Also available on Game Boy Color
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my childhood. 3DO's ill-fated and frankly mediocre Army Men series was the backbone of my video game entertainment as a child. Sure, I played a lot of games, but until middle school, none caught my attention and fascination as much as Army Men, and it all started with this 1998 PC release.
The premise of Army Men is the same basic story that filled every child's mind when he or she played with plastic army men as a kid - the Green Nation and the Tan Nation are bitter enemies fighting a war spanning multiple fronts. In this first game, you're introduce to four factions - the Green Army, the protagonist nation; the Tan Army, the antagonist nation; the Grey Army, third faction at war with both the Green and the Tan; and the Blue Army, a seemingly neutral faction that aids whatever country pays for their espionage services. Although the role of the Blue and especially Grey armies isn't clarified much in the first game, the impression I get is that the Grey Nation just kind of got pulled into the war as fighting between the Green and Tan spilled over into their territory; towards the end of a game, you fight in a town in which a retired Grey colonel resides.
The game consists of three campaigns. You begin on the desert western front repelling the initial Tan invasion where you learn about a mysterious three-part "key" to a secret Tan super weapon. After acquiring the first part of the key, you learn from a Blue spy that the Tan are keeping the second key component at a mountain base on the northern front. After a few daring missions to rescue Green POWs, you acquire the key and learn from one of the prisoners you freed that the Grey Army is in possession of the third key piece in the bayou region which is engulfed in a fierce three-way fight on the southern front between Green, Tan, and Grey forces. After attacking the Grey base where the key piece is being stored, you help evacuate a Grey defector - the retired colonel I mentioned earlier - in exchange for information on the location of the ancient "portal" that this key unlocks.
Obviously I have a deep love for this game, but in all fairness, it's not an especially "good" game. Visually it definitely shows its age, and the sound design is pretty atrocious. The sound effects themselves are okay, but the voice acting is really bad (and there's not FMV to make it "so bad it's good"), and the music is truly horrific. Each campaign location has its own ten second clip that is repeated endlessly. The desert is by far the worst since it's literally just a simple slow tempo snare drum beat. Ten seconds of it. Repeated endlessly. The controls also take some getting used to. Unless you're navigating menus, calling in an air strike, or calling in paratroopers, you can forget about the mouse entirely. You use the arrow keys to move forward and backwards as well as rotate your aim clockwise and counterclockwise (I remapped these to WASD), the function keys to select between your rifle, your secondary weapon, and your special weapon (I remapped these to the number row), and the spacebar to fire. It only takes a mission or two to get used to the control scheme, but it feels really awkward until you do get used to it.
Army Men is a game with a lot of nostalgia for me, and that nostalgia is probably the bulk of the reason that I look back on it so fondly. Unfortunately, however, the game's controls feel very awkward compared to modern controls, the visuals aren't great, the sound is horrific, and the difficult is downright brutal on the few escort missions the game has. However, with that said, it can be a fun time if you're into the Army Men series or just like quirky 90s games, and it's only $5 of GoG.com. The nostalgic kid in me says that you should give it a go to check it out, but honestly, I can't recommend this one to anyone who's not a general fan of 90s PC games or the Army Men series.
My Rating - 2 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.