Tiny Troops logo

Hugh Poynton dons his space helmet and prepares to meet Vulcan's new invaders in mortal combat.

Back in December, I wrote a preview of an excellent new game being developed by Vulcan called Tiny Troops. The game looked like being a fun new twist to the traditional, 'let's play at re-enacting the Tet Offensive' genre, known as war games.

The storyline was stupid but fun: After 450 years of continuous fighting, two races of space aliens arrive at two simple but problematic conclusions. The first is that after all this time fighting they find they rather enjoy wanton destruction. The second is that if they continue to bombard their planet with heavy ordinance they'll bugger it up beyond repair.

The plan they eventually come up with is to jaunt off to Earth, and continue the fighting. Fortunately for the human race, these fierce galactic warriors are only knee high to a grass hopper.

It's your job to direct these pint sized platoons around kitchen work surfaces, window boxes and whatever else will double as a battlefield. Your first decision is to decide whether you'll control the bunny rabbit like Klutes or the Marvin the Martianesque Furfurs.

Once you've done this it's time to decide which tactics need to be employed to bring victory. How many troops will you utilise? There are a total of 12 troops to command but a smaller groups of perhaps 5 will be easier to handle and easier to manoeuvre. The full 12, however, will have buckets more firepower.

Will you split your force into two or three groups and surround them use one group to attack, and the other to defend your teleport base or just go for the ever useful kamikaze death charge using every killer critter at your disposal?

Although I'm no Tecumseh Sherman, this task is a little more difficult than you mgith expect going by the cute cartoon feel of the game. The task of defeating the enemy will take a fair amount of brain power and more than a little luck.

Tiny Troops is like a mental amalgam of The Smurfs, Micro Machines, Chorlton and the Wheelies and Platoon. As combinations go, it's a bit of a weird one, but it's a cocktail that makes for a strangely addictive and very enjoyable little game.

Tiny Troops is a fun and invoking take on a traditionally dull genre and I'd recommend it to anybody.

Tiny Troops logo

Andy Smith's always been a bit bossy, but give him an army of tiny soldiers and he's something of a nightmare.

Tiny Troops is more Command and Conquer (but on the Amiga) than it is Cannon Fodder - but it's stolen elements from both of those games and created something that's similar to both without being close enough to be called a clone.

It's all about controlling small squads of, well, tiny troops actually and achieving set objectives (usually destroying the enemy's base) for each of the game's 65 levels.

One of the best things about the game is how well paced the levels are in the way they've introduced not only the various weapons (tanks, gliders, grenades and so on) but strategic and tactical elements to the gameplay - like what to do when the only bridge to the enemy base has been blown up. It works so well you just can't hep starting another level as soon as you've managed to complete the last.

Each level starts with a small briefing and then the player's usually left to choose the make up of his dozens or so squad members - choosing soldiers that can fire from long range will work wonders on one level where they're going to have cover, for example - before getting down to business.

Cleverly, Vulcan have introduced no time limits as such, but there are levels where you're going to have to move fast because the enemy are up to their own thing while you're sat around twiddling your thumbs.

Control could be a bit easier - it's the only slightly annoying feature of the game - especially when you're controlling a group of soldiers (you can 'rubber band' troops together by clicking and dragging a square around your selected soldiers) because your troops can find themselves wandering around in completely the wrong places at times.

This isn't disastrous if you're keeping your eye on things but it can be a problem if you're somewhere else on the battlefield. A little experimentation allows you to compensate for the clumsiness of this feature and though it's annoying, it's certainly livable with.

This is a highly addictive, playable and fun game - especially in two layer mode - that you'll love if you've got a hard disk. Floppy players may find the amount of disk swapping a little annoying but even then they won't be left wanting once the action starts. Well worth your money.

Tiny Troops logo

Price: £17.99 Publisher: Vulcan Software 01705 670269

Fancy a bit of ruff 'n' tumble in the long grass? Well, we've got just the game for you then?

If you've been reading through our vintage games feature this month, I'm sure you'll have spotted many a familiar name and sighted to yourself thinking "they don't make 'em like they used to". And you'd be right. Take Cannon Fodder for example. What a fine classic that was. Good old fashioned fighting with lots of strategy thrown in.

Although Tiny Troops will never be in the same league as the aforementioned game it at least borrows some of its better concepts. However, before I god down that road of pointing of why although it's a good game, it will never achieve the greatness of Cannon Fodder, let's check it out first.

Sworn enemies the Klutes and the Furfurians have vowed to fight 'till death. Having destroyed pretty much all of their planets, they've chosen Earth for their battleground. However, us Earthlings can't see them 'cos they're only the size of a pinhead but it does mean the most of the terrain in the game is made up of giant-sized flowers and bits of shrubbery.

And so the scene is set. Whatever side you decide to be you've got a fixed number of men at your command for each battle (and believe me there are lots). Your missions will vary along the ones of: either destroy all the enemy plus their base.

Your trusted general normally throws out a few hints beforehand but overall it's up to you to decide your battle plan. A one or two-player game, it's definitely not a shoot first ask questions later one though, you've got to put a bit of thought in there and plan out how you're going to pick off all the enemies and make it to their base without getting killed.

Spice of...
One of the plus points about Tiny Troops is the amount of variety in the numerous levels. The battle terrain changes a bit and each level gets harder. Different types of warriors in addition to your bog standard foot soldiers crop up throughout the game adding a bit of interest.

For example, grenadier soldiers are good for firing at objects which are far away, and flying warriors are great for getting quickly over very dodgy ground as is the transporter and so on.

The playing area is well mapped out as well so it is easy to scroll around to see where these soldiers will come in handy. Other bonus options include the save game option and the ability to see how strong or weak a troop is so you can send off your weak soldiers to be repaired and concentrate on killing the weaker ones amongst the oppositions.

Group mentality
However, there are a few touches that drag the game down. I found the control to be a bit annoying. Vulcan seem to be obsessed with mouse control. Although Tiny Troops will work with a joystick, it responds better to a mouse. But even still, I found it way too fiddly.

Although the main screen is well laid out with the various icons along the bottom (see page 6 for a breakdown for what each icon does) there doesn't seem to be a quick way of switching from one soldier to another. It's a painful procedure of clicking on a soldier and then clicking one of the various options below: i.e. defend, attack, repair.

This might sound niggly but it was annoying in the later levels when I had a large team of men all at various points of the game. So while I was busy sorting one out the others were busily being annihilated elsewhere. As a bonus point, though, you can move your troops on mass so that redeemed it a bit.

Almost there
Tiny Troops will never be in the same league as Cannon Fodder. The graphics are distinctly Valhallish and the voices of the soldiers are definitely from Timekeepers. It lacks polish and the control system is too fiddly to put it up amongst the classics.

What do I do then?
Tiny Troops
  1. Game Map
    This is where you see the bigger picture. Click here if you want to scroll through the level to have a look at the lie of the land; i/e/ where the enemy base is and if there are any enemy soldiers lurking about in out of the way places.
  2. HQ
    Game options. From left: show fighting soldiers, load/save game (na for demo), increase/decrease viewing area, general/status report, run home, clear, total war.
  3. Fight/Flight
    The fist icon denotes attack, the arrow move. Once you've chosen either, hold down the mouse button or joystick and drag it to where you want to attack or move to.
  4. Group Move
    Holding the left mouse button or joystick down enables you to select a gorup of men. Once you've done that you can choose one of these four formations to put into. Decoy is a pretty handy one for fooling the enemy.