Going Commando: ‘Toy Soldiers: Cold War’ Review

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Aside from the in-the-trenches action, TS:CW makes one understand the appeal of military spending. The bigger the budget, the bigger the toys you can buy for taking out bad guys. Unlike the U.S. military, though, Toy Soldiers doesn’t let you spend money you don’t have. In fact, you earn end-of-level bonuses, but not spending cash. You’ll need to monitor your war chest as the levels go on because if you spend too much, you’ll find yourself without the funds to repair or upgrade your turrets and other weapons.

Even though you know the kinds of vehicles and troops to prepare for in advance, the actual onset of a wave’s attack can seem abrupt and intense. When a dozen tanks roll down the throughways, two or three anti-tank stations may seem paltry. Likewise, you can be set to decimate all manner of ground assaults, only to have a fleet of fighter jets start swarming above and firing missiles on your emplacements. Throw in multiplayer and you get a lot more game than it initially seems.

My biggest quibble was with the camera controls. I felt like the camera was too slow when I zoomed out to an overhead view, which made management of battlefield assets even more hectic. You’ll definitely need to be flexible with your strategy and be mindful of letting it evolve, but the Wave Rewind feature lets you skip back to the previous round. This way, you can start at a specific part in the level sequence where things go wrong, so you don’t have to play the whole thing over again.

Cold War is deceptive because you’ll want to play it like an action game, but you’ll best succeed when playing it as a strategy game. It never stops being fun, though, and it manages to channel that fetishistic regard for military detail that you got with G.I Joes and similar toys. The game includes the same kinds of little nuggets about its vehicles and big guns that the blister packs for the old-school toys did.

It also peppers in other little touches—5 ¼ floppy disks and VHS tapes strewn across the theater of war, for instance—that evoke the era that the game takes place in. Toy Soldiers: Cold War mixes just the right amount of humor, strategy and player control to prove fairly addictive. Thankfully, the hairstyles and bad fashion of the Reagan era don’t show up. Some things just aren’t funny no matter how much time has passed.

Techland Score: 8.5 out of 10

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Evan Narcisse is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @EvNarc or on Facebook at Facebook/Evan.Narcisse. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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