Review – Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes 2 (PS1)

Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes 2 is one of the worst games that I’ve had the displeasure of playing two different ports of; on the N64 and PS2. Why did I do this to myself? Because I have a morbid fascination with the Army Men series and have dedicated myself to turning over every crusty rock and poking every bloated corpse floating in its cesspool.

Okay, that’s a bit harsh for a series that I’ve at least derived some enjoyment from, but if I’m being cruel, it’s because I’m absolutely sick to death of Sarge’s Heroes 2. Unfortunately, it’s not sick of me, because I’ve still two versions left to autopsy; the PS1 and Gameboy Color versions. So let’s keep an open mind, surely not every port can be that bad, can they?

Oh, romantic mood lighting!

SARGE’S FEVER DREAM

It’s different, I’ll give it that. I’ve seen the opening table level far too many times, and this is the weirdest. Sarge’s Heroes 2 starts in the aftermath of the first game. The leader of the Tan Nation, General Plastro, has been missing since he tussled with the titular Sargaent Hawk. Sarge has been busy blowing up the portals that link the scaled down plastic world to the more real world scaled “other world”. Blue nation spy, Brigette Bleu, has found a spray that reverses the effects of an affliction that causes the eponymous toy soldiers to turn into the plastic toys that we enjoy here in the real world. She frees Plastro from this condition, and that leads us here to the dining room table.

This time around that table seems to exist in a weird black velvet painting. This is the first difference I noticed about the Playstation version; its weird effects. Backgrounds are darkened, but the colours and shadows have a high contrast the gives everything a neon look to it. When a mission starts, the screen fades in. When you kill an enemy, it doesn’t just fall over (or melt under the heat of a flamethrower, like the series seems to be so proud of), it shrinks until it vanishes. Text constantly warps into the center of the screen, emitting a strange glow. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or what level you’re on, you’re constantly treated to these LSD visuals. This is made stranger by a soundtrack that seems to pull from the more upbeat remixes of the series.

THE B-TEAM

The feel of the game is different, overall. Rather than try and fit what exists on the other consoles and scale it down for the Playstation’s limited hardware, like the original Sarge’s Heroes did, the team on this port decided to make their own mark on a lot of things. Levels are completely redesigned to be more compact, some weapons have been added, and more enemies have been thrown into the mix. None of that really matters until you consider how sloppy everything is.

The levels specifically are the lowest quality I’ve seen in a series known for its shaky standards for quality. Most of the environments aren’t even modeled, rather their walls and corridors are cut directly into the terrain creating these 80degree slopes that are supposed to give the illusion of walls. This ranges everywhere from castle courtyards to ruined towns.

The textures on them are borderline abominable; the pinball machine specifically is wallpapered with nothing more than sprites pulled from Battletanx: Global Assault, right down to pasting images of power-ups on the walls.

The extra weapons are, for lack of a better word, bizarre. You’re frequently given a grenade-like item called the “whip ‘n’ pop”, which apparently stuns enemies, but it doesn’t seem very effective. On the other hand, the Swarmers and the Pierce launches. Their untextured models look the same, and other than the trails they leave behind, they seem to do the same thing. They launch bizarre, unidentifiable projectiles that loop around and very slowly home in on enemies. I always used them as fire-and-forget weapons, firing them and then moving on, waiting for them to take out my target; which they’d do with unusual efficiency. They’re most useful when eliminating the game’s many annoying bosses, who would otherwise take way too long to whittle down.

In my review for the PlayStation 2 version, I complained that Sarge’s Heroes 2 doesn’t make very good use of the toy store concept. For the PlayStation 1 version, additional enemies were added that help alleviate this complaint, it’s just too bad that they’re as poorly implemented as everything else that was thrown in. There are small wind-up toys that pose no threat until they’re defeated, at which point they’ll explode with the fury of the gods and take you down if you’re in the same district. There are war tanks that make the sound of a vacuum being pressed to your ear and fire invisible projectiles that cause you to take damage seemingly at random. Then there are warjets that are similar to helicopters but fire swarmers and are near impossible to see. These are all easily outsmarted and only dangerous if they manage to attack unseen, which is difficult for them to do, since every time one shows up, a massive health bar is pasted on the right side of your screen.

Unh! My eyes!

SLIGHTLY MORE TOLERABLE

On the flipside, however, certain changes make the game more tolerable than the other versions. For example, the autoaim is still a stupid system with poor priorities and a minute range, but at least it isn’t as aggressively unreliable as the PS2 version’s. This, combined with the fact that the developers weren’t complete jerks when it comes to where they placed the enemies, allows the game to be much more playable. It helps that fewer things kill you instantly. In other versions, a single bazooka round was enough to finish Sarge off, but here it takes more than that. Not that a sudden, undeserved death is uncommon — that would be bucking a series’ hallmark, after all — it just does it less frequently.

Adding to this is the fact that allies are much less prone to suicide. I did, of course, fail a mission more than once because of an NPC’s death, but for the most part, they’re much more capable in battle. At times, it felt like I was being the burden, as they’re obviously not shackled to the same autoaim system and can take down some fierce enemies before you can even concern yourself. This alone makes the experience far less aggravating.

MAKE IT STOP

Sarge’s Heroes 2 isn’t the only source of torment for me within the franchise, but it is the one that refuses to go away. At least Army Men: World War: Land Sea Air had the good nature to screw off after one version; I’ve played three ports of Sarge’s Heroes 2 and I still have one left. That’s depressing, to say the least.

As for the PS1 version, it’s the least painful to play, but I still don’t recommend it. It may be mechanically more pleasant than the other ports, but it’s also structurally deficient. Rocking some abysmal level design, and clouded in poorly implemented features, it feels like it was thrown together by the B-team as a way of getting a version for the Playstation out the door. I feel weird saying that I recommend it over the other versions, as it lacks all of the charm and inventiveness that helps redeem even some of the worst offenders in the series, but that’s the case here.

Again, I’m not recommending Sarge’s Heroes 2 on PS1, in fact, I’d recommend you avoid every console version of the game. However, if you were trapped on a ledge for 8 hours and only had a choice between the N64, PS2, and PS1 versions of Sarge’s Heroes 2 to keep yourself entertained, this is the one least likely to make you want to jump.

Note: This review only applies to the PS1 version of the game. The N64 and PS2 versions are entirely different, aside from narrative, and the Gameboy Color version seems entirely unrelated.

3/10

This review was conducted on a backwards compatible PS3 using an original copy of the game. The author purchased it with their own money, can you believe that?

About Adzuken 194 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.

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