Toy Commander – Dreamcast
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Developer: No Cliche
Release Date (NA): September 30, 1999
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
We’ve all seen Toy Story and love the thought of our toys coming to life, but there’s one game on the Dreamcast that takes that concept to all-new highs with fully three dimensional environments, mission-based combat, and much more. That game is Toy Commander. Toy Commander is an action game developed by No Cliche, a French-based company that developed only two total games in their short run, both for the Dreamcast, and only one of which made its way to The States. Toy Commander is that game and is easily recognized as their biggest achievement. Being that the game was a commercial success in both Europe and North America, it’s a mystery as to why the game has become a forgotten title only to be brought up on occasion when discussing best Dreamcast games of all time. It’s remarkable what No Cliche achieved considering their lack of experience as a development team, but I find it most remarkable that Toy Commander will only be remembered by the few who cherish it as it has not yet seen a re-release on any other system. It might not be a perfect game, but it sure as hell can be fun at times, and it rivals other Dreamcast games for best graphics.
Toy Commander‘s plot revolves around a young boy named Andy (or Guthy, depending on your region) who receives a new set of Army toys for Christmas. He falls in love with the new toys and neglects the old ones. The old toys rise up and rebel against the Army toys in an effort to regain control of the house as the leaders. Oddly enough, you’re actually fighting against the old toys instead of the other way around which is what most would assume. But either way, the story is cute and fun despite a lack in originality for the most part.
The story mode starts off in the kitchen which is being used as a sort of training station for the first mission. It’s a blessing when a game gives you a training stage or some kind of tutorial, something that most pre-Dreamcast games never quite picked up on. But alas, 1999 was a good year for video games and Toy Commander is at the helm of responsible development. Even with a training mode, a tutorial would have been appreciated, but we take what’s given to us and make the best of it. Essentially they throw you into the kitchen, tell you to do these three tasks in a particular order, and that’s it. They do use arrows to show you where you’re supposed to go, but nobody really explains the finer details like how your vehicle or plane needs to be at a complete stop and then you press X to switch vehicles to complete the next mission. Oh well, I figured it out eventually but it was tragically painful to get there.
Immediately I can see that the graphics are outstanding. While they might not compare to games from the 7th generation of gaming, they easily rival any Xbox, PlayStation 2, or GameCube game in that department and furthermore represent some of the best graphics of its time. Each room (which represents a different level) appears to have been carefully designed to feature plenty of realistic detail. To reiterate, Toy Commander has some impressive eye candy all the way through.
The sound effects and soundtrack in Toy Commander are also pretty top notch, most notably the sound effects. I really enjoy hearing the sound of the tank rolling across the ground or the sound of a flying missile. Planes have that signature humming noise from the propeller, and the machine gun also sounds extremely realistic. The music is fairly decent albeit somewhat forgettable. It gets the job done but nothing about it really stands out as memorable or “catchy.”
The gameplay of Toy Commander is a mixed bag of good and bad controls, typically leaning more towards bad. My absolute biggest complaint is the sheer difficulty of controlling the variety of vehicles, planes, and helicopters paired with the steep learning curve. Don’t get confused by the overly simplistic “training” level at the beginning of the game because that’s all the help you’re going to get. The game quickly ramps up the difficulty by asking you to perform some exceptionally challenging missions that not only test your patience but make you question your gaming abilities. Everything about controlling these various toys is infuriating. There are planes, helicopters, and on-ground vehicles, all of which present an entirely different challenge related to their controls. There is no real definable way to explain the control issues, but there is something a bit clunky about the way the toys maneuver around the various obstacles and such.
Overall, Toy Commander is a pretty damn cool game but really suffers from a lack of quality control mechanics or any memorable music. The two best things that the game has going for it are (1.) the amazing graphics. And (2.) The concept. The graphics are crisp, clean, and really detailed which is likely one of the biggest factors in Toy Commander‘s success and reputation. But the concept behind this title is what really makes kids want to play it. We all grew up dreaming up wild scenarios with our toys and now you really get a chance to live those dreams out in familiar environments. Toy Story was a good game but felt more like playing out a dream in a cartoon than one in real life.
The poor pacing of the game’s difficulty really takes away from Toy Commander‘s replay value which essentially doesn’t even exist. There is very little to do once you beat the game aside from playing the multiplayer mode which suffers from the same problems as the single player mode. If you have the patience to get through it once, you’ll likely never want to play it again. But if you can find it for $10 or less, it’s worth a shot even if just for the eye candy and a unique game concept. Hell, maybe it’ll take you back to your childhood. Furthermore, if you have kids, they might actually enjoy playing Toy Commander as it gives them a chance to see their imaginations take a real form. Toy Commander is neither great nor does it suck, but it’s definitely a fun experience despite the shoddy control system and difficulty system.
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
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