When you’re a child, anything is possible. Want to fly to the moon in a rocket ship? Get a cardboard box and you’re set. Want to be a famous explorer? Go scramble through next door’s prized rhododendron bush. Want to witness a glorious battle? Grab your toy soldiers and watch them go! People love it when things come to life in ways that shouldn’t be possible; there’s a reason Toy Story is so popular. For all the inner children inside of us, Virtual Basement have brought those plastic toy soldiers to life with their new third person shooter The Mean Greens: Plastic Warfare.
Mean Greens puts you in control of a tiny plastic soldier in fast paced 5vs5 battles. Your arsenal consists of five weapons: an assault rifle, sniper, shotgun, bazooka, flamethrower, and a grenade. The game encourages players to utilise a variety of weapons at once, with more powerful weapons like the bazooka having a cooldown rather than reloadable ammo. There are no ammo pickups, which is testament to the rapid exchange of death between players, where plastic life is cheap and to be thrown around recklessly for the fun of it. Weapons are quite balanced for this calibre of shooter, although the absence of a melee attack does sometimes turn close combat into a bit of a farce. There are no defined roles in Mean Greens, everyone is expected to just get in the thick of it and have a good time: a casual shooter if ever there was one.
The map aesthetic in Mean Greens is really what sets it apart from other shooters. All of the battlefields are based on the classic arenas of your childhood: the tabletop, the bathtub, the toy train. Experiencing these arenas at the level of a miniature soldier is a fresh novelty in a world where bombed out buildings normally provide cover instead of a rubber ducky. Anyone familiar with the Micro Machines game franchise will appreciate the art direction. Bright colours and childish silliness dominate the landscape, and take away the oppressive seriousness that plagues some modern shooters. Each map has a different objective, with some more crazy than others (try scoring a goal on a football table with a ball twice the size of you), and these at least keep the game engaging as you go through the maps. However, as the new map is chosen by vote, you may find yourself having to change servers frequently to keep your experience fresh.
Movement in this game encourages bombastic manoeuvres. With no fall damage and a surprisingly long stamina gauge for sprinting, players can navigate maps quickly and with a real sense of playfulness. The addition of a roll manoeuvre, which is wonderfully animated, adds an extra dynamic to switching cover and fighting close up. The only aspect of movement in Mean Greens that could be criticised is the jumping. A lot of the maps have geometry that appears to be traversable at first glance, but later turns out to be forever slightly out of reach, a realisation that will undoubtedly come to you as an enemy peppers your back whilst you flail against a taller than average pencil-case. Terrain that can be jumped onto, such as the paint pots in Art Table Shuffle, have a very small margin in which to successfully jump onto them, and at times this can be frustrating, especially in a game that appears to encourage a whacky brand of freedom of play.
Mean Greens is a laugh to play, especially if you enjoy it’s playful aesthetic, but there are certain flaws that stop it being a long-term mainstay of the shooter’s library. The map design, although visually appealing, is often too symmetrical and simple. Often games will turn into attrition, where a stalemate is the likely outcome, notably on maps like Kitchen Run where cover becomes scarce at the centre of the map. Ironically, often these stalemates are only overcome because of poor team balancing, with no bots and no auto-balance implemented in the game. Admittedly, this is not a competitive shooter, but it’s little things like this that become noticeable after longer periods of play and may turn players away. Furthermore, the game has been designed for 5vs5 battles, but on some of the larger maps this simply doesn’t work. A browse on the server list will show some 15-man battles, although presumably these are not official, especially as it is impossible to have balanced teams. Finally, there is a crude levelling system, but no rewards for levelling up, another oversight that could have ensured players continuing to play the game long after its release.
All in all, The Mean Greens: Plastic Warfare is a game that hits you with it’s playful aesthetic and novel concept. To be controlling a plastic toy soldier in silly battles, especially when it’s against your friends, is great fun when it’s a casual blowout. However, the absence of some features that are typical of many shooters, as well as some design flaws, may deter players looking for reasons to stay with the game for the long haul, or those looking for a more competitive shooter. On the other hand, Mean Greens is a steal for those looking to relive their childhood and have some good old-fashioned fun.
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