Also available on Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and Windows
As was the case with Army Men and Army Men 2 on Game Boy Color, Army Men Air Combat on Game Boy Color is an extremely simplified port of the larger game of the same name. Rather than being a port of a PC game, however, this time it's a port of a Nintendo 64 and PlayStation game (although the game also released on PC). For the main platform releases, this game was a big deal because it was the first Army Men game to be made in a 3D engine where everything is rendered in real time. Obviously the Game Boy Color wasn't going to be pulling off any 3D stunts, but even so, I have to admit that this feels a bit like a step back for the Game Boy Color Army Men games in some ways.
Rather than playing as Sarge as you did in Army Men and Army Men 2, you play as Captain Blade this time, the Green Army's star helicopter pilot. I haven't actually played the N64 or PS1 versions of the game yet, so I can't speak to how closely this port follows the story, but from what I've read, it's like the Army Men port in that in follows the basic story pretty well but in a significantly simpler form. For the most part, the story in this port, at least, feels rather haphazard and disconnected. You're basically running a series of loosely connected missions that never really feel part of a greater whole. You have to defend a Green base from a Tan attack, resupply a Green factory, destroy a Tan battleship, protect a Green convoy, save Sarge from a Tan prison camp, etc. None of them feel out of place, but the whole game feels extremely episodic rather than serial.
Visually, we're looking at about the same quality as Army Men 2. Nothing looks great, and it still resembles an Atari 5200 game, but it's decent enough given the hardware. The helicopters look pretty decent, and all three of the playable choppers in the game have distinct designs aside from stat differences. The music is the biggest upgrade. It's still not an award winning soundtrack or anything, but it's much less repetitive than what we had in Army Men or Army Men 2. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it, per se, but I definitely didn't find myself getting sick of it like I did in the previous two games. Unfortunately the controls took a big step back. The helicopter feels like it has some momentum which is nice from a realism perspective, but at the same time, it makes it a pain to control, and you're flying a helicopter four inches long and made out of plastic; is realism really high on our priority list? I suppose in a lot of ways that comes down to personal preference, but I found it to be far more of a hindrance than a boon.
Army Men: Air Combat for Game Boy Color is decent game by Army Men standards, but it falls short of Army Men 2 in playability and fun. The controls took a hit in the transition to air combat, in my opinion, but the visuals are on par with Army Men 2, and the music is a marked improvement. Some of the missions can be extremely frustrating - escort missions suck in any game, and they're especially cumbersome here - but the game does, at the very least, give you more mission variety than Army Men or Army Men 2 did. I wouldn't go out of my way to find this unless you're an Army Men or Game Boy Color enthusiast, but there are definitely worse games on the system.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
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 high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.