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Review: Toy Soldiers: Cold War (XBLA)

When the Summer of Arcade '11 titles were announced, I was least excited for Toy Soldiers: Cold War—yes, Fruit Ninja Kinect grabbed me more than Cold War. Despite loving the original, I just couldn't find that same love when looking at the sequel. Then I played the game and everything changed—I remembered why I loved the original and found more to love in Cold War. To put it in rather simplistic terms, Cold War is the "G.I. Joe" to the original's "Army Men." What I mean with that comparison is while the original was very plain and somewhat serious stylistically, Cold War increases the action and adds an over-the-top sense of humour.

Action is expanded thanks to more vehicles and all-new attack barrages, including the player-controlled "Commando" barrage. Attack barrages are powerful weapons earned from killing key enemies and include such common attacks as bombing runs, artillery strikes, and the always-popular A-130 gunship. The less common "Commando" barrage puts you in control of an 80's-esque action star—think Stallone and Lundgren—and allows you to kick ass while enjoying some cheesy dialogue. Another new addition is the ability to rewind to a previous enemy wave if you feel as if you could have done things better, but I personally never ended up using the feature.

As much as the additions add, Cold War is very much a Toy Soldiers game at its core—Cold War is more of a refinement than a re-thinking. This isn't a bad thing, especially if you loved the original, but anyone who played the original and found little to like will find no reason to change their minds. If you missed out on the original, Toy Soldiers is a tower defense game that grants players the ability to take control of any tower, while also including at least one standalone vehicle per level. This added sense of control is what makes Toy Soldiers special and while it is possible to play the game without every taking control of a tower or vehicle, taking control makes everything much easier.

Speaking of things being easier besides Isabella from Dragon Age, Cold War feels just a tad easier than the original and that's not a bad thing. I didn't have much of a problem with the first game until the final boss, but in Cold War I never failed a level throughout the entire campaign while playing on 'Normal.' Cold War seems more well balanced and because of this, I flew through the campaign and immediately wanted to play it again. There are higher difficulties for increased challenge—as well as a 'Casual' mode—but the default difficulty feels almost perfect in how much it expects from the player.

Along with the campaign mode, there is a 'Survival' mode, a 'Versus' mode, and a number of fun, simple mini-games. 'Versus' mode obviously pits you against another player—either online or offline—and both 'Survival' and 'Campaign' mode can be played solo or in co-op—once again, either online or offline. I am often told playing with a friend makes anything better and Cold War is no exception; whether playing with or against a friend, Cold War is that much more fun with another player. In addition to everything mentioned, Cold War has well integrated leaderboards that can really feed one's competitive nature.

Everything featured in Cold War adds to a complete package that can deliver months of enjoyment and a great cap to the Summer of Arcade '11. Cold War went from a game I couldn't care less about to one of my favorite downloadable titles all year and as much as I loved Trenched, I think I may just love Cold War more. Toy Soldiers: Cold War comes out this Wednesday for 1200MS points ($15) and is, if nothing else, a game everyone should at least try.

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