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Released in 1993 and developed by Sensible Software, Cannon Fodder was an overhead strategy game that was played and loved by millions around the globe. I have 3 different copies of this game; one for the SNES, another for the Megadrive and my first copy for the Amiga. I quickly went through them all before deciding which version to review...
To begin with I fired up the Megadrive version. The music was ok but not the exact version I remembered from my childhood playing on the Amiga. I found the control scheme relatively ok but found it very weird to play on a pad after being so used to playing it and many games like this using a mouse. It is good to point out at this stage that the game was due for release in 1992 but because of issues with the Megadrive, Jools one of programmers and stars of the game, had to delay its release. Quickly playing through the first level I did notice that one of my guys had split off from the group and got stook behind a tree... maybe Jools did not get rid of all the bugs from this version before Virgin Interactive released it.
After the “OMG Jops is stuck in a tree” incident I moved across to my SNES. Greeted by slightly better graphics and a music track with a few more layers to it I found this version much better than the Megadrive. However, its downfall for me was the same personal choice of mouse over pad. I think Nintendo did release a mouse for the SNES so if I had one of these I think I probably would have carried on with this version a bit longer.
Finally I moved on to the Amiga version and that is where I intend to stay for the rest of this review. The opening credits on this game are awesome, the soundtrack alone made me want to watch through it every time I played it. One thing that jumped out to me straight away on this version that was different to the consoles was the message that said “This is not in any way endorsed by the ROYAL BRITISH LEGION”.
I can’t remember exactly what went on back in 1993 so I jumped into my Delorian and took it to 88 mph... ok I actually Googled it because my Delorian was down at Victoria Garage getting fixed because some idiot put banana peels in the fuel tank screaming it now runs on BioFuel Marty!
I digress, but after looking it up I remembered the ongoing marketing campaigns from many of the Amiga magazines who were not allowed to show the red poppy logo due to its similarity to the RBL charities brand. Now as a graphic designer myself, I think it is pretty hardcore branding if you can outright claim a natural growing flower as yours... but it actually meant that this logo could not be used on the packaging and Virgin even went to the trouble of adding that opening title screen to keep the lawyers and press off their back.
A little more back to the future style research also found that the program designers, including the well known Jools and Jops, tried to get across an anti-war message using their tongue in cheek British humour, but was condemned by many people outside of the gaming industry.
Personally I think that the guys at Sensible weren’t interested in making an anti-war statement, they just wanted to make a fun game that is somewhat a dark comedy at the same time.
Back to the actual game at hand here! The levels were all perfectly designed for a strategy based game. It had you restarting and rethinking very similar to the way Lemmings had the same effect on me as a kid. With pickups such as grenades and rockets and the odd jeep to jump in the game progresses on a linear curve of getting harder as you progress.
I remember my dad playing this game nonstop when I was younger... to the point where he broke at least 4 Amiga mice in the process (the left click would just boing funnily until it stopped working). That says pure addiction in any game review, if it breaks you and your hardware and you still carry on playing it, its a good game.
I think one of the design highlights in this game that has to be mentioned are the little soldiers themselves. Even though they are all identical in every way you find yourself not wanting to let certain ones die over others. Whilst playing through for this review I actually split Jools and Jops up from the others as I wanted to keep them alive for the entire game :-)
In the end, just like in real life, these faceless soldiers just end up being buried into a hillside surrounded by their fallen comrades. Now was that the anti-war message they were trying to get across or was that me putting a spin on things like the rest of the press?
Cannon Fodder is the only game that I have played that has successfully made me late for school and now work as a result of writing this review so for that alone it deserves a lot of medals and my final rating would be 100 poppy covered graves out of 100.
“War Has Never Been So Much Fun”