Whenever I tell someone of my expertise on the Army Men series, they sometimes say, “I remember that. I think there was one of those that I liked,” and my guess is always Army Men: Air Attack. Even if you’ve plumbed the depths of the series, you won’t find a title that is so agreeable and so many people played. The Army Men series began its descent into mediocrity so quickly that those same people who claim to have enjoyed Army Men: Air Attack probably didn’t play Army Men: Air Attack 2, and it was released the very next year.
Personally, I was a quick fan of the series, and Army Men: Air Attack had me absorbed upon its release in 1999. I’m most familiar with the N64 version, Army Men: Air Combat, because that’s what I owned, but I played Air Attack first on my cousin’s PS1. We’re going to get to the differences in versions, but I’ll spoil it for you here: there really aren’t any.
We’re on the waaay!
Let me begin the review proper by saying that Army Men: Air Attack is a rip-off of EA’s Strike series (Desert Strike, Jungle Strike, etc.). More action-based, definitely, but you winch up supplies. I don’t know where winch-based helicopter gameplay is common aside from the Strike series, so the similarities are stark.
However, Army Men: Air Attack has far less emphasis on managing your supplies. The Strike games forced you to remember where all those fuel and ammo pickups were and keep an eye on your stock. Otherwise, you were doomed to fail. Army Men: Air Attack is more about simply shooting stuff. Well, not entirely. It’s actually a lot more creative than that, but like a lot of Army Men games, it boils down to shooting everything that’s tan-coloured.
Actually, the story is pretty familiar: The Tan are invading again, and they’ve also got secret weapons. It’s set more in the Sarge’s Heroes lineage of games, with Sargeant Hawk even making a few appearances. It ties in the dual worlds that are accessed through portals: ours, where everything is big to them, and their’s where everything is scaled down. We don’t get anything as exciting as kitchens in the real world, but it does add to the mission variety.
Hyoo-eeee. Chin-nook. App-atch-eeee.
Army Men: Air Attack actually does pretty well with the mission variety. While we lost the Strike series’ tactical resource management, it’s made up for in clever ideas. While there is the standard defense, offense, and escort missions, sometimes you do that alongside giant teddy bears. In one, you have to rescue scientists from the beam of a magnifying glass. My favourite has you finding the pieces to a prototype helicopter. Most of those pieces are in those plastic model pop-out cards.
As you proceed through the game, you’re given new helicopters to fly. Don’t get too excited. They’re unlocked in a linear fashion, and each one is mostly better than the last, so there’s no reason not to pick the most recent one you’ve received.
It also lifts the co-pilot system that the Strike series used, where each one has different expertise and enhances your weapons. However, unlike Strike, you don’t really rescue more as you go. You get one more ultimate co-pilot near the end of the game, but that’s it. The N64 version adds an additional co-pilot. One of the few differences between the two games.
They look like ants from up here
If there’s one major issue with Army Men: Air Attack, it’s the brevity of its 16 missions. I comfortably completed the PS1 version in under an hour, then decided I’d compare the N64 version and played through that too. Granted, I’ve played through Army Men: Air Attack a few times in the past, so I knew what I was doing, but I already had it in mind I’d be through it in an afternoon.
Then there isn’t much else to do after that. There’s a variety of multiplayer modes, and some of them are fairly creative. There’s also co-op, which is always a welcome addition.
In terms of differences between the PS1’s Army Men: Air Attack and the N64’s Army Men: Air Combat; there aren’t many. A few minor tweaks here and there, but mostly the N64 version is just blurrier because of the console’s aggressive texture filtering and anti-aliasing (the screenshots here are captured from the N64 version because my capture device hates my PS3). Weirdly, Air Combat also has more music, which is counter to what you’d typically expect when comparing the two versions. Of course, the PS1 has FMV cutscenes, so it’s give and take, but I think I prefer the PS1 version.
App-atch-eeee. Stalllll-yon. App-atch-eee.
Going back to how I assessed Army Men: Air Attack earlier: it’s definitely one of the most approachable games in the series. Even the best Army Men games have caveats. For example, Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes on the N64 has great level design – BUT – the camera is absolutely horrid. The worst you can really say about Air Attack is that it’s short. The series is known for much worse sins.
It also mostly holds up today, though I recognize that I’m not the most reliable person to be trusted on that. It simply doesn’t show its age quite as blatantly as the World War or Sarge’s Heroes games. If you liked it back then, it’s reasonable to think that you’ll still like it. It might just be over a bit quicker than you remember.
This review was conducted using a disc copy of the game on a backwards compatible PS3 and a cartridge copy on an N64. They were paid for by the author.