My initial reaction to Toy Soldiers -- a tower defense game in a World War I setting -- in a behind-closed-doors Microsoft demo? Snore. Imagine my surprise, then, that I soon got genuinely excited to play the game when it lands sometime next year.
At its core, Toy Soldiers is another tower defense title. What makes Toy Soldiers different is that players aren't limited to sitting back and watching their tactical decisions come to life. While other tower defense titles slow down interactivity as enemy waves approach, Toy Soldiers allows gamers to take control of defensive emplacements.
During our demo, Xbox Live Arcade business manager Scott Austin showed off how players can place a sniper tower within the world as a defensive choke-point and quickly take control of the soldiers within -- effectively turning the tower defense title into a first-person shooter. Austin later took control of a landed aircraft labeled "Red Baron," flying through the fully 3D world and attacking incoming waves with the plane's machine guns. As enemies are destroyed and a wave has been defeated, players earn money, allowing them to purchase new toys to add to the chaos.
Sadly, our Toy Soldiers demo was hands-off and short. But from what we've seen, Signal Studios has a unique approach to a tried-and-true formula. Hopefully the game will be as fun to play as it was to watch when it lands on Xbox Live Arcade in 2010.