Toy Soldiers: Cold War – Evil Empire and Napalm Review: These Are For Jimmy!

Fans of Signal Studios’ delightful tower defense strategy game Toy Soldiers: Cold War were no doubt excited to see not one, but two DLC expansion packs released on the same day. With new maps and game modes, the DLC aims to fulfill your need to blow up even more little plastic soldiers.

Platforms: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Signal Studios
Genre: Strategy/Tower Defense
Release Date: April 25, 2012
ESRB Rating: Teen

Evil Empire has you playing as the Soviets in a new three-level mini-campaign, complete with Russian versions of your favorite towers. It includes the new Orbital Laser Barrage powerup, a new Versus and Survival map, new challenges, medals and achievements, and a new whack-a-mole mini-game where you smack down pigs – capitalist pigs, of course. A new Survival mode called Trauma adds the interesting challenge of damaging your toy box every time you place a tower – ouch. And since you’re playing as the Soviets, your Commando turns into a grumbling Ivan Drago clone. Unfortunately, they dropped the ball with this character, barely touching the wealth of parody material to work with. He’s not nearly as funny as the standard Rambo Commando and actually gets pretty annoying.

Napalm welcomes you to the steamy jungles of Vietnam where, naturally, you can unlock a new napalm carpet bombing Barrage. This pack also includes a three-level mini-campaign, a new Versus and Survival map, new achievements and challenges, and a cool mini-game where you have to rescue fellow soldiers in your helicopter. It also adds a crazy fun new Survival mode called Commando, where you play solely as the uber-powered Commando. This mode is a great stress reliever and a nice break from rushing around repairing and upgrading towers, since you can effortlessly mow down enemies and generally blow the crap out of everything in sight.

Both packs offer no changes to the gameplay, so you can step right into the action. This is both good and bad; good, because Toy Soldiers has always been a blast, but bad because the slow, awkward camera is still messing things up. This is especially frustrating on one of the Napalm campaign levels, where you have to protect three toy boxes at once. The challenge isn’t so much from the AI enemies as it is struggling with the sluggish, poorly angled camera as you move back and forth from each site.

Each mini-campaign can be completed in less than an hour, but as with the original, you’ll play them numerous times to improve your score and complete challenges. Both campaigns also end with a new boss fight, so get ready to spam Barrages and vehicle attacks.

The new mini-games are fun, but as with the standard mini-games, you’ll play them a few times and likely never touch them again. The new Versus and Survival maps are welcome additions, as are the new Survival modes. Trauma is challenging since you really need to keep your towers repaired and emphasize the use of vehicles, but Commando is the one that will keep you coming back. Yes, it’s mindless destruction that has nothing to do with strategy or tower defense, but what’s wrong with enjoying a little mindless destruction every now and then? The only criticism is that while your Commando will die after taking too much damage, there is no health indicator so you never know how well you’re doing.

If you love Toy Soldiers, you’ll enjoy both DLC packs. They offer more of the same with a few new tweaks, but are they worth $5 apiece? If you’re a die-hard fan, it’s a no-brainer. But if you’re a more casual fan, then you might want to consider that, for the price of both packs, you could get the excellent Anomaly: Warzone Earth, which features a unique twist on the standard tower defense gameplay.

If you’re on the fence and can only afford one, I would recommend Napalm over Evil Empire. Yes, Napalm has that frustrating level where you’re struggling with the camera, but it also includes the crazy fun Commando Survival mode and the new helicopter rescue mini-game. But overall, you can’t go wrong with either, since they both offer the same fun gameplay we have come to expect from Signal Studios. Now if only they would fix that damn camera…

Review Disclosure: A review copy of Toy Soldiers: Cold War – Evil Empire and Toy Soldiers: Cold War – Napalm was provided by Signal Studios for the purposes of this review.

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