STAFF REVIEW of Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops (Xbox One)

Sunday, April 10, 2016.
by Kirby Yablonski

Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops Box art Through the ID@Xbox program, there have been a fair amount of what would be considered smaller titles that continue to be released, enabling smaller developers to make games that can be downloaded onto the Xbox One HDD. We have seen so many different types of games hit the Xbox platform as a result and many hidden 'gems' so to speak. Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops., previously a mobile game, has been ported over to the bigger screen for some console gaming love. After spending some time shooting, running, and rescuing POWs, I have to say that developer Epiphany Games did a fairly good job making a mobile game into a console game.

Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops has two separate narratives given that the game is a melding of two different versions. There is the “Soldier” story and there is the “Special Ops” story, the latter being to one that follows the first, a sequel so to speak. Each of these stories represents each of the mobile versions that preceded the console version that is out now. The story is basic; you are fighting evil and need to conquer different types of enemy soldiers, and many of the levels have you completing specific tasks while doing so (e.g. destroying all enemy buildings, escorting people out of the warzone, or rescuing prisoners to name a few).

The story is not particularly engrossing, but it sets up each chapter of missions. I enjoyed the manner the story was told. You watch a set of comic book “story panels” that are very stylish. The cute characters that make up the Tiny Troopers universe take center stage along with a lot of text bubbles, but don’t worry about having to read, the text bubbles are accompanied by some cheesy, but very appropriate, voice acting.

The game is a twin-stick shooter, a genre that I have never been to adept at playing; however, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops wasn’t too difficult to play. You control up to three characters, who are in a group, with the left analog stick and aim/shoot with the right analog stick. A few buttons (e.g. RT, RB & LT) are assigned to some more powerful weapons such as grenades, rocket launcher and air strike. You can purchase a ‘supply’ drop during combat and a package drops into battle with goods, but you’ll also find some of weapons throughout the level.

If there was any frustration in controlling your characters it was the fact that you’ll find when controlling a group of three, one of them can easily get ‘hung-up’ on something in the environment, such as a rock, tree, or fence post. To manage this, you’ll have to move your other character or two to allow the stuck character to be able to line up and move back into formation. It is not a deal breaker, but just something that could become a nuisance now and then.

As you play through each mission you kill as many enemies as you can while completing your main objectives, all of which total a score that is based on your kills, what you destroy, and more. It’s not that simple though as there are local residents that you have to shoot around and neutral targets to avoid as killing or destroying these takes points away. You can also find dog tags and medals scattered throughout the level, along with enemy intel and/or other enemy weapons that should be disarmed. The more you kill/destroy in a row the higher your multiplayer will go, maxing out at 4x. It all helps in achieving your overall high score. There are also four difficulty levels that you can choose from during each mission.

Once you complete a mission your score is converted into ‘command points’ which you use to purchase upgrades, items and outfits. Upgrades come in the form of rate of fire, increased damage, accuracy, longer firing range, speed, etc. You can also unlock other ‘mercs-for-hire’ to assist you on various missions too. As you play your soldiers earn XP and rank up, becoming tougher in future battles. If one of your soldiers dies in battle, you can resurrect them at the end of the level using the medals you’ve found throughout the levels and game. If you don’t have enough medals, then they are KIA’d forever.

In terms of gameplay length, you can finish this game it in one sitting, but that is not how this game should be played. In total there are found 60 missions found within eight different chapters, four chapters per story (Soldier & Joint Ops). You’ll find that each mission level takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes or so, depending on what you need to do, and how much you look around. Add everything up together and you end up with a bit to do. That being said, you won’t want to finish this game in one sitting as it is something that you should be playing in order to take a short break from the routine of playing other games or if you only have a short time period to get a gaming fix. It’s not that the game is bad, but it’s mobile roots show in terms of playing in short bursts, and in some ways it defines how it should be played.

As an added bonus, there is a zombie ‘horde’ like mode. Here you are tasked to survive increasingly harder waves of troops of undead soldiers and, wait for it…...zombie chickens. Although it’s a nice add on, and a bit of a change from the regular gameplay, you will find that it becomes somewhat repetitive even though the game does try to add some different scenarios. I have to say though, that as a mindless distraction, this mode still does work out ok. It would have been nice to have some sort of multiplayer (local or online) for the game as a whole, but it does not. This would could have been an added feature that was worthwhile.

In terms of Tiny Troopers presentation, the visuals are simple while the sound manages to add a bit more to the game. You won’t find a lot of detail to the game’s levels, but the simple style and polygonal look don’t detract from the gameplay. The characters are fairly cute, and adds to the simplistic charm; however, as a sum the game’s looks are simple and uncluttered and they won’t wow you. As for the sound, I was somewhat impressed as the music matches each level and you’ll notice that as you get closer to ‘conflict’ it gets louder and more intense. Sound effects, like the graphics, are basic, but they match the cuteness of the characters, and you’ll even hear the gunfire and explosions of other battles in the distance. Overall, the presentation for this game works, given the content and style the game aims for.

Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops is definitely a fun little ID@Xbox title that many people will enjoy in short spurts. Sure, it’s not a Triple ‘A’ title that is a must have, but for 10 bucks it’s a game that you’ll find you can come back to often and get reasonably entertaining gaming experience. With a cute presentation and easy to pick up gameplay, it is an ID@Xbox title that definitely shows you don’t have to provide some engrossing and deep gameplay to have some fun, and it’s all offered at a very affordable price.

An added local or online multiplayer could have added so much more, maybe if you make a sequel you can consider this add-on next time. It would add further replayablility to the overall experience.

Overall: 6.3 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10



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