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Toy Commander Review

Developer: No Cliche Publisher: Sega
Release Date: September 30, 1999 Also On: None

Toy Commander was a child imagination simulator. It was played through the eyes of a young boy, using his toy cars, trucks, tanks, fighter jets, and helicopters to complete imaginary objective-based missions. Toy Commander was a lot of fun in 1999, and still today stands as one of the Dreamcast’s finest action games.

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Missions were spread out through several realistically-modeled areas, based off of real rooms of a house. There was a kitchen, dining room, greenhouse, hallway, child’s bedroom, garage, parent’s bedroom, cellar, and an attic. Each level offered different types of missions, and the setup was always differentiated enough to keep the areas from becoming stale and repetitive. For example, in some missions, a racing path might be set up while other areas are bare or blocked off. In others, the same room might be filled with water and dangerous submarines.

The vehicles you controlled could shoot three different types of ammo as well as standard machine gun bullets, and each type of weapon could be upgraded into two new, more powerful forms. For example, the base-level rocket was a pencil, but the powered-up one was a ballpoint pen. These small touches show that No Cliche brought out their most creative minds when creating Toy Commander. Controlling your vehicles was simple enough, although the lack of a second analog stick on the Dreamcast’s controller made the camera a nuisance on most occasions. Even the first mission, where you simply guide a truck up to a kitchen counter and attempt to knock eggs into a boiling pot of water, was sometimes a disaster thanks to the commonly awkward camera.

There were all sorts of mission types. For example, there were dogfighting missions where you were given a few different types of jets or helicopters and were supposed to destroy hostile enemies. In one of my favorite missions (in the kitchen/dining room, actually), you were instructed to send a plane to bomb an enemy base and eliminate its defenses. Then, as an unarmed truck, you had to infiltrate the ravaged base and plant an explosive. This kind of strategizing was simple, but the player had to think outside of the box and not run-and-gun every mission. To add even more complexity, players had to balance health meters AND a gas meter that constantly depleted as the controlled vehicle was moving. There were health, gas, ammo, and upgrade power-ups scattered around the levels, but they were often difficult to reach or guarded by an enemy of some sort. There were top times for each mission, and some of these high scores were brutally difficult. The missions themselves were sometimes incredibly difficult or required repeated trial-and-error attempts, so some of the time trials asked for absolute perfection and no mistakes.

Toy Commander looked great for its day and age, and eight years later it still doesn’t look too shabby. The toy models and textures are relatively simple but explosive effects and destructible objects were a nice touch for an early Dreamcast title. There were some decent tunes on the soundtrack that kept the ears busy while the player was dogfighting and racing against the clock, but the sound effects were quite annoying to hear. The machine gun sound effects were particularly awful.

Overall, Toy Commander stood out in the early days of the Dreamcast and provided a great experience for a slightly younger audience. Although some of the missions were frustrating and required annoying trial-and-error tactics, the others were entertaining and kept the player thinking, moving, and shooting. Toy Commander is definitely worth a shot if you stumble across it on eBay.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 8
Written by Cliff Review Guide