I get a great deal of pleasure from gaming concepts like Army Men: Mobile Ops, where very serious themes (such as war and killing) are mingled with crackpot notions like toy soldiers fighting it out in the bathroom, or around the rim of the toilet.
Mixing up the deadly serious with the sublimely surreal puts you in a great frame of mind for playing games.
And it doesn't hurt when the gameplay is outstanding, either.
We all fall down
There doesn't need to be a particularly strong premise behind Army Men. What else are toy soldiers made for, other than fighting against other toy soldiers? Therefore, the missions are all you need, and other than some top notch dialogue between the gruff plastic commander and his troops the game works just fine without a particular war to fight.
You're put in command of a small regiment of toy soldiers and sent on a variety of different tasks. Accomplishing these tasks is generally a simple case of fighting your way through the household maps, but there's plenty to do along the way.
Before battle begins you can choose which toys to take with you. A rifleman is always a good bet, while having a grenadier or bazooka guy tag along is useful for blowing up walls or taking out enemy toys ... er, soldiers ... who are hiding behind cover.
Minesweepers are also good to have on hand, since none of the other troops stands much chance when running blind through a mine field.
The left soft-key switches between soldiers depending on what sort of tactics are required during battle.
War is household hell
The arena of combat is singularly unique. Being toy soldiers, these hardened plastic paratroopers fight it out on the kitchen table, playroom, hallway, and bathroom, each battlefield littered with household debris that makes for useful cover, or impenetrable obstacles.
Crates are dotted around to resupply your men with ammo, goodies and medical kits, which can be kicked open so as to conserve precious ammo.
The actual fighting is equally simple, with the rifleman (your most important toy) automatically taking aim when close enough, while mortars are given a rough trajectory with a cursor and bazookas just set off flying.
The action is pretty intense, and thanks to the large and winding maps, there's a hell of of a lot to do in each mission - especially if a member of your unit melts, and you're forced to take an alternative route. A reasonable amount of strategy is therefore required.
All of which serves to top off the total sense of immersion that really makes Army Men: Mobile Ops shine.