In this review, we take on the tan army in the Game boy Color game, Army Men. We find out if this top down shooter is worth playing.
This game was released in 1998 along with a PC version. While there are similarities in the gameplay between the PC version and the Game Boy Color version, they are effectively two different games.
In this game, the tan army is mobilizing. War is imminent as the tan general leads his soldiers. You play Sarge, a soldier from the green army. It’s your job to carry out objectives to advance help HQ make advances in the theaters of war.
You have two major options. You can enter boot camp and get a feel for the game or you can jump right into the first mission.
The first mission takes place in the desert theater. You are given a general objective. While one mission is effectively a timed mission (you are to stop a jeep from making an escape), there are no time limits to any other mission in the game.
In every mission, you start off with a simple rifle with unlimited ammo. While that sounds like an impressive start, you have to press the fire button every time you want to shoot. In addition to this, you can only fire one shot at a time. This means that if you miss, you have to wait for the bullet to go off screen or hit something else before you can fire again. This is generally not a huge deal unless you are attacking far away enemies. In that case, with the amount of shots needed to take down an enemy soldier, the enemy will have time to hit you a number of times. The advantage here is if you run right up to your enemy, firing is only limited to how many times you can hit the fire button.
Along the way, you’ll notice various boxes that you can pick up. Some are dropped by enemies, but most are just placed on the map for you to pick up.
One of these objects is the health box. This is depicted by the cross with the box around it. If you pick this one up, you’ll completely restore Sarge’s health.
You’ll no doubt notice that you have two empty slots next to your health. These hold pretty much any other item or weapon you pick up. The health packs are in the boxes with the cross with no box around it. Other weapons are denoted by a letter. For instance, “B”, is for the Bazooka weapon. “M” is for the Mortar weapon. “G” is for Grenade. Those are a few examples.
One helpful item you can pick up is the Minesweeper (in the “S” boxes). While they use up a slot for the rest of the mission and doesn’t actually fire anything, this item will not only detect mines in the area, but also render then inert (allowing you to pass over them without getting hurt). In some missions, this item is crucial to your success as some paths bottleneck into a narrow stretch filled with mines.
One final item you have that is with you in every mission is the map. You can access it from the pause menu. Flashing lights indicates an enemy. While the map would have you believe the levels are huge, the levels aren’t actually that massive. In fact, for the running speed, they are actually at a perfect size.
Some missions require you to defeat enemy forces. Sometimes, though, you’ll need to destroy buildings or enemy vehicles. For these missions, you need to hold onto either grenades, mortar shells, or bazooka’s to complete the mission. Some buildings take multiple shots while other pieces of infrastructure only need one hit (communication towers for instance).
Stopping your progress, besides the mine fields, are tan enemies. The most common one is the soldier holding the rifle. These enemies will patrol the areas. When they hear you, they’ll turn into your direction and fire directly at you. Several shots from your rifle usually takes care of them. Sometimes, though, these soldiers will carry a mortar weapon. In that case, they’ll fire shells at you. Direct hits can cause significant damage to your health (or worse, kill you). As a general rule, the faster you can wipe these enemies out, the better. Sometimes, you might come across a tan jeep. While they don’t seem to fire at you, you’ll need an explosive weapon to take them out. Probably the biggest threat to your personal safety is the tan tank. While you can take them out with a well placed shot of a powerful weapon, you wouldn’t want to get hit with a tank shell.
In later missions during the jungle theater, you’ll also be able to have access to green vehicles. This can be either the jeep or the tank. To get in one, you have to activate the In/Out vehicle option in the pause menu. While it is useful to have these vehicles, just remember that they are actually quite delicate. One mortar shell from an enemy can spell the end of your ride. Still, it is possible to run enemies over with the tank if you aren’t exactly a sure shot.
If you complete both the desert theater episode and the jungle theater episode, you’ll lead the green army to victory.
One thing about this game is that the controls take a bit of getting used to. Left and right turns Sarge while up and down allows you to run forward or slowly step back. The downside is that this movement combines your aiming. You can only aim wherever you are facing. In later missions, you’ll wish you could, at least, do some side stepping in the process, but, no such luck here. fortunately, the enemies aren’t that hard to kill in spite of their surprisingly good health. The enemies don’t really move that much for the most part.
One of the criticisms I do have is that the controls can be a bit finicky when it comes to terrain. If you brush up against, say, a ledge or a tree branch, Sarge will immediately stop moving. You have to turn into a different direction where your path isn’t obstructed in order to keep moving. Some games allow you to feel your way along walls, but this game isn’t one of those games. This aspect can be a bit annoying.
The other criticism I would give this game is the requirement to access the pause menu just to get into a vehicle. Since “A” is just fine for reading boards (which doubles as your firing button), I don’t see why it couldn’t also double as a way of getting into a vehicle.
Still, I thought this was an otherwise pretty solid game even with the limited inventory slots. The missions were about the right size and the difficulty was also fairly decent. A little on the easy side? Maybe. That didn’t bother me too much because some missions weren’t exactly a cake walk either.
Graphically, this game was pretty decent. The terrain was decent and the buildings (both normal and destroyed) were nicely realized. The only downside is the fact that any destruction that takes lace in the previous mission will be reverted in the next mission. If the destruction was carried through between missions, that would have made the game seem less cheaply put together. The few cut scenes found in this game, however, were pretty decent.
Audio was both a big strength and major weakness. The voice samples of sarge was great to hear. It was impressive how much speech was packed into such a small handheld system. The weakness of this game, however, was the ridiculously small music library. You have a general military drum as music for missions. Everything else including menus, cut scenes, and mission briefings have an actual track. While the music was decent, it gets very repetitive very quickly.
Overall, I thought this was a fairly solid game. The weapon system was great. The items, though somewhat limited, worked quite well. The missions were decent. The graphics were pretty good. The length was pretty good. The voice samples were nicely done. Unfortunately, the music in the game was pretty much a write-off at only two tracks for the entire game. Once you get past the music limitations, this was a fairly solid game underneath. Gets a thumbs up from me.
Furthest point in game: Collected the uberdevice and beat the game.
General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 7/10
Overall rating: 76%