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A.P.I Review: Small Soldiers
Developer: Dreamworks Int. OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: EA 1-2 Player
Game Type: 3D Action Memory Card
Review Date: November 1998 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Let The Battle Begin

Led by Chip Hazard, the soulless, militaristic Commando Elite has launched a full-scale assault on the realms of Gorgon. Archer, noble leader of the monstrous Gorgonites, has fallen back with the defeat of each of the Gorgonite worlds, and now his most desperate hour has arrived.

Archer must repel the invasion, liberate each of the captured realms, and take the battle into Commando space, driving their elite military forces to their war-torn homeworld, where he has to face and defeat Hazard once and for all.

The battle begins on Gorgon, where Hazard’s lieutenants have secured the mysterious Gorgonite capital and captured Insaniac, one of Archer’s most powerful allies. Yet none of the commandos are prepared for the savage Archer to turn the tide.
Let the battle begin!


Small Soldiers is a third person action shooter set in a polygon 3D world.


What do Deathtrap Dungeon, Lifeforce Tenka, Apocalypse, Assault,... in fact most modern 3D action shooters, all have in common? Polygon tunnels! Small Soldiers takes place in a network of passageways that are constructed entirely of neatly linked polygon slabs. To be fair these corridors have been tastefully designed with a firm line of middle-age architecture in mind. This means that intricately designed cornices and mouldings surround the perimeters of the smoothly textured walls, rather than being enclosed by boring blank sheets of plain material which have been riveted together to form a maze, as is so often the case.

The characters have been extremely well animated and could never be mistaken as anything but replicas of the heroes and villains from the hit movie. The player controls the warrior Archer, who is viewed from a third person perspective. The camera tracks his every move from a set position (up and behind) and is positioned perfectly for any shoot-out at ground level. The only time that this system fails is when attacked by the occasional airborne enemy who is often higher than the view line. To compensate this problem there is a joypad button configured to override the standard camera angle and slip into sniper mode. This view is barely manageable and so difficult to target anything accurately that I often found myself backing off until the enemy appeared within the third person view before firing.

The game moves along at a fairly healthy pace with little sign of any slowdown or glitching. Of course game speed and colorful polygons are usually penalized somewhere down the line and with Small Soldiers you must endure a very limited viewing distance. Enemies are constantly disappearing and then reappearing from the dark shadows making targeting, once again, a frustrating accident rather than a rewarding skill.

Sounds and Effects

The excellent musical score comes directly from the movie offering a truly cinematic experience while the game also featuring the voice of Tommy Lee Jones as Chip Hazard, the take-no-prisoners leader of the Commando Elite. Perfect!


First a little about the games characters. Contrary to expectations the Commandoes are the bad guys who are the best-trained, best-equipped militia in the universe and insist on looting Gorgon of it's resources. Chip Hazard is their leader and packs a nifty plasma pistol. Other recruits include Butch Meathook the Master of Arms. A brave soldier who carries a rocket-launching Gatling gun. Kip Killigan is an all-purpose fighting man. His laser-sighted gun gives him killer aim, and, if that doesn't take down his target he's got his flame thrower handy to fry any foe. And he's been trained in the ninja arts, so he can dodge almost anything those dim-witted Gorgonites can toss at him. Finally Nick Nitro knows how to handle the Gorgonite landscape... blast it to bits with his high explosive grenade launcher!

On the home side we have the Gorgonites lead by Archer the loyal and savage warrior. Friends and allies include Punch It who has a tasty left hook, Insaniac may be a little nutty but he's one tough cookie to have on your side, rock hard Slamfist, hyper-spaz weasel Scratch It, Nibble the flying freak, Ocula the evil eye and stinky Stench.

What do Doom, Duke Nukem, Quake and Disruptor all have in common? Red key, yellow key... etc. The gameplay follows the tried and trusted pattern where progress through the level is barred by a series of color coded doors of which the key must be discovered. It's all fairly straightforward and nothing too brain taxing therefore the kids should enjoy the 'challenge'. Most accesses to the keys are revealed by destroying the enemy commando who holds the sacred tablet. This is then returned to Chanters who holds the keys to the Gorgonite realms.

There are two modes of play. Single Player involves guiding Archer through fourteen levels collecting weapons and pick-ups as all in his path are gradually destroyed. To complete the level a predetermined mission must be completed which range from; commandoes are defying the realm... destroy the wicked war machines... use spirit wells to traverse the realm... rescue your captured brothers... Get the idea?

There are fourteen weapons of destruction to gather on your travels - some by stealth and some by sheer explosive power. Archers weaponry includes crossbows, homing stars, energy charge and special rebound arrows that ricochet off walls. Specials include shock waves, floating mines and a timed orb bomb. Commando forces are armed with guns, rockets, grenades, bazookas and ninja stars.

Controlling Archer is fairly simple with face buttons used to select weapons, jump and fire. The shoulder buttons allow your characters to strafe left and right to dodge incoming fire.

The Two Player mode offers short, sharp frantic entertainment as yourself an a mate go head to head for a session of split-screen madness. Choose between Frags or Flags and then fierce Gorgonite or treacherous Commando as you hunt each other down in a selection of eight fairly large enclosed arenas. Remember that your characters can leap up in the air and grab onto suspended hooks as you attempt to gain the most advantageous position to fire upon your foe.

Value for Money

Overall Small Soldiers has that certain magical ingredient that keeps you coming back for more. Just what that is... I don't know. I suppose if I did I would probably be a millionaire.

GRAPHICS: 15/20 There are very few movie tie-ins which make the grade. Small Soldiers does not escape that trend but is certainly one of the better efforts. It's mostly blast without the need for brains and could almost fall into the platform category.

With the competition so fierce this Christmas it will be interesting to see how Small Soldiers fares against the big guns. My bet is that it will be fairly well received but will probably end up in a few of Santa's stockings due to the movie connection rather than for gripping gameplay.
SOUND: 9/10
VALUE: 15/20


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