Little green army men were a staple in many kids’ toy boxes, including my own. They were iconic and fun, and they came to life in two hugely popular ways in the ’90s: Pixar’s Toy Story and video games. Developer Virtual Basement tries to feed off this nostalgia in The Mean Greens – Plastic Warfare. It works at first, with green army men coming to life and running into battle on a cluttered arts and crafts table. However, The Mean Greens fails to offer an experience that lives up to the rose-tinted memories of imaginary battles with the toys that inspired it.
Plastic Warfare is a multiplayer third-person shooter set during a war between tan and green army men. Being a tiny toy in a big world makes for a lot of visually interesting scenarios: you weather treacherous kitchen counters, fjord a bathtub, and grit your teeth during battles on top of cake. I love when video games give you the perspective of something small, causing everyday objects to appear huge and daunting, and this concept is used to great effect in Plastic Warfare. While the charming world lends itself to some interesting moments, your appreciation for Plastic Warfare’s detailed world will wane when you realize how often the tan army, specifically, blends into its surroundings. When fighting near a tan-colored cake, it was next to impossible to track my enemies, and unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident.
Most modes prioritize completing objectives–capturing your opponent’s flag or conquering their base, for example–over shooting enemies, though your gun remains a useful means of slowing them down. Given the fact that shooting to kill isn’t your highest priority, you could forgive Plastic Warfare’s static and anemic equipment selection. However, your weapons are neither varied nor empowering. They all feel the same: lacking in impact and without recoil. It was hard to tell if my shotgun was actually firing at times, let alone connecting with my intended target. Likewise, it was common to die without knowing why; a visual marker shows that you’re taking damage, but it’s too subtle and easy to overlook.
A number of modes trip and fall over their own objectives, too. For example, Deep Freeze tasks teams with melting their respectively colored frozen dinosaurs–whoever melts the ice around their T-Rex first wins. Before both teams can get to the area that holds their iced-out dinos, there’s a big chunk of ice blocking the only way in. Since killing other players doesn’t help you win this mode or unlock new gear, it makes no sense for anyone to shoot each other when this obstacle is in the way–that would only make melting the block take longer. The most beneficial solution for both teams would be to work together–this would help get to the actually competitive part of the mode faster. But then, a bunch of players would just be standing around, holding down the left mouse button, and watching ice melt. Of course, everyone shoots each other anyway, making a needless part of the mode take a lot longer than necessary.
To make matters worse, each mode has a dedicated map, and the monotony this creates wears on you over time. If you happen to find a mode you do enjoy, it’s very likely that you’ll still grow tired of playing on the same map and long for a change of scenery.
The potential for creative audio design is huge for a game like Plastic Warfare, given the small-guys-in-a-big-world perspective, but so many of these opportunities go unrealized. Most of what you hear is gunfire and a mediocre soundtrack; I had to turn off the music to see if there were any sound effects. The only effect that I remember standing out occurred when I ran up a xylophone. Appropriately, it sounded like it should when someone runs a mallet across the multi-colored keys. It’s a seemingly tiny detail that makes a big difference in the grand scheme of immersion, and it’s disappointing that the rest of the world isn’t as responsive to your presence.
When there are much better multiplayer shooters on the market, a lot of which are completely free to play, it’s impossible to recommend The Mean Greens – Plastic Warfare. If you want to play with army men badly enough, I recommend looking for the ones you had as a kid or making a trip to the dollar store.