Tin and plastic merge in the digitized childhood of Toy Soldiers: War Chest. What originally spawned as a clever adaptation of wind-up, precariously bent metal soldiers battling inside of a wood playset soon became plasticized like the toy industry itself. ’80s nostalgia overruled the hazy, simpler days of play and in stepped Rambo. Then G.I. Joe. Then He-Man, followed by UbiSoft properties like Assassin’s Creed. Now all of it thrown together into War Chest. The invigorated merger of tower defense/shooter still works. The War Chest package isn’t worth holding them though.
Worth commending is the overall progressivism. Lines are not drawn between boy or girl toys. Retailer Target gets it, and so does War Chest. Kids will make due with what they have. If it means borrowing a mish-mash of toys to put together an incomplete playset, so be it. A unisex playground allows sparkling fairies to clash with WWI stereotypes. The mix is humorous yet sure of itself.
In its heart, Toy Soldiers is a celebration of childhood, a pre-made throwback machine with wide appeal from its toy perspective. While hardly the first – there was the superlative Dreamcast gem Toy Commander and the up-and-down Army Men series – Toy Soldiers is keenly aware of its market.
Under new publisher UbiSoft, War Chest has bloated itself into a gross anti-consumer platform which, in its own way, does capture the essence of being a child. With War Chest’s cover art plastering images of He-Man and G.I. Joe, playing as those characters requires a separate DLC purchase. They’re $5. Each. While their worlds/levels are playable and their theme songs blare, controlling those ’80s era legacies is considered a post-purchase, paid privilege. Toy Soldiers teaches war games as much as it does how corporations design their toy sales and marketing to exploit demographics. UbiSoft is amongst the worst. At least they’re attempting to milk adults.
Taking control of a mounted turret and blowing away front line tin men is a weirdly gentle way to sell war, if selling war is okay at all.
There is an innocence to Toy Soldiers. Shame the reflection on a short time span in life is marred by gross content schemes. Taking control of a mounted turret and blowing away front line tin men is a weirdly gentle way to sell war, if selling war is okay at all. That’s another discussion entirely. The opposition drops in an iconic but cliché cartoon animation – spin around, clutch the chest, kick up a leg, disappear – because that’s all death is to someone young. That’s all war is, too. Toy Soldiers pockets that naive nostalgia.
This Toy Soldiers is a jumbled campaign, trucking through various worlds in an attempt to broaden this brand. The Wilhelms and other returning characters (once an Xbox Live Arcade staple, now multi-platform) are designed for careful appeal. Those non-licensed action figures are parodies, from puffy, sparkling not-Care Bears to futuristic video game soldiers. Each has a set of items and a place to play.
It’s a random collection of things more than anything cohesive.
That’s evident in the aesthetics. The once all-charm, carefully considered world of high quality tin and wood perfection is no longer possible. Each change in time period or type means touches which move further from the original Toy Soldiers concept. A sci-fi world may as well be any quickie tower defense, removed the faux-miniaturization. It hardly feels like toys – even the expensive, high-tech end of their spectrum.
Note too that without a series of downloaded patches, War Chest is almost unplayable out of the retail box. Corny, cheesy, and cliché as it may sound, Toy Soldiers was better before it sold out.
Toy Soldiers: War Chest Review
UbiSoft thinks it's okay to plaster paid DLC characters on the box art, which sums up what happened to the otherwise great Toy Soldiers series.What Our Ratings Mean