Paper Wars: Cannon Fodder Review
I normally don’t have the time to review Minis but in this case, I figured I’d make an exception. But I think I was tricked…they talked about the “worst game of all time,” so I was expecting something that was barely functional; a game so broken that it’s just downright hilarious. That, I assumed was the point of Paper Wars: Cannon Fodder. But this is actually a perfectly functional game that, while repetitive and even a little tiring, works just fine. Maybe it’s because all the hand-drawn artistry reflects paper cutouts of soldiers and explosions, or maybe it’s because everything is misspelled (in both the menus and during gameplay). But I certainly wouldn’t call this the “worst game” out there; I’m not about to say, “it’s so bad, you just gotta see it.” I guess that’s what I was expecting. What I got was a decent little Mini that’s probably worth a look.
The visuals are a definite highlight, though. You shouldn’t expect much – it is a Mini, after all – but you’ll really enjoy the silly, appropriately juvenile artistic style. All the explanation you need is right there in the title: paper everything. The only aspects of the game that aren’t made out of paper are a few of the backgrounds (one of which apparently takes place on a photograph of stone or gravel), but other than that, it’s all comprised of paper cutouts. Every effect and explosion and even the little missile you fire with your paper cannon is just another cutesy hand-drawn piece. And as you might expect, we’re not talking about meticulously designed pictures; any one of them could’ve been drawn by a kindergartener. It fits the style and atmosphere perfectly. There isn’t much else to talk about in terms of graphics, but that’s okay.
The sound is a bit more limited but it goes for the same goal- simple and effective for the sake of a purposely lackluster technical presentation. The soundtrack is just about right (even if I would’ve liked a bigger music selection) and the effects resonate with that childish “boom” that goes together so well with the paper explosions. I kept thinking that a bit more audio effects could’ve been implemented, though; the repetitiveness of the gameplay isn’t helped by sound that seems to stay in a rut throughout most of the game. Like I said, it fits but it’s just not dynamic enough. Even so, as far as Minis go, the combination of the graphics and sound is pretty good, especially given the bizarre “anti” philosophy of developer iFun4All. And like most such games, the gameplay is really all that matters, because we want an accessible yet slightly addictive little title that will keep us occupied for an hour or so. It’s not a big-budget production, remember?
There are 28 missions and they get increasingly more difficult, although I really didn’t have any issues until I hit the low 20s. Basically, in each mission, a bunch of enemy soldiers attempt to run across the screen from right to left. You have a cannon and an aiming reticule, and because the cannon is placed on the bottom left of the screen, a fired projectile takes longer to travel to the right side of the screen. Hence, if you’re aiming in that general direction, you need to take the enemy’s speed into account, as well as the speed of your missile. You hold down the X button to charge a shot; a fully powered shot obviously does more damage, but you can fire a quicker, less powerful shot if you need to eliminate some escaping foes. If a unit can get completely off the left side of the screen, that counts as a soldier missed. Most of the early goals require that you kill a certain number of enemies, and avoid letting a certain number escape.
Some soldiers move faster than others and sometimes, the field has obstacles they must bypass. This changes their route across the field, which in turn alters your aiming. Nailing soldiers will often reveal special bonuses, like mines, clocks (they slow down the soldier advance), and extra missiles. The yellow missile – if you have any – is charged by holding down the Circle button and unlike the regular cannon fire, three separate missiles land around the general targeted area. There are some not-so-great pick-ups, too, like a red pill that speeds up the running speed of the enemy. …I may have made the game sound more complicated than it actually is, though. Basically, you just aim and shoot at a bunch of paper cutouts that are comically attempting to make their way across the screen. The whole thing works relatively well and I had fun going through the majority of the missions; they go by quickly.
They even toss in a few interesting twists towards the end. Somewhere around Mission 18, I think, the only way to kill foes was to have an explosion throw their bodies into one of a few obstacles/walls on the field. And things get so hectic later on that it can actually feel a little overwhelming, but in a good way. The only problem I have with all of this is that it’s quite repetitive and it’s all over too soon. You can rip through two-thirds or three-quarters of the game without much of a challenge at all; I think I finished half the missions without letting even one soldier escape. I didn’t get any extra award for doing that, by the way. And while the last few twists are cool, the majority of the experience can feel a tad bland. I’ve played other Minis that hold my attention a little better and a little longer but for the record, I kept playing because I wanted to, and not necessarily because I needed to play more for this review.
Paper Wars: Cannon Fodder is a decent, entertaining Mini that is a fine way to pass the time. If Plus members have the option to nab it for free, it’s definitely worth playing and even if you don’t get it free of charge, it’s still cheap. You might find that the appeal wears thin a bit too early, and maybe they could’ve done more with this silly, unique concept, but the control and style is undeniably good. Also, there’s a Survival mode that adds to the longevity and for the most part, you really should play through most of the game with a smile on your face. I just don’t think it’s anything particularly special…or particularly “terrible” for the sake of comedy.
P.S. Bear in mind I played this on the PS3. It can also be played on the PSP, but I heard the control might not be quite as perfect as it is with the Dual Shock controller.
The Good: Neat, appealing presentation and style. Solid control and gameplay. A few nice design twists. Mostly entertaining throughout.
The Bad: Could’ve done more with the audio. Things can get repetitive and a little boring too quickly.
The Ugly: Oh, it’s too cute to be ugly.
2/26/2011 Ben Dutka