Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops is the result of two mobile games being combined into one Xbox One release and although it's good fun, it doesn't make enough of a departure from the casual style gameplay that one would expect on a phone to allow it to make any real impact in the console space.
The story takes place across two sets of missions – Soldier and Special Ops. We assume each represents one of the original mobile games as, although Spec Ops picks up the story from where Soldier ends, it also takes a huge step backwards in difficulty and feels like it is introducing the mechanics again for the first time in the first few stages. This does mean that it's easy to start with either set of missions without any difficulty, but going back to a tutorial stage felt like a bit of a setback after completing the first half of the game. There are around 60 stages across both sets of missions, with each taking no longer than ten minutes to complete and averaging around the five minute mark.
Stages are loosely linked by short cartoons which serve as plot exposition using static comic book art and some pretty poor voice acting. These interludes don't really add anything to the experience and the missions that follow rarely seem to relate directly to what has just been discussed so there's no real benefit to their inclusion. Tiny Troopers draws on a small pool of mission types for each stage, which take place in one of a limited number of environments. You can either escort the journalist, save the prisoners or 'kill all the things.' In Spec Ops you can now 'kill all the things in a car,' but that's as much variation as the campaign has to offer.
This is a basic twin-stick shooter in which you control one or more soldiers who can be moved around a battlefield using the left stick. The units under your control will move as one so there is no need to command teams or risk leaving anyone behind. This cluster of soldiers can be ordered to shoot at targets using the right stick. There's also some heavy firepower which can be collected from fallen enemies, like the rocket launcher or grenades (and very rarely, an airstrike) but these are few and far between. Luckily, these items and other upgrades can be purchased in the pause menu during a mission if you're concerned you aren't up to the challenge of a heavily-armoured foe. Targets range from enemy combatants and vehicles, to barracks, missiles and guard posts, all of which must be eliminated if you want to achieve the highest possible score in each stage. Be careful though - killing friendly and neutral targets will deduct from your points total so it's not just a case of running in and shooting wildly, although the deductions are so small that it usually doesn't make that much of a difference.
Points are earned by killing enemies or collecting special items such as dog tags or enemy intel. A multiplier builds up with every kill and slowly depletes while you walk around the map, adding the potential to rack up some major scores during each round. After each stage, the scores are converted into command points, the currency of Tiny Troopers, and can be spent on various upgrades, items and outfits.
The upgrades apply to all units in a mission, granting increased firepower or accuracy, among other enhancements. Camouflage can be purchased to provide minor stat boosts or simply make your soldiers look super rad and there's even the ability to unlock special mercenary characters who can be hired to assist on missions as required. Each time you take a soldier on a mission they earn XP and will rank up, gaining a slight health stat boost. If you let a soldier die in battle, his or her progress is lost unless you choose to resurrect them using one of the limited number of medals which can be found in game.
In addition to the collectibles and multitude of missions and unlocks, there's a zombie horde mode which tasks the player with surviving increasingly numerous and difficult waves of undead soldiers and zombie chickens. This is fun and fairly challenging in the later waves, but the despite best efforts to add variety by way of different scenarios, still ends up feeling repetitive when played for longer periods. This is unfortunately something that is true of the whole game, which somehow always feels just a little too slow or too unvaried to really grab the player's attention.
Tiny Troopers is a game that's easy to pick up without having to engage too much brain power. There are no real stand out moments but it's a fun way to kill a bit of time when you need to wind down from a long day. The ability to buy heavy firepower to take down larger enemies or buildings; or maps which show the location of all enemies, objectives and collectibles mean that there's no difficulty wall to stop you from progressing, but also removes any real challenge from the campaign. Achievement hunters who are looking for a high Gamerscore output for little effort though, need look no further than Tiny Troopers.
With a simple accessible campaign and a whole host of collectibles and zombie modes to obsess over, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops is certainly not a bad game. It's reasonably entertaining and doesn't suffer from any major technical issues, but it lacks the depth or uniqueness that would propel it beyond 'just okay.' This is a title that is cute and fun when you aren't interested in thinking too hard and just fancy turning your brain off for ten to twenty minutes, but it's unlikely to set anyone's world on fire.