This review is for the Nintendo DS game, Operation Vietnam, developed by Coycote Console and published by Majesco Games. The game is a military and shooting game.
The controls in the game are not logical at all, there is a mix of using the stylus to change units, but the d-pad to change direction and attack. These controls are difficult to handle, and can be frustrating when the troops don't move or attack where you want them to.
There are ten levels in the game to work through, each of course getting harder as you progress. There are also mini levels which you can play if you do well enough in each mission, which is some reason to play through the game again to do better in each level.
There are other problems with the logistics of this game. If you're killed in mid battle, then you have to start again from the beginning of the level, which is downright frustrating. The game isn't that long, but many would not want to get that far, as once you are defeated in battle, there is little incentive to want to play through the mission again. There is a save game option, but only one, and so you can't share the game with anyone else, as they can't create their own save point.
The graphics in the game are basic, especially of the soldiers, and although serviceable, they're not very impressive. There are though at least numerous different backgrounds in the game, so at least these don't become too repetitive. There are some basic sound effects in the game, but neither the graphics nor the sound add anything to the atmosphere of the game.
Unfortunately the game doesn't have a multi player option. This is disappointing, as large numbers of other Nintendo DS games to have this function, and this is the sort of game which would have lended itself well to a multi player function. The option to play this game with other friends could have saved the game, but without it, there's really not much to commend the game.
The game's retail price is 14.99 pounds, but is currently available from Amazon for 4.98 pounds. If you're happy with a second hand copy, you can pick one up at the time of writing for around three to four pounds on sites such as eBay and Amazon. The game is rated as 12+, so isn't suitable for younger children.
In summary, this isn't a very good game, as it's very basic, and even that is done in a very clunky and confusing way. The graphics and sound are basic, the controls are hard to use, there is no multi-player function and the game sends you back to the start when you die. It's not a long game, so you're likely to beat it, the challenge really lies in managing to carry on playing it without just giving up. Some credit to the developers for producing a budget title, but for me, it just wasn't good enough.
About the game
Operation Vietnam is a war shooter and strategy game for the Nintendo DS.
Released in 2007 by Majesco, the game is based during the Vietnam War where you must complete a series of aid, warfare and liberation missions using your small team of uniquely skilled soldiers.
The game is mission based and follows a set story path. Fortunately your progress through the missions is automatically saved so you can play the game over a period of time without losing record of your progress.
You must complete the missions using your team of highly trained soldiers. The team consists of Doc, Hopper and Scopes and you! Doc is the medical man and is used to administer medical attention to your squad and in later levels to the Vietnamese civilians. Hopper is an expert in heavy arms and his weapons are useful for destroying powerful machinery such as tanks and army bunkers. Scopes is the sniper in your team and can assassinate the enemy from afar without raising alarm and also has the added usefulness of being able to identify landmines have been hidden in the jungle. The final soldier is you and you are armed with a weak powered machine gun that inflicts minor damage to the enemy. Fortunately the weapon can be fired repeatedly and proves useful for cover fire and distraction techniques.
You can switch between your four soldiers using the onscreen controls panel. Using this panel you can issue them separate instructions such as stay, follow me or take control. The importance of these instructions will become apparent later.
The game is quite easy to play and the game makes good use of the Nintendo's dual screens. The upper screen displays an overhead view of the battlefield and also displays the thoughts and dialogue of your soldiers. The lower touch screen displays thumbnail pictures of your four soldiers and meter bars that represent their current health levels. The lower screen also displays a small map of the entire mission and displays a little pin sized dot to illustrate where your soldiers currently reside in the jungle. The only other item on the lower screen are 3 boxes that show the counts of how many medical packs, grenades and air strike calls that you have available.
The game starts with your soldier being the only available team member. The intro movie explains the story that your helicopter has crashed in the Vietnamese Jungle and that your first mission is to navigate the jungle and locate your missing colleagues. Using the D-Pad and stylus you must find and liberate your colleagues from VC Camps.
The mission is quite difficult as the jungle is populated with enemy soldiers, landmines, explosive trip wires and lots of other booby traps that can prove fatal if encountered.
It's not all bad though as there are randomly scattered items along you route that can be picked up and used to assist you on your mission. Items such as grenades, medical packs, air strike calls and dog tags can all be found either exposed on the floor or hidden in wooden crates that you can open by firing at.
