In unnamed parts of the world, British soldiers do battle against drug lords, terrorists and those like them. They’re all small in nature, but pack quite the punch within the confines of their top-down battlefields. This is Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops, an Xbox One port of two popular mobile games that previously made the rounds on Sony’s three platforms.
Like its name suggests, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops takes large-scale warfare and miniaturizes it. The player controlled soldiers are tiny, and so are their enemies, while the buildings and vehicles that threaten them exist as toy-like designs. It’s cute, albeit dangerous and very explosive.
As a port of two different mobile outings, Joint Ops contains two full campaigns; one bearing the Soldier title and another that is referred to as a Spec-Ops outing. A general storyline starts in one and continues through the other, featuring the same band of characters, including a hard-as-nails but somewhat dumb general, his goofy assistant and some caricatured soldiers.
Needless to say, the story — which is told through some basic animated comics and middling to forgettable voice acting — isn’t all that important here. It’s there to drive the action throughout the game’s sixty-some-odd-levels, but it’s not involved or anywhere close to deep. All you really get are the characters sounding off about what they’re up against; something that happens all too often during celebrations of their previous efforts. You see, war never seems to end in this Tiny Troopers universe, and after one problem is eliminated another one simply takes its place.
Both campaigns are told over the course of three or four acts, and each one offers around seven to ten missions to complete. All of the game’s missions are quite brief, though, coming in at an average of three to seven minutes in length. Some last a bit longer, but they’re rare, which isn’t a surprise given that this originated in the mobile space, where short burst entertainment is key.
So, what are the missions like? Well, they’re almost all quite similar, as it isn’t until the second campaign that variety really becomes available, and even then it’s not all that common.
Most of the time, you’ll be walking throughout grassy, desert or snowy tundra, engaging in battle against the enemy throughout villages and bases. Your objectives will usually pertain to doing one or two different things, those being escorting journalists from one point to another, destroying buildings or SAM sites, or taking out every enemy (or enemy vehicle) in the area.
Later on, vehicular missions will come into play. There are only a handful of them, but they infuse some variety into what is otherwise a relatively repetitive game. In these, you’re the gunner atop a military vehicle and must protect it from harm. This means shooting enemies and blowing up vehicles before you’re nearby. If you’re damaged, you’d better hope that there’s a repair box that can be shot out, or you’re looking at a quick death.
The player controls one to three different soldiers, all of whom are both named and expendable. I say that because, every time one of your heroes dies, he’s gone for good unless you have enough medals to revive him. Medals are limited, and must be picked up as collectibles during missions, so you won’t always have enough in stock in order to save your favourite from perishing. And, with him, you’ll lose his rank, which goes up with almost every completed mission and helps determine how many hit points he has.
Hit points are nice to have in any game, and when you’re up against a lot of foes like you are here, they’re especially handy. Moving generally protects you from gunfire, but you can’t avoid every bullet, and enemy tanks love to fire explosives that can have large damage zones. These are generally one-hit-kill attacks within close proximity, but if you’re just on the border only some of your life bar will be taken.
It is, however, very easy to lose soldiers to explosives and landmines (which are usually easy to spot, but can be hidden in devious locations, like just in front of collectibles). Thankfully, med packs and speed boosts (which up your soldiers’ slow pace for a short amount of time and also heal them a bit) can be purchased at one’s whim, with the same being true of rocket launchers, air support and basic grenades.
All of the above will be required to dispatch of the enemy, within this points-based experience that awards for kills and destruction, but detracts whenever a civilian (human or avian) is caught in the crossfire. Prepare to do a lot of moving and shooting, too; both of which are handled by the controller’s joysticks in twin-stick shooter fashion. Enemies can be taken out with some well-placed bullet fire, but larger installations and vehicles are easily destroyed with a shot from your limited supply of explosive weaponry.
Mechanically, things are fine, albeit a bit slow. There are also a host of upgrades that can be purchased for your soldiers (who carry forward from one campaign to the next), although they quickly become very expensive. By the time I’d completed Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops, I was about level three of six (or so) in most categories, those being aim, range, rate of fire, damage, body armour, speed and starting rank. Of course, the latter only comes into play whenever you lose a trooper and a new one spawns.
There are also different types of camouflage to buy, and some of those can up your hit points and/or help keep you out of the line of sight of enemies. Hell, there’s also a few that give you extra credits at the end of each completed objective. You’ll want to invest in one or two of these, but should mostly focus on upgrades, while keeping money available for in-mission purchases of both medicine and rockets. Don’t even bother spending any of your medals (to unlock) or credits (to purchase) the special classes that can be obtained, because what the game doesn’t tell you is that they’re only good for one mission.
Rounding out this package is a zombies mode, which is basic but entertaining in short bursts. It pits you against waves of zombified foes (including green chickens, hulking mini-bosses and spitting undead), and your objective is to survive for as long as possible. There are at least twenty-five different waves to contend with, and each one gets more difficult, as you can imagine. Plus, as you progress, the different maps will allow you to earn additional troops who all have better guns than the one you started out with. They can all die separately, though, so be careful, as even though you walk in tandem — as is true of the core game, too — who gets hurt and by how much is all dependent on the individual and his location.
Overall, there’s a pretty decent package here, and it carries a fitting asking price of $9.99 USD. There’s nothing to really write home about, but if you’re looking for a game of this ilk, and want something that can be played in short bursts, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops isn’t a bad buy. It starts off slowly, and you may hate it at first, but it picks up and becomes enjoyable once you get the hang of things.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops exists as a console port of two similar mobile games, which bring with them basic but relatively enjoyable gameplay. If you're looking for something simple and not so taxing, this isn't a bad buy for ten dollars.