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Small Soldiers (Game Boy) artwork

Small Soldiers (Game Boy) review


"A few years ago a film called Small Soldiers assaulted the worlds cinemas. Telling the tale of the Gorgonite's struggle against the evil Commando Elite, led by Chip Hazzard (voiced by the brilliant Tommy Lee Jones in the movie), the movie blended live action and computer generated effects. It was a marginal success, so the obligatory spin-off games emerged. However, the film was, in retrospect, pants, and nobody really mentions it any more, so what we are left with here is a film-license game wh..."



A few years ago a film called Small Soldiers assaulted the worlds cinemas. Telling the tale of the Gorgonite's struggle against the evil Commando Elite, led by Chip Hazzard (voiced by the brilliant Tommy Lee Jones in the movie), the movie blended live action and computer generated effects. It was a marginal success, so the obligatory spin-off games emerged. However, the film was, in retrospect, pants, and nobody really mentions it any more, so what we are left with here is a film-license game where the film is forgotten. Since this type of game usually depends wholly on the hype generated by the film, this is not a good start for Small Soldiers on the Game Boy. But we'll soldier on (sorry, I couldn't help it) and evaluate the game anyway.

This game is actually better than most film tie ins, and is undeniably the best of the Small Soldiers brood (remember the pap produced under this name on the Playstation?), but that really isn't much of a compliment considering the competition. Aside from maybe Hook and the Star Wars games, there really is a lack of good tie-in games for the original Game Boy. Gameplay follows closely the plot of the movie (as far as I can recall the movie, anyway). A money-mad toy company has decided that toys should be able to do everything that they can do in the commercials - run, talk, shoot - all the usual rad stuff. And so, naturally, all of their latest toys are fitted with military microchips (gah!). These toys happen to be the supposedly heroic and aforementioned Commando Elite and their really ugly alien foes the Gorgonites. However, being soldiers, the Commando Elite are fuelled by the military chips to destroy the Gorgonites, no matter what the cost to those around them. The Gorgonites, meanwhile, who are programmed to be defeated, and therefore non-violent, just want to get 'home' to the planet Gorgon. These toys have done nothing to Hazzard's bunch, but they look funny so Hazzard sets out to kill them. It's all very predictable, really, but to be honest, it is a children's movie. Throw in a young hero - caught up in the conflict because his family owns a toy store - and his pretty neighbour (played in the movie by Kirsten Dunst, no less......), and you're set. Of course, game-wise, this means that you run around jumping quite a bit, but hey, what can you do??

Controlling Archer, leader of the Gorgonites, you can jump, climb, and shoot your way through various levels leading up to the final conflict with Chip Hazard himself. Unfortunately, considering Archer's name, there is a notably short period of time in which you actually can shoot a weapon, leading to an often bland play style.

The graphics and sound are the usual late - Game Boy era fare - nothing awful, but nothing to write home about either, although the characters occasionally take on a grainy look that makes the whole thing look vaguely rushed (which, being a film tie-in, it undoubtedly was). Although the cut scenes are quite impressive, using stills from the movie, the graphical and aural effects in this game are not memorable.

The level design is similarly unmemorable. Save for a few short instances (which come toward the end of the game) there are few if any surprises here, and I wouldn't be surprised if the levels had been ripped right out of any number of platform games and merely repainted, it really is that generic. When the moments of inspiration do come (such as the crossing between two houses, and the final showdown with Chip) they seem so short lived that they really do nothing to boost the game's score.

Short-lived is perhaps the key phrase when discussing Small Soldiers. Although really it is a game that could feature any characters and be no different, it is enjoyable. Not quite fun, but a good way to pass the time. The problem comes when you realise that you barely have enough time to get used to the controls for the game before you've completed it! Seriously, the game features about 45 minutes to an hour's worth of play before you finish it. Had it featured much longer levels, or greater difficulty, this game may have scored slightly better, but sadly this is not the case. And as I said before, the levels are just starting to become innovative and much more fun when the game finishes, which is the most frustrating aspect of the whole game. It's like watching a movie trailer: you just start to get excited about what is on offer when it's over. The difference here is that you can't go to see a longer version. To add insult to injury, there is a password feature in the game, so even the worst players out there will polish it off on the day of purchase. Had the game shown the innovation displayed in later levels from the start it's length may not have been as much of an issue, but sadly playing this game leaves only with thoughts of what could have been.

DO NOT pay full price for this game unless you a) are immensely rich or b) play games through over and over despite the fact that there is absolutely no replay value on offer. If you see it at a flea market or car boot sale it may be worth a couple of pounds / dollars, but no higher. A shame really.

Rating: 5/10

tomclark's avatar
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)

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