Developer: Kukouri Mobile Entertainment
Publisher: Wired Productions
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Arcade, Action & First Person
Release Date: 21st of December, 2017 (EU & NA)
Time to don your camo gear, arm up and head out soldier, this is the Tiny Troopers Joint Ops XL and there is a war to win. Prepare to fight side by side with your squad, dodging bullets, calling in an airstrike or break out the big guns and send in the Special Ops. The road ahead is an arduous one but through perseverance, we will see victory.
Created by Kukouri Mobile Entertainment, Tiny Troopers Joint Ops originally released on PS3, PS4, PS Vita and XBox One back in November 2014. Now the Twin-stick multi-directional shooter has made its way to the Nintendo Switch, courtesy of Plunge Interactive and Epiphany Games, and it is most definitely a welcome one. Though Tiny Troopers got mixed reviews on PC and some that were pretty unfavourable for PlayStation versions, It did score mainly positive reviews for its mobile version. The story of Tiny Troopers Joint Ops XL is one typical of most war games, you take control of a small team of soldiers in one faction and you must eliminate the enemy soldiers of the opposing faction. With 3 campaigns and over 70 missions to sink your teeth into. These missions are bite-sized and usually last around 3-5 minutes which is pretty handy when playing on the Nintendo Switch when out and about. The objectives on each mission are relatively straightforward and normally consist of eliminating all enemies on the field, destroy enemy buildings or vehicles, rescue prisoners or protecting journalists.
When starting and finishing a campaign, you will be sometimes treated to some comic book style cut-scenes complete with voice acting to help tell the “story” of the Troopers in their fight against the insurgents. It is full of pop culture and movie references like Apocalypse Now and Black Hawk Down and has a somewhat ‘Hit and Miss’ sense of humour that might tickle your funny bone one moment and at other times, leaves you thinking ‘Was that meant to be a joke?’
Being a third person action-arcade shooter, the battleground is laid out in front of you from an isometric top-down perspective, which allows you the player to see if there is anything hiding around corners as opposed to typical third person games that have the camera follow directly behind the lead character. The actual layout of the game looks just as good on the big screen as it does in handheld mode, the special effects like the explosions and character animations give the game energy and you do become engrossed in the game. There is a slight let down, and it is that your characters look somewhat like polygonal South Park characters. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing but with graphics becoming smoother and smoother with each generation of consoles, it seems like a slight step back. Then again this is a port of a Mobile game so I can let it off seeing as everything else looks pretty good.
The sounds of bullets zipping through the air, dynamite and grenades exploding and airstrikes whistling overhead as they descend upon you do give the game some realism, even though it is supposed to be a “kid friendly” game with funny looking avatars instead of realistic properly proportioned human beings. The cutscenes which feature voice acting is very crisp but sounds somewhat hammy at times. The delivery is fine but for a game about war, it does takes itself a bit too lightly. That’s not too much the actors’ fault but the script itself probably won’t be winning any awards soon.
So, as regards to gameplay, I do feel like it does offer something pretty solid. I have always preferred RTS over turn-based strategy as I am not much of a time-taking thinker but more of an instinctive doer, immediately reacting to situations rather than sitting back and pondering what my next move is. You control 1-3 soldiers in your troop unanimously along with the occasional Spec Ops mercenary unit who can join your team for one mission. You can move, command and access options either with the buttons or using the Switch’s touch screen though I very rarely used the touchscreen at all as it is much easier to play with the standard controls of the Switch.
Both Joy-sticks are used with the left to control movement and the right to take aim at enemies but it isn’t just enemies you can take aim at so do be careful. Innocent bystanders and even chickens can fall victim to an itchy trigger finger which can cost you points. Points that you gain by completing objectives like eliminating enemy units, collecting dog tags and medals. You can increase your score even more so by chaining eliminations to increase the score multiplier to double or quadruple the amount of points you earn. Between missions, you can use these points to upgrade your weapon to increase, damage, accuracy, rate of fire and range you can also increase your foot speed and body armour to lessen damage received or if you are looking to quickly rank up soldiers, you can do that too. You can also purchase different uniforms to make you stand out from the standard crowd. Being the British patriot that I am, I easily went for the Team UK uniform, but there is also a Team USA & Team China uniform too.
