Review: Army Men II (Game Boy Color)

In this review, Tan plastic will melt in the Game Boy Color game Army Men II. We find out how well this top down shooter plays.

This game was released in 2000. It was released shortly after the PC version. We previously reviewed the game Army Men and found the game to be pretty decent overall. So, we thought we’d try the handheld sequel to see if it is a good follow-up.

One important note before we continue, this is a review of the handheld version and not the PC version. Judging by some sources, there are a number of variations between the two versions.

The game follows the events after what took place in the first Army Men game. Sarge and the green army has pushed back the tan army, headed up by the General, after a failed invasion. Unfortunately, the General has found a teleporter that leads from the toy world to the real world. From the other side, the Tan army has been building up their forces and prepping for another assault. Sarge, hero of the Green army, decides to lead a one man assault against the forces before the plans can take full effect.

You get a number of options in this game. The two main ones is either go into Boot Camp to sharpen your field skills or go straight into the field. While we tried the Boot Camp after the fact, we felt that our experience playing the original Army Men allows us to be prepared for this game. So, we went straight into the field.

There are a lot of similarities between the original Army Men and this sequel. Like the previous game, you are led around by HQ. At the beginning of every mission, you are given a small set of instructions. While there are a few missions that require Sarge to get to a certain point or collect a weapon, most missions have you kill all Tan enemies.

Your mission starts out in the garden where you are tasked with taking out a fortified Tan controlled building. Along the way through these missions, you’ll encounter crates. There are different kinds of crates, but the one crate that doesn’t take up an item slot is the health crate denoted by a plus sign and a square. This will immediately restore full health.

A second special crate is the “A” auto rifle. While this also doesn’t take up an additional item slot, it does replace your regular rifle weapon. What the auto rifle does is allow you to hold down the fire button (A) and let the gun shoot at the maximum rate. One thing to note is that you can fire one shot at a time. If a shot hits something, you can shoot again. This allows you to fire rapidly while close to your target.

The remaining items will take up one of your two item slots. You can select these item slots with B.

One item is the health pack. When you use this, you can restore two or three slots (depending on how much health you have left). Some med packs carry two rounds while others may only carry one.

Another item is the Minesweeper. This item allows you to not only detect mines as you slowly walk around, but also harmlessly pass over them. Once you collect this item, it stays with you for the remainder of the mission (thanks to the “unlimited” ammo it provides).

Other items include the grenade (short range throwing weapon), mortar (long range launching weapon), bazooka (powerful weapon that takes down tanks), and flame thrower (melts down enemy soldiers in short order). Each weapon contains a limited number of shots before disappearing from your inventory. So, use them when it is most useful.

There are a number of enemies you can encounter as well. The most common enemy is the enemy soldier with the rifle. They occasionally fire their rifle, so their offense isn’t all that great. Another enemy is the grenade throwing soldier. They, well, throw grenades. Other soldiers are armed with flame throwers, bazookas, and mortar shells. The thing to remember is that, besides the grenade thrower (who sometimes switches to his rifle), all of the enemies are stuck with that one weapon. So, you need to exploit the weapons weaknesses. Rifle shots can’t make it over tall walls, flame throwers have a limited range, etc.

In addition to this, there are enemy vehicles as well. There are jeep enemies that can both fire rifle shots at you and run you over for an instant kill. While rifle shots can gradually cut down on its health, explosive weapons like the bazooka and mortar can help take them out more quickly.

The other enemy vehicle is the tank. These basically fire bazooka shots and have better armor. These vehicles are probably the biggest threat to your safety in the entire game. The only good news is that vehicles only come at you one at a time.

One thing aiding you is the occasional green vehicle. To use, you must go up to them and select the get in/out vehicle option in the select menu. These vehicles drive like the enemy vehicles. The only difference is that if the vehicle gets destroyed, you can jump out and take on the remaining enemies on foot.

Probably the most notable difference between the prequel and this sequel is the length of each mission. The length of each mission has been shortened somewhat. Instead of missions that can take about a third to a quarter of the map, most missions only utilize a small slice of the map. The good news is that a particularly good run is more likely because fewer things can go wrong on shorter missions. The bad news is the fact that your health (goes back to full) and inventory (goes to nothing) resets. So, if you’ve built up a decent inventory, expect it to constantly disappear.

One thing I’ve noticed is that this game leans a little on the easy side. While you can die from time to time, this can be chalked up to bad luck or simply entering an area for the first time. As soon as you have some reasonable reconnaissance of the area, most levels are pretty easy. As a result, once you beat the game, the difficulty might lean towards being pushover after. This tends to kill the replay value. The initial run doesn’t make this all that noticeable, but any repeat runs can make a lot of the levels seem too easy. With no additional difficulty levels, it’s even harder to justify playing this game multiple times.

Another problem is the fact that this game really doesn’t offer hardly anything in terms of innovation. What you get in this game is largely found in the previous game. Probably the only thing that I notice that is new besides the maps is that more objects can be destroyed. While this gives the game a better layer of realism, I would really have liked to see something more like new weapon to use.

Generally speaking, this game can almost be seen as a level expansion over the previous game. The maps are all new and the destructible objects are improved. Beyond that, it’s hard to point to anything in this game that is new as almost everything is found in the previous game. The difficulty is also a little on the easy side – especially once you get into playing levels over again. So, it’s hard to justify playing this game again. Still, this game does offer all of the action found in the previous game.

The graphics are probably the big improvement for this series. The level maps have much better detail in them. So much more is destructible. The art that went into the destruction is pretty impressive. What is even more impressive is the 3D cinematic cut-scenes that have been thrown in. While few, they do offer a sense of improvement over the previous game. Probably the only downfall to this is that this game does go a little heavy on the art re-use. Some things can carry over from the previous game, but I was hoping for an improvement. Still, the graphics are quite solid here.

The audio is probably the games biggest weak point. While it is nice to hear some speech samples, these samples are all carried over from the previous game. While the in-game music is an improvement over the previous game, this game still suffers from the dreaded single-track syndrome. What you hear in the first level is the same track you hear half way through. What you hear half way through the game is the same track on the final level. It gets way too repetitive. So, more tracks would have made a world of difference for this. The sound effects are decent enough, but not enough to make this a passable experience in my view.

Overall, this is basically a level expansion of the previous game. While you get all the action that made the previous game interesting, finding innovation and improvement is a tall order. The destructible objects are more prevalent and do offer an improved game experience. Unfortunately, there isn’t much replay value because when you beat the game, there is little reason to go back and play this one again thanks to a lower difficulty level. There is no option to make this game any harder. The graphics are nicely improved and even throws in some 3D cut-scenes. Unfortunately, the audio is weak thanks to the single track that play over and over again during every mission. So, a decent enough game, but nothing that offers too many surprises.

Overall
Furthest point in game: Beat the game.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 3/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 60%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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