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TGS 2009: Impressions: Toy Soldiers (XBLA)

While it has become an extremely popular style of game over the last few years, tower defense titles have always struck me as a boring concept, personally. Perhaps it's my penchant for firing weapons at moving targets in first-person, but I can't really articulate my lack of enthusiasm for the strategy-style gameplay.

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.

Gallery: Toy Soldiers (XBLA) | 21 Photos

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.

While Toy Soldiers is inspired by the First Great War, the actual setting of the game is situated in someone's home. The game essentially takes place on a living, breathing diorama. As Austin flew the Red Baron through the world we were able to spot the limits of the diorama's backdrop and even some household furniture. It's a unique way developer Signal Studios is able to justify the world's size -- which is still quite impressive and detailed for a tower defense title.

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.

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