Were you to peer into the toy chests of American children circa 1970 or 1980, you were apt to find huge collections of green plastic soldiers. Colloquially known as "army men," these plastic soldiers didn't articulate, they had no accessories, and they kept their valiant poses as if one wavering moment could bring an opposing army down on top of them. Knowing that nostalgia and competitive instincts never die, the 3DO company has resurrected the phenomenon for today's audiences with its Army Men series of games, which now includes a Game Boy Color release.
Though it requires a stretch of the imagination, Army Men puts you in control of Sarge, the Green army's elite warrior of virtue. As orders come down, you'll be asked to traverse two huge areas and 28 unique missions, all from a top-down Zelda-reminiscent perspective. Unfortunately, the Tan army is well equipped, and you're vastly outnumbered, but a wide array of weapons and power-ups are available to help even the score. Whether you choose to make do with your trusty rifle, move up to the destructive bazooka, or play a game of catch with grenades, the game's seven unique armaments make blowing up plastic soldiers almost as fun as when you were a kid. Though Sarge's sluggish response takes time to get used to, the airtight control found in the weapons system redeems this minor flaw. While it can be murder to adjust to a proper angle for targeting an enemy, shots leap out of the muzzle with a tap of the A button and strike their mark with satisfying accuracy. Additionally, switching between weapons is as easy as tapping the B button, providing instant access to whatever devastation you choose to unleash. If you were ever a fan of run and shoot games like Ikari Warriors or Commando, the gameplay is going to seem comfortably familiar. In addition to that, the story is entertaining as well.
Bringing out all the fatty-boom-batty fake war action, the game's visuals are a mixture of detailed terrain, expressive characters, and bone-crunchingly vicious explosions. Sarge runs along as if he were painstakingly rotoscoped, enemies patrol with nerve-wracking patience and vehicles move about in a realistically weighty fashion. If anything negative is to be said for Army Men's graphics, it's that too few colors were used to express them. There's also a distinct point at which sprite repetition becomes a fatigue-inducing factor, but this aspect is tempered by quick levels and intelligent use of the password feature. Though no one is going to call Army Men's visuals perfect, what you see is more than sufficiently rendered, while the gameplay and engrossing quest help further minimize the graphical flaws.
More so than the visuals, Army Men's sound quality is deceptively good. Digitized sounds flesh out Sarge's character and help pull gamers into the game, while weapon sounds, explosions, and other requisite effects perform their jobs adequately, never sounding tinny or garbled. At first listen, even the background music is excellent. After a few minutes though, the illusion of perfection falls apart. There's only one music track during the entire game - one! That's a solitary single track if you're keeping count. Other than this single glaring flaw, nothing else about Army Men's audio is disappointing. Unfortunately, it's hard to overlook something you'll hear constantly during the few hours or so it takes to beat the game.
Taken as a whole, Army Men is an enjoyable game that delivers the pleasingly nostalgic experience of plastic-soldier warfare. While it has a variety of minor flaws, nothing really derails the game's overall experience, and the plot is certainly worth investing a few hours in. But the unfortunate lack of secrets, combined with already repetitious gameplay though, does decrease the game's overall replay value. But even given this, Army Men is a darn fine game that delivers much pleasure while it lasts.