I used to play real-time strategy games all the time, back in the days when Command & Conquer and Warcraft were new and exciting. But then I got bored with the genre because all of the games started playing alike. These days, I only play one real-time strategy game a year, if that many, and I usually look for something so odd that it can’t possibly be anything like its predecessors. So when I saw the “Dancing Stalin” trailer for Stalin vs. Martians, I figured that was just the game for me. Oops, my bad.
Stalin vs. Martians desperately wants to be funny. If you look at the official web site, the developers say that their material is “montypythonesque,” but that’s a bigger laugh than anything you’ll see in the game. I’ll give Stalin vs. Martians props for being different -- it sort of makes me think of what “The Producers” might have been like if it had been about a computer game instead of a musical -- but funny or offbeat or even enjoyable it’s not.
The mechanics for Stalin vs. Martians are basic. You’re in charge of Stalin’s forces, which means you get to control two types of infantry, four kinds of tanks, and two types of artillery. None of the units get special attacks, so you can only order them to move, attack, and stop. There also aren’t any buildings or resources, but when you kill Martians, they sometimes drop “power-ups” (including money), and so there’s something of an economy. With enough money to spend, you can purchase new troops for the current mission, or buy special attacks like “rage,” which makes your infantry invulnerable for 30 seconds.
Stalin vs. Martians comes with a 12-mission campaign. There isn’t much of a story to it; for the most part you’re just dumped onto the different maps and told to kill the Martians there. All of the maps are small, and the enemy A.I. is weak, and so the missions are short and easy. I’ll be charitable and say it took me about 5 hours to complete the campaign. Stalin vs. Martians doesn’t include a multiplayer mode or any sort of skirmish mode or even difficulty settings, and so once you’ve completed the campaign, that’s it.
To say that there isn’t much to Stalin vs. Martians is an understatement. During the campaign you’re “treated” to three music videos (with more phallic symbolism than you can shake a stick -- or any other object -- at), and my guess is that the developers spent way more time on them than they did the game. Or at least I hope so, since the videos have a certain amount of polish, and the game doesn’t have any. Clearly, Stalin vs. Martians is a game to skip, even at the under $20 price point that it’s starting with.