Putting mobile titles on consoles (and vice-versa) can be a Ghostbusters-esque “crossing the streams” scenario: in most cases you shouldn’t do it, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary and comes with fantastic results. Wired Productions’ Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops tries to leverage its mobile popularity to create a quality cross-play title on the Sony consoles; it’s not necessarily a bad game, it’s just not a good one, either.
In Tiny Troopers you control bite-sized squads of soldiers as you shoot enemies, destroy buildings, save hostages, and grab collectibles on the way to the extraction point. On mobile platforms, the game would be controlled purely by touch controls, but controls on the Sony platforms blend touchscreen controls with dual-stick configurations. Herein lies the first problem: the controls aren’t quite optimized for either setup. When using touchscreen controls, dodging enemy bullet fire becomes very difficult. However, when using the dual-stick setup precision aiming is a problem. This actually makes the Vita the best option for this game, since it’s the only system where you can use both control schemes. Also, the graphics seem to be optimized for the smaller system; cutscenes in particular look pixelated on TV.
When it comes to gameplay mechanics, there isn’t much strategy in the approach. Your troops do experience permadeath, so the longer you can keep them alive from mission to mission, the stronger they become. Completing levels nets you points to buy upgrades, while finding medals on the field allows you to revive fallen troopers at the end of the level. Aside from bonus health, there’s no real reason to get committed to your soldiers; the game randomly generates new ones after the old ones die, and you don’t even get to select which character to send in to a mission if you have multiple options. Though you lose points when team members die, there’s no specific character customization to make any one trooper stand out from another.
To its credit, Tiny Troopers offers a lot of content. With over 50 levels spread between the “Soldier” and “Spec Ops” campaigns, completing the game can take 8-10 hours to push through. Each chapter of the campaign offers a zombie hoard level where you can fight for the highest score, and there’s a gallery if you find yourself engaged by the game’s cutscenes. Some of the levels can be pretty engaging, and taking outbuildings with rocket launchers and grenades does have a certain appeal to it. There’s also something about the game that taps that same cute n’ cuddly feeling the Worms franchise does, and hearing tiny, high-pitched screams of “Man Down!” and “We need a medic!” is kind of…adorable. That’s a very awkward thing to say about war in any context, but it still holds in this game’s case.
Unfortunately, “cute” just isn’t enough to fully recommend Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops. I’ll admit that it was interesting, and if you enjoyed playing through the missions on mobile devices, you’ll probably still enjoy playing them on the big screen or on a Vita. But even with cross-buy for all three platforms, I wanted content or gameplay modes that made the game feel at home on a beefier console, even a mobile one like the Vita. I just couldn’t find enough in the game to make me want to play it for anything more than a few minutes at a time. Maybe give it a shot on the Vita, but perhaps the tiny troopers are best suited to pocket-sized missions on pocket-sized devices.