Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: December 13, 2001
It’s always nice to see people get ahead in life. Take Brigitte Bleu, for example: once merely a spy for the Blue Army, she was permanently exiled from the world of Army Men. She didn’t let a little setback like that get her down, though, and her plucky and adventuresome spirit demanded that she immediately seize control of countless other worlds and proclaim herself their queen. Now that she has all the power, wealth, influence and fiercely loyal but incredibly stupid warbots a femme fatale could ever dream of, Brigitte should by all rights be happy, but as queen of many worlds she dreams of a king to join her. Fans of the Army Men series will already know who she picks as the likely candidate: Sarge. Thus begins a love triangle between Sergeant Hawk, Brigitte Bleu and Vikki G, our heroine and Sarge’s main squeeze. As Bleu sets her diabolical plan in motion, we are invited to guide Vikki through her adventure, as she move between the worlds and earns herself the Green Army’s respect as a Portal Runner.
For the uninitiated, the Army Men world can be confusing until it is decoded a bit. Inspired by the same concepts that created films like Toy Story, the Army Men games originally cast you in the role of Sergeant Hawk as he battled the Tan army. Like the toys we all know (and perhaps love) the Army Men consisted entirely of solid green men, who melted or cracked as they took damage. Since the initial games, the universe has been expanding to include a Blue nation and characters who are hybrids of the army men and other toys, like Vikki and Brigitte, who’s Barbie doll proportions are to some extent forgivable in light of the premise. Portal Runner is the ethos’ first look at other worlds, however, and not surprisingly, these other worlds reside within themed playsets in a toy store, and they are all interconnected by a series of portals.
Playing as Vikki, you must navigate your way through the various worlds using a third-person perspective. Controlling Vikki’s motions with the left analog or digital stick, you can also jump, sidestep and fire her bow all from this point of view. In addition, you can freely rotate the camera around your character, meaning you can move the view to a more traditional top-down if you wish to navigate a platform puzzle, or keep it behind you to negotiate combat. If you’re side stepping, a necessary skill against many of the enemies with ranged attacks, Vikki will automatically target the nearest foe with her bow. Unlike Lara Croft, though, who seems agile enough to target to two sides of herself, Vikki’s auto aim is somewhat limited.
For precision shots, long range targets or other special case scenarios, you’ll most likely have to switch to “hotshot” mode, which is essentially a first-person perspective. Because she’s aiming so intently, Vikki can’t move while in this mode, meaning you have to be very careful when dealing with enemies who can shoot ranged projectiles.