Kukouri Mobile’s Tiny Troopers was originally developed for iOS devices, and it shows. The bright, cartoony graphics and simple UI both point to its touchscreen origins. While I’m not really a fan of most PC ports of mobile games, I actually found Tiny Troopers to be quite a lot of fun.
While many of today’s mobile gamers were just a sparkle in the milkman’s eye when the Commdore Amiga was king, old crusties like myself still remember the games of that era with a lot of fondness. Tiny Troopers is essentially a modernized remake of Sensible Software’s superb Cannon Fodder series, and thanks to its similarities with such a classic it didn’t have to do much to win me over.
In Tiny Troopers you control a squad of adorable little soldiers as they fight their way through dozens of missions behind enemy lines. Each squad member has his own name and rank, and if he survives to the end of the level he gets a promotion that slightly improves his stats. If he dies, however, he is gone forever and his place in the squad is taken by a fresh new recruit.
To improve your chances of survial you can upgrade your troops by spending command points. Command points are earned by killing enemy infantry, structures and vehicles, and must be rationed wisely to avoid running out before a critical mission. If you have enough of them and have a particularly nasty job to do, you can purchase specialist soldiers who have useful abilities and equipment. Both the upgrades and specialists are only good for one mission, and if you fail the mission the points are lost.
The graphics are surprisingly good for a port of an iOS game. While basic, the environments are vibrant and have nice lighting and shadow effects. The decision to make the characters weird, squeaky-voiced little midgets seems like an odd one to me, as the cutesy style is somewhat at odds with the violence and chaos. Watching one of the super-deformed enemies you’ve just shot crying and bleeding out on the ground is more than a little disturbing.
Tiny Trooper’s gameplay is pretty darn good. As I mentioned before, it is very reminiscent of Cannon Fodder, but with a greater variety of missions and many more types of opponents. The basic strategy usually involves leading your squad around a large, enemy-occupied area, killing hostile infantry and blowing up any vehicles or buildings you see. Combat is fun and dynamic as you need to dodge your enemy’s bullets while you spray them with your own. Basic troopers are easy to kill, but later opponents like suicide bombers, snipers and the dreaded binocular guys can wipe you out quickly if you aren’t careful. Armoured enemies require grenades, bazookas and airstrikes to take down, and you’ll need to carefully manage your limited supply of these secondary weapons.
Sounds good so far, right? Unfortunately, Tiny Troopers does have serious problems with its use of command points. Since upgrades and specialists only last for one mission and will be wasted if you fail, you will frequently end up in situations where you simply don’t have enough command points to beat the next level. On the iOS versions of the game you are encouraged to spend real money to purchase more command points, but the Steam version doesn’t have this option and you will instead have to drop out of your current campaign and replay older missions in order to earn them. This was an understandable design decision for iOS, but on the PC version it results in constant interruptions to your progress as you go back and grind for more points.
While the difficulty of Tiny Troopers initially seems challenging in a good way, once you learn that failing a mission will force you back into replaying older missions it just becomes downright annoying. That said, I have enjoyed playing Tiny Troopers, and if it wasn’t for the grinding I would have given it a significantly higher score.