Real Time Strategy is a staple of PC gaming, and it’s one of the few genres that has never really caught on with consoles. In fact, the iOS has in recent years has used its unique interface to make inroads. One such game that tries to capture the spirit of the genre is Tiny Troopers, which is now available on PC as well. Granted, the mechanics are much simplified compared to something like Starcraft, Command & Conquer, or the like. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a problem though — there’s nothing wrong with simple mechanics. Tiny Troopers unfortunately has many more problems than that to worry about.
Tiny Troopers is an action RTS… I kind of want to say that it’s similar in style to Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II, but that would be giving this game way, way too much credit. You control a small group of soldiers through 30 battle zones with objectives ranging from ‘kill all enemies’, to ‘destroy all buildings’, to ‘kill all enemies and destroy all buildings’. As you can discern, there’s not a whole lot of variety to the mission objectives in this game.
In spite of this apparent simplicity of purpose, there are moments of confusion to be had. During my playthrough there were a couple of instances in which I had missed killing an enemy somewhere, which meant the extraction (to end the level) was not activated. After walking back and forth a bunch of times, I finally came across the last couple of enemies. They were shooting at me from off-screen. Thankfully, the game allowed me to kill them so I didn’t have to replay the entire level but having to scour every corner of a map looking for that last enemy is a throwback to Diablo II, and not in a good way.
Naturally, developing for the iOS is different than for PC. The interface for each system has its own benefits and quirks. In porting this game from the iOS, the developer made one change to the game’s UI and control scheme, but they shouldn’t have stopped there. Because a keyboard/mouse combo is unique from a touchscreen method on iOS devices, the inventory access is done by clicking on the weapon, holding down ‘CTRL’, and firing. Personally, I prefer the ‘grab and swipe’ method on the iPhone, but it works well enough on PC.
The one thing the developer should have changed in the translation relates to movement: instead of being able to hold down the mouse button to move, you must repeatedly click on the ground to move them places. Now, on an iPhone that’s not such a big deal because of the relative small size of the screen but that kind of micromanagement is annoying on a big PC monitor. It might seem nitpicky to point this out, but RTS games are all about the small details and these are the kinds of things that separate the contenders from the pretenders. Additionally, being able to zoom in and out is something that is pretty much essential to the RTS genre and it’s missing from this game. What’s particularly vexing about this exclusion is that it’s actually in the iOS version and was removed. WTF, Kukouri?
Probably the biggest and most troubling question I kept asking myself while playing Tiny Troopers was, “Who is this game for?” In many ways, it seems to be pushing in different directions. The cutesy character models and bare-bones gameplay suggest that it’s trying to appeal to kids as a gateway into RTS games. At the same time however, the level of violence (i.e. expanding bloodstains under dead bodies) and the focus on Commando style action over strategy would suggest that they are aiming for a different demographic entirely.
As mentioned in the introduction, Tiny Troopers was ported over from the iOS, and it really shows. While it looks quite sharp on an iPhone or iPad screen, the game just comes across as nothing more than ‘all right’ to look at when it’s blown up onto a PC monitor.
I’ll admit that when I first saw this game, I had high expectations. I thought it looked really cute, charming, and subversively hilarious. That feeling lasted for the duration of the first mission. For the remaining 29 missions, the cuteness evaporated. All that remained was mediocre gameplay, repetitive objectives, and squeaky voices saying:
Over. And over. Again.
Tiny Troopers on PC is $9.99 on Steam, but it’s only $0.99 on iOS and frankly it’s a much more satisfying experience there. The gameplay is better suited to a touchscreen, and there is nothing added to the PC version that justifies the added cost. I love RTS games and I really wanted this one to be better than it was, but it just didn’t really impress on any level. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a straight port of a game (SEE: Dark Souls on PC), but if you’re not going to add features you sure as Hell had better not take any away.
[+Easy intro to RTS genre] [+Cute aesthetic] [-Annoying gameplay choices] [-Voice acting limited, grating] [-No apparent target demographic] [-10x more expensive on PC]