Micro Commandos, from French developer Monte Cristo Multimedia, is an odd game -- and I only mean that partially as a compliment. Micro Commandos is odd, well, just because it’s odd, allowing you to control inch-high “commandos” as they scavenge resources from the world of the humans (i.e. the Big People). But it’s also odd because it’s not a combat game as the title might lead you to believe. Scavenging resources is pretty much all you do, and there’s just not enough going on there to carry the title, especially when everything else about the game is bargain bin quality.
The goal in Micro Commandos is to infiltrate several key human locations and either gather in supplies or information (usually supplies), with the main objective being to capture the ultimate weapon, the HyperHoover, so you can invade Earth successfully. Some of those key locations include a cabaret, a haunted house, and a backyard garden, so if it wasn’t clear before, Micro Commandos isn’t trying to be serious. The problem is, it doesn’t do a very good job of being funny. The locations are charming, but the writing in the game is awful, and most of the jokes fall flat. At one point the commandos drink a “magic potion” and change from being lizards to being furry mammals. Oops? Ha ha? Or consider the HyperHoover. No doubt it’s a great weapon for use against inch-high commandos, but how will it defeat the humans? You never get to find out. The game ends with the invasion about to begin. I hope that doesn’t mean Monte Cristo is thinking about making a sequel.
Gameplay in Micro Commandos is all about gathering resources. You have three types of units at your disposal -- collectors, who collect or “reduce” resources so they can be used by the commandos; scientists, who build structures and drive vehicles; and soldiers, who fight things. That sounds like enough units for a balanced game, but you only need to build structures at the beginning of missions, and so mostly scientists only drive vehicles to assist the collectors. For example, they can drive a mobile kitchen so the collectors don’t have to go back to your base to eat. Meanwhile, enemies in the missions are fixed. They’re not produced by enemy bases, and they don’t have bases to retreat to (there aren’t any enemy bases). So you can attack and retreat as necessary until you defeat them, and the entire combat portion of the game is minimal and unexciting. A third of the missions don’t even have combat. So almost the entire emphasis of the missions is on the collectors.
The problem is, the collectors are kind of a pain to deal with. They have to eat and sleep, and if you don’t provide them with a mobile kitchen or dormitory, they have to trudge all the way back to your base to do those things. And if they get too hungry or tired along the way, they might fall unconscious, and then you have to use another collector to pick them up and carry them to an infirmary in your base. Plus, just like eating and sleeping, the collectors have to drop off any supplies they acquire, and so if you don’t provide them with a supply truck, again they have to wander back to your base, and again they’re in danger of falling unconscious.
And if that wasn’t enough to make you start to worry, vehicles need to be recharged with power every so often, and mobile kitchens occasionally have to acquire more food, and if the vehicles aren’t around the collectors aren’t smart enough to wait for them to come back. And then they -- you guessed it -- start trudging back to your base. Plus, the collector AI isn’t good enough to cause collectors to eat when they go somewhere to sleep (for instance). They’re perfectly happy wandering somewhere to sleep, wandering back to their resource only to suddenly become hungry, and then wandering somewhere else to eat, et cetera and so forth. So you have to micromanage the collectors to death, and the game could just have easily been called Micromanagement Commandos, because that’s about all you do.
On the brighter side, the mission locations are fun, and Monte Cristo did a nice job of putting some puzzles in the locations to keep things reasonably interesting. For example, when you infiltrate the haunted house, there’s a ghost inside who keeps levitating the food you need. So you have to fight some cockroaches to get to the room with the ghost, and then you have to leech the power out of a generator so you can power down the video camera the ghost is showing off in front of. It’s just that there isn’t enough going on with collecting supplies, puzzles or no, and the missions all play about the same.
Micro Commandos has other problems as well. The graphical quality isn’t great, there isn’t any voice acting, there is only one track of music, the unit pathfinding is miserable, and there aren’t any cut scenes. Plus, there isn’t any multiplayer support, and the missions don’t give you any sort of score, so once you play the ten missions that come with the game (which takes about 15 hours), that’s it. There isn’t anything more to do.
So if you’re looking for a combat-oriented real-time strategy game, Micro Commandos isn’t for you. You might have better luck with Army Men RTS. Only buy Micro Commandos if micromanaging units and solving puzzles appeals to you, and only then once the price drops down to the $15-20 mark. It shouldn’t take long.