Red Alert Junior Addition? Not quite, but that is the general premise of Dreamworks Interactive's Small Soldiers game, Small Soldiers: Squad Commander. This games is basically a no frills real time strategy game, and Small Soldiers is geared towards the under 12 crowd.
As per typical RTS games, you can choose which side you choose to fight on, in this case the Gorgonites or the Commando Elite. As the intro, each mission is usually proceeded by a small video clip featuring the characters animated via computer. They are not the quality level of the movie of course, but they are quite decent. The goal of the game, of course, is to conquer the enemy. You start off in a child's bedroom and fight your way throughout the city, rescuing comrades along the way.
Some things I did not like about this game were limitations that were put in for the "younger players", such as the low (and I mean LOW) maximum of characters you can control at any one time. You start off with only being able to use 3 characters at any one time. Later you gain control of more, but it still leaves you with very small armies. Another example is the lack of any real resource management. While I suppose these features might have been considered too difficult for children to handle, I think the average 8 year old could handle moving around more troops. Also, SOME resource management would have been simple enough... such as needing to comendeer batteries to keep the toys running, perhaps needing to build toy factories to increase your army size...
For a non 3d accelerated game, the graphics are good. Not great, but good. Everything is pre-rendered in 3d accept for the characters, which appear to be typical sprites. Everything is quite colorful, and all the objects are rather large (once again, for the smaller players).
Sound is very important in any type of game. In this game, it is more annoying then anything else. Hearing the soldiers talk when you click on them or they die seems cool at first, until you notice 5 minutes later that it's the SAME THING EVERY TIME.
The control is typical RTS fare, you click on a unit, click where you want him to move etc. However, it was too easy to use special weapons on your own troops. If you have a weapon selected and click on your own unit, instead of switching units, the old one fires on the other.
Overall, for a children's game, this does very well. It opens up a new type of game to children where some actual thinking is involved, before you blow the enemy's brains out.
Small Soldiers: Squad Commander carries on the story introduced by 1998 summer's cinematic hit, Small Soldiers. A highly intelligent microprocessor has been installed in the latest GI-Joe type action figures. The mistaken installation brings to life the Commando Elite, a band of merciless soldiers, and their sworn enemies, the Gorgonites, a peaceful group of misfits.
Squad Commander gives young gamers the option of commanding either of the two sides in a quest to destroy or save the neighborhood.
No matter which side you choose, you'll be faced with 10 different missions, each with its own objective. Missions take place in a wide variety of locations including, backyards, convenient marts and toy stores.
Both factions are comprised of six different characters, each distinguished by their arsenal and a unique set of witty one-liners. In addition to their particular weapon (gun, bow and arrow, club, etc.), individual team members carry a backpack that can hold one item at a time. Items such as firecrackers, cherry bombs, and grenades can be stuffed into the pack and unleashed when needed.
The game puts a child friendly face on an interface popularized by such titles as StarCraft and Command & Conquer. All of the game's action is viewed from an overhead perspective. Also, like the above games, unexplored territory is shrouded in darkness. The simple controls and easy-to-use interface all but eliminate a learning curve.
Young gamers will find a pleasing mix of some of today's more popular gaming elements. There is a little bit of real-time strategy, some action and adventure, and enough puzzle solving to keep the game from becoming tedious. (Old-timers will even recognize some classic Frogger-type arcade action in the toy store).
The combination adds up to the kind of game that requires both a fast trigger finger and some quick wits. Not only will you have to battle a constant onslaught of enemies, but you'll also have to solve some tricky puzzles to advance through the levels.
Oddly enough, the movie received a PG-13 rating, yet the game is geared toward pre-teens. But parents need not fear, the cartoon-like graphics and warfare are no more harmless than an old Tom and Jerry rerun.
Though anyone over 13 may find Squad Commander to be lacking in challenge, the game will certainly keep the next generation of PC gamers entertained for hours on end.
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Sid Meier's Pirates!, Singles: Flirt Up Your Life!, Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Star Trek: Armada 2, Soldiers: Heroes of World War II, Soldiers at War, Star Trek: Armada
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