reviews\ Jan 4, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Army Men: Soldiers of Misfortune - NDS - Review

Before 3DO shut its doors, it was were the publisher of the Army Men video game series. While never a series that received much acclaim, Army Men was not unlike the Dynasty Warriors games: entertaining in the beginning but eventually killed by gameplay, graphic and scenario rehashes (plus a number of glitches that seemed to grow with each sequel). Regardless of its demise, the fond memories remain. After all, these are the toys kids played with before and long after more advanced "action figures" hit the market.

Army Men: Soldiers of Misfortune is Zoo's attempt to carry on the Army Men legacy. Built for Nintendo DS, this pocket-sized shooter is as portable as the toys the game is based on. That, unfortunately, is about the only good thing that can be said about the title. Though you may be lured by the Army Men name or whimsical box art, do not be fooled: this is not a game for kids, Army Men enthusiasts or anyone else.

Let's start with the controls. The developers must be fans of Metroid Prime since they tried to base their touch mechanics on the DS version. Using the D-pad to move forward and back, the player can run and walk in a straight line. Pushing left or right makes your character, a young boy named Timmy, turn in that direction. To get him to strafe (or more specifically, to make him walk in a box), you'll need to hold down the L button. Tap the screen to attack using a kid-friendly weapon (think darts, foam balls or other goodies you'd expect a kid to have) and hold the R button to switch weapons.

Sounds pretty basic, right? It's close to the industry standard, for sure, but in setup alone. The way these mechanics play out is a whole other story. Most significantly, the D-pad movement and touch screen shooting are tremendously poor. You'll get Timmy to move around the room but not for long: in addition to stiff D-pad movements, the game is littered with bad camera views that can't be changed and bad level structures that are hard to navigate. If you're an experienced gamer, you've probably played enough shooters to get by, albeit with anger and frustration building every minute.

In trying to shoot a plastic adversary (who moves so slowly you'd swear he really was made of plastic), you'll discover that this game lacks an accurate aiming system. Consequently, you can tap the screen as accurately as you like - hit the enemy perfectly every time and still fail because the game interprets the shot as being less than perfect. It's these kind of moments that really infuriate players.

Don’t take flight. Don’t ever take flight.

The horribly low-tech level designs would have been tolerable had they been structurally sound. But alas they are broken; the house and playroom environments are little more than cardboard boxes drenched in 15-year-old textures. Add to that a lousy camera that is permanently locked in a bird's eye view -- the background stretches around as you move Timmy -- and you've got a shooter that is next to unplayable.

Review Scoring Details for Army Men: Soldiers of Misfortune

Gameplay: 3.0
A cumbersome and often convoluted third-person shooter that doesn't play or feel like the previous Army Men games.

Graphics: 1.0
Timmy (the main character) is a glitchy sprite while the backgrounds have a faux 3D appearance. You'll interact with the backgrounds, making your brain think the game is three-dimensional. But your eyes won't believe it.

Sound: 1.5
The sounds of footsteps. Endless footsteps! The same footstep sound over and over again. (Plus annoying music in the background.)

Difficulty: Easy
It may be easy but the frustrations make it very difficult to play.

Concept: 5.0
Timmy is far from the coolest kid on the block, but the prospect of a kid battling his own toys is somewhat interesting. The backgrounds, while hideous with an overly dated engine, could have been impressive had they been produced with better graphics and a more sensible structure.

Overall: 3.0
Nostalgia-seeking gamers may be tempted by Soldiers of Misfortune, if only to relive the good-old days of Army Men gaming. But those days can only be relived by playing the original Army Men; this newfangled (and disappointingly mangled) sequel does not deliver.


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