Slapping a thick coat of cutesy paint on modern warfare doesn't always make for the most entertaining casual combat experience. Tiny Troopers straddles the line between the serious and the silly rather awkwardly. One minute your diminutive posse is comically spraying gunfire while shouting "booyah!" and "get some!" in high-pitched voices; the next you're watching foes gasping in pain and slowly bleeding out on the red-stained ground before they finally collapse and die seconds later. Suddenly war isn't so bubbly anymore. Uncomfortable death throes aside, there's not much about this top-down shooter ported from iOS that feels fancied up for the PC. The oversimplified roam-and-shoot action yields brief moments of amusement that gradually diminish under the millstone of repetition.
With a plot setup that's little more than "dive in and start blowing things up," you're thrown into a series of 30 bite-size missions that range from mowing down grunts and assassinating dictators to protecting war journalists and performing search-and-destroy demolition runs. Most operations boil down to blasting away at everything that comes running your way. You control a small group of infantrymen that can be bolstered by unlockable specialists for one-off stints. Rather than fiddle with soldiers individually like you would in a traditional real-time strategy game, you control the whole group simultaneously, directing fire, moving, and lobbing explosives en masse. While this is helpful for concentrating fire and navigating, it makes your squad an easy target for the frequent ambushes sprung upon you. This would be way less aggravating if Tiny Troopers handled unit death differently.
Soldiers gradually rank up after successful missions, increasing their killing prowess, but anytime one of them takes a dirt nap, he's gone for good. Even on the easiest difficulty, high-ranking squadmates can perish in a split second when you're taking fire from multiple directions or get hit with explosive mortar rounds. The limited camera angle inhibits your line of sight too, making anticipating and recovering from surprise attacks a challenge. Cheap shots from snipers, surprise tank encounters, and dynamite flingers can all spell insta-doom for your group, forcing you to slot in weaker green recruits when squad members get smoked. Thus, Tiny Troopers throws a wet blanket on the fun anytime teammates perish, because giving up means you sacrifice any ranked troops you have remaining, but pressing onward with only one or two soldiers left is tough on bigger maps.
Unintuitive controls further compound the problem. Your squad treks along at a sluggish pace, and mouse-clicking the ground to move while also using the mouse to aim and fire bullets in all directions isn't as smooth as it needs to be. It's tough to change directions when you're under fire and frantically trying to mow down foes before they get too close. Lobbing grenades or rockets also feels awkward, since it requires you to hold the Ctrl key to temporarily toggle your special weapon while aiming, which isn't easy when you're already moving and firing. When you have the time to think things through, these separate actions are manageable, but their clunkiness really gets in the way when combat heats up. Hyper-streamlined controls make sense on touch-oriented iOS platforms, yet the PC has a lot more room to work with--room that's completely ignored here. At its more intense moments, Tiny Troopers feels like a dual-stick shooter, and not having a control option that fits that style of play is a real misstep.
One thing Tiny Troopers does a little differently and manages to get right is the way power-ups tie directly in to the scoring mechanic. Racking up kills and collecting loot earns you command points that you can spend to temporarily boost your fighting capabilities and call in reinforcements. Before each stage, purchasing cheaper one-off perks that boost your damage, increase your armor, and bolster your health is a great way to prep for tougher encounters ahead. You can also hire specialists, such as machine gunners, medics, and other stronger units, to accompany you into the fray for a single run. Even if you spend all your points before you hit the battlefield, you amass more as you go, which can be used during missions to call in airstrikes, drop supplies, and summon other help. Using these resources carefully can make the difference between losing your entire squad and nabbing an easy victory.
Unfortunately, power-ups can also be used to exploit weaknesses in the dim enemy AI. Taking potshots to lure in enemy infantry will spur them to run in your direction. Hide around a corner with a squad that's jacked up on perks, and you can mow down a dozen foes in a split second. They'll charge headlong into your blazing guns. Other times, a simple range boost is all you need. Armored vehicles will rip you to shreds if you get too close, but spending a little cash to extend your firing distance makes it possible to stand just outside their reaction zone while slowly whittling away at their health with small-arms fire. The fact that the game practically encourages you to use these cheap tactics rather than concoct deeper strategies is disappointing.
In this case, it's not a good thing that Tiny Troopers' mobile roots show from the get-go. The minimalistic graphics aren't much to look at, and while the equally streamlined pick-up-and-play focus is perfect for killing time on a car ride or in the waiting room, it doesn't scale well during extended play sessions on the PC. Rather than being used as an opportunity to improve on the original, the transition to a non-mobile platform simply showcases how flimsy the game is compared to other PC offerings--casual or otherwise. There's nothing that makes this version feel special or particularly well matched with the PC, and the fun is fleeting at best.