The most important of the power up items are undoubtedly the medical packs which are used for restoring health of your army members and are effectively the lifeline of the game. The packs can also bring a dying soldier back from the dead! The grenades are useful for destroying tanks, enemy barracks and machine gun bunkers. Air Strike calls are used to initiate air strikes on designated targets and are very useful for destroying high population enemy targets. The final item is dog tags that have no help in the mission other than to increase your score.
The jungle has lots of Vietnamese soldiers who will open fire as soon as they spot you. If you are hit by the enemies' fire then your health bar will deplete. When you are mortally wounded your player icon will turn red and can no longer be used in the battle until he is treated using a medical pack. If a wounded player is left for a period of time without medical assistance he will die and the whole mission will be lost. Once a mission has been lost then it must be replayed from the beginning, regardless of your progress through the game. The only exception to this rule is when you lose life during an end of level 'Boss Battle' where the game is restarted from the 'Boss fight'.
The key to a successful mission is stealth and picking off your enemies one by one. Using Scopes the sniper this can be achieved easily most of the time. The biggest issue with using scopes is that he takes a while to reload his gun and often sustains damage when engaging in conflict with several soldiers simultaneously. Stealth is not always an option though and in some of the VC Camps they have a golden gong alarm that once struck by a soldier will automatically awaken the camps guards and initiate a plethora of attacking enemy soldiers.
To attack the enemy you must first target them using the on-screen crosshairs. When the crosshairs are red you can then fire your weapon at the enemy. Different weapons have different payloads. For example a snipers rifle can destroy an enemy from afar using a single shot, whereas a machine gun may need several shots from a closer proximity to achieve the same effect.
The missions get progressively harder and require a little strategy and careful consideration of which team member you will select. An example of this is the pressure slabs that must be stood on to open gates. It's at this point that you must choose which members of your team will stand on the slabs and which ones you will take into battle. A common place to find these slabs is before the end of stage boss battles where you fight against powerful weaponry such as tanks. It is essential that you engage your most powerful team member when faced with such challenges. Another common control that you will encounter is slide switches. These switches can be used to open gates and also to free trapped prisoners from their captors. The switches are often hidden and require thorough investigation of the area to find them.
At the end of each mission you are presented with a score sheet that details your effectiveness in the mission, your progress is saved and the next mission objectives are displayed. This mode of play continues until the game is complete.
It is worth mentioning that there is only the ability for 1 player to play the game and there is only one save state too. If somebody else would like to play the game then the missions must be started from the beginning and all of the previous playing data will be permanently erased and lost.
Sound, control and graphics
The sound effects are quite low key. Throughout the jungle there is a quiet hum of insects and the odd calls of birds and other wildlife. The Vietnamese villagers make the odd squawk and cries of mercy when you encounter them, whilst the Vietnamese military make exclamations of vengeance and anger when engaged in battle. The gunshots and explosions sound okay whilst each of your soldiers has their own distinct voice and accent. The option to alter the sound levels is available from the main menu.
The controls are a bit hit and miss. The reason I say this is that the methods of engaging the enemy in battle involve using the D-Pad buttons for direction and aim. As the D-Pad only offers 8 absolute points of direction it means that to guarantee a hit on the enemy you need to align yourself with them and as a result of this end up putting your own life in jeopardy. The 4 main buttons are assigned usefully though and control air strikes, medical administration, gun fire and air strike commands. The touch screen is also used effectively to issue commands to your four soldiers. Despite the poor targeting method, the controls react responsively and do not suffer from lag.
The graphics are well drawn, though are maybe a little on the small side. As the game is displayed as a crows' view of the action then sometimes items are obscured and sometimes unclear as to what they actually are. Despite the graphic size the play are is very well structured and presented with the jungle, rivers and villages all being depicted well. The colour scale is very dark though not that surprising considering the game is set in the dark green fauna of the jungle!
The game play is quite limited as the plot follows a linear story line that once completed offers little encouragement to play again.
The lack of multiplayer modes also adds to the disappointment. My biggest bugbear with the game is the requirement to start a mission from the beginning if one of your soldiers is killed in battle during the game; it would have been more sensible to have had checkpoints along the way. That said, it is quite possible to complete all of the missions within a days play and using save checkpoints would probably have made completion time even shorter,
These gripes aside, it's quite an enjoyable game to play and the strategy required in the later levels makes it a little more challenging and engaging.
© M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
On a routine run over the Vietnam war-zone your chopper is taken down in VC territory. It's up to you and your squad to make it out of the VC infested region and liberate civilians. You're in total command as you make your way through war-torn Vietnam and eliminate the VC insurgence.