to avoid enemy fire, while simultaneously returning fire.  However, the PC version of the game uses the mouse to mimic the touch screen tapping of an iphone interface.  Left click to move the squad, right click to fire. This makes it hard to move and fire at once, while still selecting and aiming special attacks.

Enemies can also attack from off screen, and this is especially unfair when the interface blocks part of the bottom of the screen, leaving the Player at the mercy of enemies who can’t be seen, or targeted accurately.  New enemy types can also appear to suddenly wreak havoc on the squad, thus killing off leveled-up characters quickly, before the Player has learned how to deal with the new threat.

Tiny Troopers is also rather short.  Those thirty missions will take about four hours to play through.  On a mobile device, this is a great way to spend a few minutes at a time killing bad guys, but on the PC, the whole thing can be played through in one afternoon.

There is incentive to replay levels, though.  Any mission can be replayed on different difficulties to gain more Command Points, or to locate hidden medals that grant additional bonuses, but the repetitive nature of the missions might prevent PC players from running through the game a second time.

Tiny Troopers is clearly a fun game for its original platform where it can be grabbed for .99¢.  But on the PC at ten times that price, it isn’t such a good investment except for players seeking a simple game for short play sessions.