When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to take plastic army men and go outside and build forts with them. Inside I would position them around my other toys and then do my best to knock them all over by shooting rubber bands at them. When I discovered 3DO’s Army Men franchise, I was so happy to see a game that allowed me to run around as an actual plastic soldier and shoot at other plastic soldiers. Fighting on the edge of a bathtub or flying over ant-infested picnic areas are some of my favorite gaming memories as a kid.
Eventually the Army Men games faded into obscurity when 3DO released more than one lackluster spin-off (let us do our best to forget Portal Runner).
Now, years later, Virtual Basement arrives to the scene with The Mean Greens, a spiritual successor to the deserted Army Men franchise.
Familiar to players who enjoyed Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes, the staple game of the Army Men franchise, The Mean Greens features green plastic soldiers fighting tan plastic soldiers throughout battlefields that exist in our reality. The Mean Greens has players battling across bath tubs, in freezers, and one level even takes place inside of a fish tank. Clearly the developers had fun creating these levels, and that fun echoes throughout the experience.
The level design in The Mean Greens is certainly the highlight of the game. While a handful of the game’s levels are purely environmental, keeping the focus on the deathmatch mode, a few levels are objective based. These levels require players to do things like use their flamethrowers to light candles on a birthday cake, or thaw out blocks of ice in a freezer to free your team’s frozen T-rex toy. The unique gameplay perspective (you’re tiny little men, so normally small objects are giant!) and the fun map designs kept the gameplay fresh and exciting round after round.
Shooting is very standard: WASD to move, Mouse to aim/shoot, and a few other keys for throwing grenades and rolling around. Anyone who has played a third-person shooter on the PC will have no trouble getting a grasp on The Mean Greens’ controls. The combat in the game is also very standard. Using the flamethrower to melt the plastic soldiers is rewarding, but other than that there are not any twists or unique elements to hook me into the game beyond the fact that I’m a tiny plastic toy.
The Mean Greens is a multiplayer-focused game, there is no single-player. A server browser allows players to select a server that works best from them, and once chosen the game zips players right onto a team and into the battle. Equipped with a rifle, shotgun, flamethrower, bazooka, sniper rifle, and grenades, players can hit the ground running and not have to worry about starting their gameplay experience at a disadvantage since everyone has the exact same weaponry. The downside to this equality is that there is nothing to work towards. As fun as the levels are, without a carrot on the stick to chase after, the initial excitement of first experiencing The Mean Greens is going to fade and I’ll have very few reasons to keep playing the game.
Currently the multiplayer community is pretty healthy. It’s late on a Sunday night and I just scanned the server browser to see that a few hundred people were online. Considering that many multiplayer-only indie games suffer from low player counts, the few hundred players online at such an odd hour bode well for the game’s longevity.
If you’re looking for a new multiplayer shooter to put some hours into, The Mean Greens is an excellent choice. My only concern is that the gameplay isn’t the main attraction here but instead it’s the cool map designs that steal the show, and after playing through some of the maps five or six times, I’m already getting a little burned out.