Realising that they didn’t have anywhere near the budget required to create one of the best games ever, indie development studio ifun4all decided to take the opposite route, and make the worst game ever. Needless to say, they failed. Paper Wars: Cannon Fodder isn’t the best mini I’ve played, but it’s certainly not bad by any stretch.
Ordinarily, I like to mention gameplay first in my reviews, but that isn’t really the point of Paper Wars. Apparently, making the worst game ever consists of constructing your HUD and menu screens entirely from paper, and filling them with typos and childish handwriting. This isn’t funny, and in no way does it contribute to the game, but nor does it take very much away. So, everything is paper, or to be more specific, badly drawn sprites on paper, which doesn’t look too bad once you get used to it. Remarkably impressive-looking blood spatters whenever you kill a paper soldier, and this is just about the only thing in the game not made out of paper. The paper within the game itself looks fine, and is actually quite a creative way of rendering things. It’s just the intentional spelling mistakes that are slightly juvenile.
There is something resembling a story in the game, but it doesn’t really make sense. You are a tank driver, and you blow things up. Every so often, you get a promotion, but I didn’t notice any difference when this happened. Eventually, you win a war. Hooray. Fortunately, the developers realised that bad sound can actually kill a game, unlike bad menu design and a bad story, and the soundtrack is fine. Not good, but fine. It’s basically just a looping track, which is different for each campaign, accompanied by some screams when soldiers die. I barely noticed it.
There are three campaigns: the regular campaign, Winter Assault and Cyber Wars. When you play the game for the first time, only the normal campaign is unlocked, but completing ten of these levels will unlock Winter Assault, and finishing ten of these levels will open up Cyber Wars. All three campaigns involve obliterating swarms of soldiers using rockets fired by a tank. The enemy troops walk from right to left, avoiding obstacles, and you must charge up rockets to destroy them. You must charge up for a certain length of time to fire at all, and any time spent charging after this increases the rocket’s destructive power. You have either a certain number of soldiers to kill, or a length of time to survive, and you are allowed to let a smaller number of soldiers through. This would get extremely repetitive and dull after a while, so power-ups scattered around the battlefield make things more interesting, but it takes about half the campaign for these to actually become important, so the first few levels are just a bore, and have no challenge whatsoever, even on the hardest difficulty, “Badass.” There are three different types of soldier with different values for defence and speed, but you probably wouldn’t even notice this unless the game told you. When you’ve finished a level, you are given a medal based on your performance.
In Winter Assault, you have a limited number of rockets, so you must fire much more tactically. You leave stragglers to go through, because you have to focus on the swarm approaching from the right. This makes it much more enjoyable than the original campaign, and a fair bit more difficult, too. Cyber Wars has three different types of rocket, each of which damages a certain colour of soldier more than the others. This just serves to make things chaotic. Although it’s still better than the original campaign, it’s not as enjoyable as Winter Assault.
The other mode, Survival, is a complete waste of space. It’s like the campaign, but without any clear end in sight. I played until round three or so, and got so depressingly bored that I couldn’t even finish. Fifty soldiers were allowed to leave the screen, and none had by the time that I quit.
Value is undoubtedly Paper Wars’ strong point. It’s a $5 mini, with something approaching four hours of content. You can go back and try to attain achievements (which involve killing certain numbers of soldiers, and gaining different medals upon the completion of each level). However, these don’t really provide any benefit, other than an inward sense of completion. Most probably, you won’t want to touch Survival mode more than once. That said, four hours’ worth of campaign content isn’t bad at all.
As I’ve already said, this isn’t the worst game ever, but it’s also nowhere near the top of its class. It’s too easy, and generally too basic. However, it is strangely therapeutic and relaxing. It’s not the best tower defence PS Mini, nor is it even close to Fieldrunners – largely because it doesn’t have any towers. It lacks depth, but almost manages to make up for it with charm. However, you would be hard pressed to find a better game about blowing up paper.