Tiny Troopers Joint Ops

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Wired Productions
Developer: Wired Productions
Release Date: 2014

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops'

by Brian Dumlao on Dec. 5, 2014 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops puts you in command of a team of small soldiers as you guide them through deadly missions with varied objectives such as destroy enemy armored formations, save hostages or eliminate enemy generals.

As far as porting games goes, the common accepted order has been to start from a home console or PC and then move to a portable console and a phone, if possible. Sometimes, this happens almost immediately and all versions are released simultaneously. Other times, the process takes upward of a year or more, depending on contracts and other factors. The last few years have seen the process reversed, where portable console games like Assassin's Creed III: Liberation and Resident Evil: Revelations get home console and PC ports. There are even a few mobile standouts that were ported in reverse order, like Angry Birds and Deus Ex: The Fall. Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops is the latest to follow this trend, as it hits the Vita, PS3 and PS4.

You play as a soldier in a war, and you go on various missions to stop the opposing army from doing evil things. The war's purpose isn't really explained, and with the exception of a few scenes where even fewer names are mentioned, there isn't any effort to explain the story beyond what's necessary.

The core of the game is the same as other twin-stick shooting adventures, like Total Carnage or Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3. Whether alone or with an AI partner or three, you move from mission to mission to complete objectives and reach the rendezvous point, where you're picked up by a chopper. Your gun shoots in all directions and has unlimited ammo, but it has limited range, so you need to get close to do some damage to enemy buildings and soldiers. Extra weapons, like grenades and rocket launchers, can be procured from the field, and the same can be said for health pick-ups to heal your wounded soldiers. Finally, you can go prone for a bit to lessen the damage incurred from enemy projectiles.

Both on and off of the field, the game is governed by a point system that was at the heart of the free-to-play mobile origins, but this version removes the option for using real money to power up. Points earned by killing enemies and obtaining pick-ups on the field can be spent for equipment drops. If you choose not to spend the points on help from the sky, you can spend them on three categories of items. Upgrades allow you to beef up your gun for things like increased range, faster firing rate, or attack damage. You can also upgrade the overall soldier speed, resiliency, or performing an automatic rank up, which also adds more hit points to each soldier. Your soldiers' outfits can also provide added abilities, such as an extra buffer zone before enemies start attacking or a load of bonus points for every mission completed. Finally, you can rent extra soldiers to help with your missions. You're equipped with standard guys with machine guns, but you can recruit medics, heavy gunners, or soldiers can call in air strikes. Unlike the rest of the items you can pick in between missions, these specialists need to be unlocked with medals before they can be borrowed.

Speaking of medals, they also revive fallen soldiers at the end of a mission. In an unusual move for a twin-stick shooter, the game features permadeath, where soldiers killed in action can be revived at the end of the mission by spending medals. Miss the chance to do this, and that character will be lost forever. It has a bigger impact, since high-level characters can soak up more damage than starter characters.

The addition of these elements makes for a game that successfully introduces an element of strategy to the shooting: point management. Even if you were to downplay this element, Joint Ops has plenty going for it. The shooting is rather tight, as controlling your small group of soldiers never seems unwieldy, whether you're moving or firing. The game also packs in quite a bit of content, as both the first and second games are included for a total of over 50 missions. On top of that, there are also zombie survival modes included; they're fun in their own right and contribute to your point total for faster upgrading.

The caveat to having all of this fun is that you need to play the game at higher difficulty levels to reach that frantic type of action. You also won't experience any of that until you reach the latter half of each campaign, since the first half is usually devoid of heavy enemy presence. The early levels are also quite short, with the scavenging of extra pick-ups being the only way to artificially lengthen the game. To top it all off, a large chunk of the missions revolves around killing all of the enemies in the area and/or blowing up every enemy building in sight. There are a few missions where you have to escort reporters, ride vehicles, or survive, but with most of the missions repeating objectives, the game can get tiring if you plan to play it for long sessions.

As mentioned earlier, this is a cross-buy title for the Vita, PS3, and PS4 and the relatively low price makes it something of a steal. The game also supports cross-saves, so missions and upgrades don't have to be repeated when going from a Vita to a PS3, but the Trophy list is unified, so those hoping for an artificial Trophy boost won't get it here. The game runs at 60fps on the PS4 compared to the solid 30fps on the PS3 and Vita, but beyond that, there are no real presentation differences between the systems due to the scaling of the Unity engine. From a technical standpoint, the game experiences longer load times on the Vita; it's strange when you consider that the home consoles are running the game from a hard drive rather than flash media. As far as controls go, the game functions well on all platforms, though the looser sticks of the Vita and PS3 make for some faster action when compared to the PS4's tighter sticks. The Vita forces you to use touch-screen controls for secondary weapons, while most of the other controls can be mimicked on the touch-screen, like the original phone game.

The graphics sport a bright cartoony look that is rather appealing. Characters move in a very limited way that looks cute, even with shuffling limbs and overly drawn-out deaths. The models look like they came from a South Park design but pared down to compensate for the polygonal bodies. Despite going for the typical browns of a war game, the brightness helps some of the other colors, like the green in the foliage, stand out more. The rest of the environments aren't anything special, as their textures are slightly blurry on all platforms, but they don't look bad until you zoom in.

The sound, on the other hand, is almost absent. The voice work is fine, even though it only appears in the game's few cut scenes. The work isn't amazing, but if you can deal with British accents, it works. The effects are also fine, but a few things lack punch. Explosions sound dull instead of loud and booming. You have to get used to them, as the soundtrack only consists of two songs: the title screen track and the track for the campaign map. Every mission is devoid of music, and every cut scene is performed in relative silence. The absence of music is strange and gives the game a feeling of emptiness that doesn't meld well with the title's appearance.

In the end, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops is a fine twin-stick shooter that's best enjoyed in short bursts. The game is pretty lengthy, but the sameness of most of the missions starts to wear thin, especially if you don't play on the hardest difficulty level in the latter half. The title may not have microtransactions, but the grinding nature doesn't help alleviate things if you want to power up your players. Despite this, Joint Ops is fun, and the cross-buy and cross-save nature means that it is accessible almost anywhere. For those with a twin-stick shooter itch to scratch, Joint Ops isn't that bad of an investment.

Score: 7.0/10

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