|Videogames have been trying
to re-create the experience of playing with toys for years. From the games
based on the "Toy Story" movies
to the Army Men series of games, gamers have had plenty of opportunities to
relive their childhood memories. None of those previous games, however, have
created such an expansive toy-based world as No Cliché's Toy Commander for the Sega Dreamcast.
Commander puts you in the role of Andy, a young boy whose toys have revolted
against him. To regain control of the toys, you must ally yourself with boss
toys that control various parts of Andy's house. That's achieved by beating
each boss in battle after you've defeated levels in that toy's area of the
house. Beat the boss and he'll open up a new area to play in and will join
Andy's campaign to regain control of his toys from the Toy Commander.
The missions you're asked to complete can range from knocking a few eggs into
a pot of boiling water to full-fledged combat scenarios requiring you to disable
an enemy's base or rescue firemen from a burning building. The variety of missions
is at once the game's strength and weak spot. Why? Each level can be thought
of as a puzzle, because a certain amount of patience is required not only to
finish the level, but to figure out how to do it in the required amount of
time. Finishing the missions, in most cases, isn't too difficult. The added
requirement of having to beat the boss toy's time is definitely going to frustrate
some gamers. (You have to beat four of the boss's times to move on to the duel
with the boss.) Very few clues are given as to which way is the best or fastest
to solve a particular mission. If this sounds like a challenge to you, this
game might be right up your alley.
Thankfully, the rewards for moving on in Toy
Commander do make the frustration
worth it. As you progress in the game, more areas of Andy's house are opened
for you to play in. The game begins in the kitchen and dining room, but you
can eventually make it into your bedroom, a hallway, the garage and your parents'
The graphics do a great job getting across the idea that you're playing with
toys in a virtual house. The items scattered throughout the various rooms are
inventive, as well as useful in creating some ingenious obstacles. The level
of detail is superb. There's even a cat that occupies the house along with
the toys and, as an example of the detail level involved here, there's poop
in its litter box. (Yes, you can shoot the cat, but it doesn't get hurt; just
a little irritated.)
The musical score is almost subliminal. It definitely does set the mood, however.
The sound effects are top-notch and definitely let you know what's going on
around you. Bombs whistle as they drop and explode with the proper thunderous
reports when they hit their targets. The vehicles you can use to move around
the play areas all sound appropriately toy-like.
Controlling those vehicles may seem a little tricky at first, but since the
game requires you to play each level so many times to move on, you'll definitely
get better as time goes on. In some cases, though, the game could be a little
more helpful in letting you complete your task. The lack of a top-down view
makes the levels where you have to drop items on to another item unnecessarily
difficult. Lining up your vehicle from a third-person rear view can be tricky.
The inclusion of a first-person view does help in some cases, but a true top-down
view would have been extremely helpful.
If the single-player game gets old,
there are multiplayer options available as well. The game supports up to
four players in deathmatch-type games that
take place in the house. There are three variations on this mode of play: Deathmatch,
Cat & Mouse and Capture the Flag. These definitely add a change-of-pace
to the game's mission-based solitaire mode and are most welcome.
Commander is a game that doesn't set any new standards in gameplay,
graphics or sound, but does provide an interesting experience for those willing
to tough it out and reap the rewards. Definitely a title that one should rent
before buying, just to be sure it appeals to you.