Once upon a time in Buddy land, all the Buddies frolicked together in the simplicity of peace and harmony. However, such innocence could not last. A giant moon fell from the sky, delivering unto the Buddies crates of unknown origin. The red and blue crates contained weapons, which the Buddies had never known before. The introduction of weapons brought chaos to their world, separating the Buddies into color-based factions, enveloping them in a brutal war. This is the plot of Midway's Team Buddies, an eight world romp of hands-on warfare, block stacking, and RTS-style resource management.
Team Buddies is standard in what it offers: eight worlds of mission-based warfare across 64 total missions. There's a variety of four-player multiplayer options as well, such as deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination, and continual progress may be saved to a single block of a PlayStation memory card. Stack blocks to enlist new soldiers, complete all 64 missions, and unlock all of the multiplayer features, and you've cracked the game.
Thankfully, Team Buddies' gameplay experience is a bit more interesting than its features. Team Buddies wraps three gameplay styles into a single overhead-viewpoint game. On the surface, your goal is to protect your base while eliminating the enemy's stronghold. To do so, switch between your armed Buddies, kill your enemies, and accomplish any tasks the game calls for. The control scheme uses every button of the controller, and while it seems easy in theory, it's difficult in practice. The D-pad maneuvers your Buddy, X shoots, and the other buttons control Buddy swaps, team commands, and object manipulation. Keeping track of four Buddies while performing three or more maneuvers at once is painfully confusing, though, and poorly suited to an action game. Should you need to gather improved weapons or increase your ranks, the game's second gameplay facet comes into play: block stacking. Mysterious blocks perpetually drop from the sky during each level, containing any number of weapons and health power-ups. By bringing them back to your base and stacking them, you can earn even stronger weapons or create new soldiers to send into battle. Depending on the shapes you create, commandos, ninjas, and medics may join your team. Be warned, your enemy is busy performing the same tasks. The final gameplay element Team Buddies incorporates is that of object gathering. Each mission, though offering a series of major goals, asks that you complete minor goals as well, such as waste disposal, weapon component gathering, or hostage freeing. As you attempt to kill your enemy and build up your forces, you must also wander the arena to accomplish these goals. If this sounds fun, it isn't. Block stacking is too time consuming, your CPU-controlled teammates are useless, and repeatedly killing the same jelly bean-style enemies is horribly boring. The storyline is amusing, and the plot twists portray a rather interesting outlook on the psychological effects of warfare, but this game is just too uninteresting and difficult to hold anyone's attention. Admittedly, the multiplayer deathmatch options do add a bit of amusement to the game, but there are better multiplayer titles available, such as Poy Poy and Bomberman.
Team Buddies' redeeming qualities are its visual and sound offerings. The jelly bean-like Buddies and their lush cartoon environments are a feast for the eyes. Somehow, the developers at Psygnosis managed to make a low-res, 30fps title animate like a high-res, 60fps title. Snide looks, ample background interaction, and an abundance of particle and transparency effects hammer home some of the best visuals in a PlayStation title to date. Backing this up, the game's disco-style music and Worms-esque sound effects invoke laughter in even the dullest situation. You haven't lived until you've heard a Buddy utter "Everyone's an American on the inside!" after snuffing out a rival. The gameplay may not be fun, but the cartoon-style presentation earns major points for effort.
Frankly speaking, no amount of multimedia candy can save this game from its main flaw: boredom. RTS titles such as Starcraft and Civilization offer highly varied scenarios with multiple troop types and terrain interaction. Team Buddies executes its scenarios with a barely sufficient variation in troops and only minor changes in weapons or terrain. Sure, a missile launcher is different from a tank, and a short hill isn't a tall one, but each has the same effect. Although the game's environments change visually every six or seven missions, the same repetitious feeling remains. The game's mixture of ideas is a unique one, but it falls short of delivering on its promises. Team Buddies is worth a look if you're into new and interesting ideas, but bring along some friends, as the game's single-player experience is abysmal.