|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Signal Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 3, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Signal also took some historical liberties that make the game more interesting, pitting you and your troops against giant mechanical monstrosities (at least some of which are based on actual German design plans for impossible fighting machines that were never made) that serve as the game's boss encounters. Luckily, you get Whippet and Big Willie tanks (French and English armored cavalry, respectively) that help to even the odds.
The inclusion of the tanks (as well as the relative authenticity of the game's maps to actual WWI battles) makes for sometimes-uneven difficulty. There are times when you will be pinned down against opposing, entrenched forces with only a few unit spaces available (at which point you'll have to switch back and forth between tanks and building or maintaining what little arsenal you have), while other times you'll be stacked against an enemy force that, if you play your cards right, won't even touch you.
Toy Soldiers never gets truly difficult-even when the Germans start sending out simultaneous infantry and ground or heavy weapons squads-but most of the time it keeps you on your toes. Then again, there are plenty of times when you're mopping up the battlefield in a Whippet or a Big Willie, blasting incoming infantry, and gassing or using flamethrowers out its sides on any stragglers. Still, it's interesting that it doesn't always necessarily increase the difficulty in a standard slope.
Maybe the most fascinating thing about Toy Soldiers, however, is its underlying message. People have made a game of war arguably since time immemorial, but by placing such acts of horrific, sadistic violence (again, gas and fire come out of the sides of your tanks)-by making it fun to watch as enemy units explode in little chunks of plastic-the game seems to exemplify in a particularly salient way the complicity we subconsciously have to a broader cultural obsession with violence. I always appreciate it when a game that touches on some cultural commentary, whether it's obvious or not. And given how entertaining it is to "play war" in the setting provided here (and believe me, it is) is proof that sometimes violence isn't as much about what is shown-in a game as much as anything else-but what isn't.
CCC Freelance Writer