Xbox Live Arcade titles rarely receive tremendous hype unless they are specially supported through one of Microsoft’s unique promotions. Such titles include the likes of Castle Crashers, Trials HD and Splosion Man. Kick-starting Microsoft’s latest promotion: Block Party comes Toy Soldiers, an action-packed strategy-based title, but does it release all guns blazing or firing blanks?

Set in a child’s bedroom though based on the events of World War I, Toy Soldiers requires players to position miniature units in spaces across the game’s board as on-going waves of enemies attempt to infiltrate players’ toy box. The units include the likes of mortars, howitzers, chemical and anti-artillery, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages for destroying the enemy units. On eliminating an enemy, players earn money, varying depending on the unit destroyed, which can then use to purchase, repair and upgrade units. The aim of each battle is to keep as many enemy units out of your own toy box as possible, with players being forced to surrender when a specific amount of enemy units enter the toy box. A certain amount of units can enter without losing the round, but each ticks down a counter; victory occurs if players manage to keep this number above zero.

As well as a strategic point of view, Toy Soldiers also features some action elements, with players being able to take control of any of their placed units at any point throughout the level. The advantage of this is that it allows players to get fully involved in the battle, as they shoot down the oncoming enemies. The game allows a good mixture between both points of view, pleasing both action and strategy fans alike.

Whilst players are unlikely to pay much attention to the narrative, there is enough change in terms of the setting for each level to appear fresh, mostly due to the appearance of boss-like units featuring every so often, even if the same concept and objectives remain throughout. On completion of each level, players are graded depending on their performance, with enemies killed, cash spent and time taken – all being taken into consideration. Players are also rewarded with new units and unit upgrades, each of which becoming almost a necessity within the next level.

The campaign will take players a good few hours to complete, with gamers able to revisit completed levels at any point. Unfortunately, this is the only single player game mode, with a lack of any alternative modes being produce. Nevertheless, Toy Soldiers does offer a fairly in-depth multiplayer.

Multiplayer can be played locally or over the Xbox Live service. Locally, the screen is split in two so that two players can battle it out over the same console, with players also being able to partake in ranked and player matches in Xbox Live multiplayer. Whilst the game differentiates ever so slightly from the single player – with players being able to send units to the opposing toy box, this is a welcome addition and is easy to learn and adjust to, just like the remainder of the game’s controls. Despite a slight lack of maps, with only five available in total, the multiplayer is one of the strongest evident on the Xbox Live Arcade. Hopefully it has the legs to last, unlike many of the other Xbox Live Arcade titles.

Graphically, Toy Soldiers is one of (if not the) best looking Xbox Live Arcade titles on the Marketplace, with excellent detail inserted into the vast, brilliantly-designed environments. Whilst the colour scheme is on the bland side, consisting of dark browns, blacks and greys, this is a true representation of the war-feel the game brilliantly sets. Further contributing to this is the audio, with two war classics (Goodbye, Dolly Gray and She May Have Seen Better Days) making up the game’s soundtrack, huddled in amongst some great sound effects.

Overall, Toy Soldiers is a fantastic effort at making war games more appealing to the masses. The unique style of combining the battlefield with a board game works brilliantly well. Whilst it does suffer from a number of problems (namely the lack of single player game modes), the multiplayer is more than satisfactory. If you enjoy the trial, the full game is a must purchase, even at the 1200 Microsoft Points price tag.

David Wriglesworth

David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.

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