Amiga, CD32, Mega Drive, SNES, 3DO, Jaguar, PC (eBay, £5-10)
Game Boy Colour (eBay, £5)
Following the debate over the controversial scene
in Modern Warfare 2
, it had us thinking of other games that attempted to provoke an emotional response from the player. It wasn't surprising that the list was largely empty, even though the medium has had its fair share of ups and downs, including some rather iconic character deaths. But one game came to mind as something that created a unique attachment to your characters, and that was Cannon Fodder
Developed by Sensible Software
using the same engine as Sensible Soccer
, this is a simple action-packed romp from a top-down perspective, with your team scurrying around and completing simplistic objectives, such as wiping out the other enemies and destroying all the buildings in dense forests or frozen wastelands. It's simple, archaic and almost silly in places, where soldiers explode in a shower of bloody giblets, and it's straightforward to pick up and play due to simplistic, easy-going mouse controls.
Things, however, get difficult very quickly. While the early missions yield singular enemies that patrol alone, they can cause plenty of trouble in groups, especially if you fail to take out huts that feed the battlefield with a constant supply of troops. It's here where you learn to separate your team to flank past such troublesome spots, but you'll always ending up losing a fair share of troops in the game, especially since a degree of trial-and-error in learning enemy positions comes in.
It's here that the 'emotional attachment' creeps in. Your dead soldiers are visibly buried on the campaign hub, which features a bold hill marked with gravestones that grows as the game progresses. Instead of a standard number to represent lives, you have a line of queuing recruits eager for battle, which are all individually named and rank up according to how many missions they survive. You grow a strange attachment to them, especially if they manage to scrape through a number of tight spots, and creates a strange sense of loss when your favourite soldier kicks the bucket, knowing you won't ever get that same one back. It makes those risky manoeuvres you'll happily try in other games so much more difficult to pull off, even if it is just a silly little action game.
While this attempt at highlighting the foils of war is easily our most memorable part of the game, it's the gameplay that keeps us coming back, and offers a more strategic and tense angle than the barrage of twin-stick shooters on consoles today. It was released on a bevy of 16-bit era consoles, from the Amiga to the Mega Drive, SNES, PC, and even the 3DO and Jaguar. As well as an alien-themed sequel, there was a slimmed-down Game Boy Colour release, and announced PSP and PS2 remakes that never quite made it to light. It's a bit of a forgotten franchise but one with a following, and cries out for a comeback. What are your memories of Cannon Fodder? Do you go back and play it today? Add a comment in the space below!