Iron Soldier 2 CD
by Robert A. Jung
Telegames, for the Atari Jaguar
After the evil Iron Fist Corporation was overthrown, the free people of Earth thought their troubles were over. Little did they know that they had not slayed the dragon, but unleased a hydra; for with the Iron Fist destroyed, the rival Penta Corporation has decided to seize their former enemy's holdings. The only hope the rebels have is to use their Iron Soldier war robot to drive off this new, more dangerous foe...
Welcome back to the world of Iron Soldier 2, a sequel to the Jaguar's cartridge-based Iron Soldier game. Once again, the player must pilot the 42-foot-tall Iron Soldier mech through four groups of five missions each. Whether it's guarding supply convoys, destroying military targets, or defending rebel installations, the player battles Penta's leagues of tanks, helicopters, bombers, gun batteries, and robots. Before each mission, the Iron Soldier can be equipped with a variety of weapons, and repairs and ammunition can be found during the fight. If the Iron Soldier takes too many hits, the game ends, though there is an option to continue. Three difficulty levels, control options, and the ability to save games to a Jaguar Memory Track cartridge rounds out this game's list of features.
What makes for a good video-game sequel? While there is no universal standard, most players will agree that a sequel should keep the fun and playability of the original, while adding new, never-before seen twists and ideas. In this, Iron Soldier 2 is only partially successful; it wonderfully preserves the magic of the first Iron Soldier game, but it doesn't add anything truly innovative to the formula. Sure, there are new weapons and new enemies, but no new ideas.
That doesn't mean that Iron Soldier 2 is bad, of course -- it's simply more evolutionary than revolutionary. Iron Soldier addicts will feel right at home; the blend of cunning strategy and military action haven't been soured in the least. The realistic lumbering-yet-versatile feel of steering a giant robot is happily intact, which adds to the game's depth. Impulsive, berserker strategies are simply impossible. With variable mission objectives and hordes of smaller, faster enemies everywhere, smart players realize that victory lies in well-crafted plans and a dose of restrained patience.
Iron Soldier veterans won't walk over this game, however. The overall difficulty is noticably higher, and even the Easy difficulty setting will make experienced players sweat a little. The controls and displays are as user-friendly as ever, allowing for easy access to weapons and readouts. The closest criticism one can give is that the game might be a little short; given the extra storage space of the CD-ROM format, one or two more mission sets would have been trivial to add. Then again, given the game's high difficulty, perhaps the developers were showing merciful restraint...
The graphics and sound of Iron Soldier 2 are a modest step forward from the original's. Most of the polygons are texture-mapped, with pleasing and subtle textures that compliment the buildings and vehicles in the game. New game objects have been added to increase diversity, while existing objects have been subtly tweaked to add extra details. The screen rate is still fairly smooth, while pre-mission screens have been reworked with extra aesthetic frills. Full-motion video is not used very often, curiously enough, but its absence doesn't hurt the game in the least.
As expected, the biggest improvement in Iron Soldier 2's audio is in the music. Soft-techno audio CD tracks now accompany each mission, adding to the game without being overly distracting. Sound effects haven't changed as much; aside from some new sounds for the title's added features, this title features the same repetoire of explosions and weapons fire as in the original. They're still appropriate for the game, though a few more warning klaxons and sounds would have been welcome.
Even without any major earth-shaking innovations from the original title, Iron Soldier 2 is a no-brainer -- get it! Players new to the series will find this a challenging and complex action-strategy game, and fans of the original will savor more of the original's addictive appeal. With lovely graphics and agreeable sounds, this is a title that will be spinning in your Jaguar CD for weeks and months.