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B Team - Episode 1: Dust & Steel (DS) artwork

B Team - Episode 1: Dust & Steel (DS) review


"Here’s the thing; I’ve not played Cannon Fodder since the early nineties, but I still recall the stand out levels, the clever geography and can appreciate the more subtle parodying of the hells of war. In its attempt to revitalise an older way of thinking, all B Team has managed to do is highlight the competence of that it tries to ape and show that it still can’t eclipse a game made almost two decades previous."



There was this game made by Sensible Software back in the 80’s called Canon Fodder that people seemed to like. This wasn’t surprising; Sensible were responsible for some of the bigger and better titles to find their way into the 8-16 bit markets. Canon Fodder was a cartoonish war simulator viewed from an overhead perspective and saturated with a dark sense of humour and engaging gameplay. It was simple and straightforward: you were given a jungle-choked stage to navigate your platoon around (you controlled the leader, the troops willfully followed) bypassing hazards like murky jungle streams and obtuse undergrowth, while enemy forces surged out of wooden huts to try and gun you down. Keeping your boys alive slowly dialled up their skills while fallen troops would start slowly adding to a graveyard of your dead in the loading screens.

But! The simple 2D style Sensible thrived only slowly fell out of vogue and the company declined before being snapped up by Codemasters. Though their series would see a slight comeback in 2000 via the Game Boy Colour, the concept was forgotten in favour of all those flashy new advancements you kids love, like 3D and such. Then, suddenly one day, someone had the great idea that this kind of kooky premises would work great on the DS.

SPOILERS: It doesn’t.

B-Team: Metal Cartoon Squad isn’t a very good game. It introduces larger maps than Cannon Fodder relied upon, but somehow makes them much simpler and not nearly as much fun to navigate. The opening stage is that of a dilapidated market place, complete with destructible buildings (in an appreciated touch), explosive barrels (out of a sense of obligation) and an army consisting of about eight people with the survival instincts of a cliff-bound lemming post an extended showing of The Dead Poet‘s Society. Rather than take control of a platoon, the B Team consists of three overly-enforced stereotypes including the bulky Russian solider in the big woolly hat, the Mexican desperado or, oddly, an Eskimo commando with hilarious buck teeth that would get you pulled up in an American racial discrimination court in seconds should they be imposed upon an Asian. These characters and the scruffy cartoon art style the game employs is supposed to be its attempt at humour.

SPOILERS: It isn’t funny.

You control the lead troop with the d-pad, and fire the trio’s oddly impotently ranged firearms with stylus prodding, meaning that, should your target be on the wrong side of the screen, you navigation is hindered not so much by the various buildings, rubble piles or burning vehicles, but by your own wrist as you try to mow them down. There’s power-ups to be found littered around the mapscape that can do anything from making your machine guns slightly less useless, replace them with limited rockets instead, or upgrade your speed from drowning in magic syrup all the way up to ponderous plodding. There’s also bright purple anti-upgrades that can do all kinds of devilishly unhelpful things, like reversing your controls! There’s health packs aplenty but unless your tactic is to rush headlong into everything, you’ll rarely need them.

Rushing, though, was my choice of tactic. Unless played on the very hardest setting, B Team is as unchallenging a game as you’ll ever find. No matter how neutered your small team is, the enemy often has it worse. Poor path finding sees them squash up to buildings in an attempt to dig through the concrete walls with their faces (though their special magic bullets will sometimes phase through these buildings and hit you, rather than destroy them like yours), and they’ll gleefully leave cover to charge headfirst into your artillery. Notable boss battles break up the tedium, often offering large vehicles with pronounced weak points to try and take down, but they’re pinpricks of light amongst the gloom. The vast majority of the thirty-five levels present here can be done on auto-pilot, and then forgotten about forever.

Here’s the thing; I’ve not played Cannon Fodder since the early nineties, but I still recall the stand out levels, the clever geography and can appreciate the more subtle parodying of the hells of war. In its attempt to revitalise an older way of thinking, all B Team has managed to do is highlight the competence of that it tries to ape and show that it still can’t eclipse a game made almost two decades previous.

Rating: 3/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 30, 2011)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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honestgamer posted May 30, 2011:

Sweet review. You did a nice job of explaining how this game gets its concept from a fun classic game but botches the execution. I sometimes think that developers back in the day were more used to developing solid maps and such for games like Cannon Fodder, while newer developers have spent more time mastering presentational matters and not enough time figuring out how to develop solid levels. A good map designer is crucial for a game like this, so I definitely get why you were disappointed with the end result.
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Masters posted June 09, 2011:

Nice job, dude.
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Masters posted June 09, 2011:

Also, I believe the politically correct term is, Inuit.

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