If there’s one thing I consistently love about reviewing a flood of indie games, it’s the variety. When I downloaded Tiny Troopers Joint Ops, I’d done absolutely no prior research. I love flying blind, since it helps me take the game as it is — unspoiled by expectations, the opinions of others, or the media-glitz of press releases. The first thing I noticed, probably, was an almost adorable aesthetic, a cute design that seemed to contrast against the game’s military trappings. So, with nothing more to go on than a loading screen’s worth of impressions, I dove in to find one of the more entertaining, innovative twin-stick action games I’ve played.
Tiny Troopers Joint Ops is, in essence, a squad-based shooter that leans heavily on simplistic tactics and survival. Your entire squad on any mission is essentially made of filler characters, with the added twist that those that survive missions can gain rank, becoming more powerful as they do. Each mission begins with an objective (or set of objectives) for you to complete within the level, and you’re left to roam pretty freely from there. There are hidden items, such as dog tags and medals, to pick up along the way. Powerful weapons such as grenades and rocket launchers fill out the arsenal, but you’ll mostly be relying on your basic issue assault rifles to get the job done.
Once your Tiny Troopers put boots to the ground, it’s up to you to find and deal with your targets. Most levels will have you taking out all enemy infantry and/or buildings. There’s not a whole lot of challenge involved in getting the task done, but finding all of the items around larger levels presents its own challenge. Finding dog tags adds to your point total, increasing what you’ve got to spend on upgrades to weapons, armor, and more. Medals, the scarcer commodity, can be used to resurrect team members who are killed in action; a costly procedure, but worthwhile if one of your seasoned veterans falls along the way. Between upgrades and ranks, your cute but tough riflemen soon become a force to be reckoned with.
As you go about your mayhem, Tiny Troopers rewards you with a multiplier that drives up your score. The more you kill, the higher it gets; long droughts of no combat, and it’ll dry up rapidly. Challenges, of course, increase the further you progress in the game, but completed levels can always be re-played to scour for any missed items or to help rank up your fresh recruits after sustaining losses. Your squad size varies by level, too, but you’ve almost always got at least two, and you can spend your hard-earned cash on recruiting specialists to bring into the fray, including machine gunners, air-strikes, and more.
Tiny Troopers Joint Ops offers 58 full missions of action, including a number of survival-style zombie missions that send legions of the undead after you while you struggle to make it from wave to wave and carve out your spot on the online leaderboards. It’s a shame the game doesn’t include any multiplayer options, since I think it’d be well-suited, but it’s fun enough in its own right that I don’t really miss it. With a good variety of content, a mix of mission styles, and a unique (and, frankly, adorable) aesthetic packed together into several hours of high-octane fun, Tiny Troopers Joint Ops is handily worth the $7.99 price tag on the PlayStation Store, with cross-system compatibility between PS3, PS4, and Vita.