N64th Street

Army Men: Air Combat

Posted by: Kevin C. on: August 18, 2013

Between the fact that this game can typically be had very cheap and the fact that it’s part of a franchise that had long since milked its premise of being a game starring living green plastic army men dry of all its charm, I can’t say my hopes were high for this one. I remember being pretty dang interested in the general idea of the Army Men franchise back when it was first a Real Time Strategy game for the PC, especially as I was in the throes of Toy Story mania at the time. However, I kinda never actually ended up playing it, or any of the other games in the series for that matter. So I guess this is also effectively my introduction to the franchise. Neat.

With a name like Air Combat, I wasn’t expecting this to be, like, a platformer. But it seemed likely to be one of two things: a flight sim, or a Strike-like 3rd-person blast ’em up. I was certainly praying for the latter.

heli2Badass helicopters, hella explosions, routine winch operation… check.

It looks like prayers come true sometime. It’s essentially your standard helicopter game- and in this case, it’s just like Nuclear Strike except even easier and simpler. It’s a little less smooth to me than that game, but the game piles so many special weapons on you that it’s pretty easy to simply rely on homing weapons to effortlessly make everything explode.

bugs2Or napalm, if you want to kill things while also reheating a lawn drumstick.

Perhaps that’s the game’s biggest issue, actually- it’s terribly short and terribly easy, to the point that I’d say that you shouldn’t expect it to take more than 5 hours to finish the game. There are a couple of things that can extend the game out a bit- there’s 2-player co-op for the entire main campaign, and there’s a handful of blast ’em up combat sorties for up to 4 players. Frankly, though, this game can be had for less that $3 as of writing, so you’ll probably still be getting your moneys worth even if you never touch the rest.

punchyIf you’re anything like me, though, this game might make
you subliminally crave fruit snacks. Fair warning.

The game is a real mixed bag in the audiovisual department- the neat little background/flavor items (like the one above) in the levels are usually pretty cute and thoughtful, and might even remind you a bit of Katamari Damacy when you’re still a pretty tiny ball. The rest can be a bit spotty, in particular when you partner with a giant, lazer-beam-eyed version of the desecrated teddy bear from the ads for Battletanx- just check out this walk animation:

bearyJust to be clear, this is what he always walks like.
I can’t imagine that this was terribly intentional.

The music in particular is atrocious, with I believe only 1 (possibly 2) music track(s)  that you’ll ever actually hear in the levels. It features a midi guitar sample that I can only describe as “fluppery,” it’s mostly sonically unremarkable aside from that, and its arrangement is just kludgy enough to get kind of grating. By the end, I was definitely playing on near silent for sanity purposes.  None of the aesthetic failings are so large that they distract too much from an otherwise solid game, but it’s nevertheless disappointing.

I gotta say, if the rest of the Army Men games are this enjoyable despite their flaws… well, I’m actually kind of interested to see how the rest of the series has shaken out. Although the game is way too short and easy if you have any amount of game playing skill, it’s still an instant recommend if you particularly enjoy games where you play a helicopter that rains death from above and occasionally saves hostages. It wouldn’t have been at its $40-70 launch price tag, but this game is definitely worth the paltry amount of dollars it commands today. It’s a fun ride if you like it, and it’s a cheap disappointment if you hate it.

Mold it or Scold it?

Mold it into your game shelf immediately if “Death From Above” is always tops in your book.
Scold it if you’re a hateful person who can’t stand anything that isn’t horrendously challenging.

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