Lastly, you can buy special units to help you out in battles for a one-time deal. They can be a little pricey but if you are struggling on a mission, they can come really handy in a pinch. Of course, you can’t just purchase them straight off the bat. No, no, you have to unlock them first by using the medals you have collected in missions. The Medic requires around three medals before being unlocked and Delta Force units require 5 medals just to be unlocked. Before you go spending your Medals Willy Nilly though, they also have another purpose. To revive your soldiers that have been KIA. They can be brought back to fight again but only if you have three medals to spare and you can only revive them there and then. If you don’t revive them straight after the mission, you will lose that unit forever (Oh Chief, may he rest in peace). If they had not been a highly ranked unit, then it is not too much of a loss but you don’t want to start losing your best star ranked troopers after serving with them throughout multiple campaigns. If you decide not to revive a unit, you will be granted with another to take his place, oh well, life must go on and unfortunately, so does war.
When fighting the good fight, you are not just limited to your rifles, you can also use grenades, Rocket launchers and airstrikes as well. Each special weapon has its own button and can either be collected on the field or purchased and airdropped via the sub menu activated by pressing X. From this sub-menu you can also purchase other items like med packs, intel to tell you where enemy units are hiding, a speed boost or if things are really dire, you can call in airborne troops to help pick up the flack after taking casualties.
There are three main campaigns which make up the bulk of Tiny Troopers and they come from previous instalments on Mobile platforms: Tiny Troopers and Tiny Troopers Spec Ops. There is also a Zombie campaign as well along with a Zombie Horde mode where you start of with a single unit and have to keep fighting to survive whilst collecting weapon drops and rendezvousing with allies to help in the fight. Zombie Horde is different to the main campaigns because its just you and a random unit as opposed to the other actual campaigns that allows you to use your own troopers that you have been playing with since the first campaign. Each campaign is broken into several sections with about 6-10 missions in each. You can choose the difficulty setting for each mission before you play by selecting the number of bullets in the lower right-hand corner. The fewer the bullets, the easier the mission will be. In the Zombie campaign, some levels actually require a certain number of bullets before they unlock so if you want to unlock all the levels, you may have to be brave and take on the harder difficulty settings.
When starting Tiny Troopers for the first time, you will have to play through the tutorial which teaches you the basics on how to fight and defend yourself whilst following basic instructions like following markers that could lead you to a target or the extraction point. With your basic training out of the way, the rest of the game is now opened for you to take on at you own pace.
It does work well on the Nintendo Switch and it’s bite-sized missions can be completed in small doses which is ideal when you are on public transport and you don’t have enough time to try and find a power moon in Super Mario Odyssey or find that elusive shrine in Zelda: Breath of the wild but 3-5 minutes is all that is needed to finish one more mission to get that last medal needed to unlock that Gatling gunner you have wanted to get your hands on. But, as with many Mobile to Switch ports, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops XL does have a list of problems. So what does Tiny Troopers falter on you might wonder? Well, there is no customizing your avatar beyond changing uniform, you can’t even change names. It’s not a big deal but with pretty much all games over the last few years having this option, it does seem a shame to not have it in this one. Then again, if you are not very good at the game, you don’t want to be changing character names every 5 minutes because yet another soldier was killed in action.
There is no multiplayer mode, not even a co-op option that you could enjoy this game with a friend. That is a bit of a shame because Tiny Troopers could really benefit from multiplayer as it would open up more strategic tactics and allow you to surround your enemies as opposed to constantly being surrounded. There could have even been a mode where you compete against each other to complete objectives like gathering valuable intel or eliminating the enemy officer. There is no reason why it couldn’t work but I guess because the game is already finished as is, there is no reason to add to it now.
Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops XL is enjoyable to play in small doses and is actually better that way. Long periods of gameplay do end with you feeling like there is a lot of repetition and that there is nothing new added to the table the longer you play. Though there are three different campaigns, they don’t offer anything different from the other. You can hire special units for a single time use but with points being as limited as they are, you are better off using them to buy a well-needed air strike when the going gets tough than to hire a special unit and he gets killed within the first few minutes.
Whether it is worth the $12.99 price tag is a bit difficult to say but I find it much more enjoyable than a Call of Duty game and would sooner buy Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops XL of COD any day. It does offer something different and you do learn to care a bit more for your troops as the risk of losing them in battle means having to start afresh with new troopers and having to grind their levels all the way up again. Plus, like a COD game, you get to kill zombies as well and you can even ride a Humvee whilst doing it!
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided Little Big PR & Wired Productions