It'd be fair to say that I've played Cannon Fodder before. In fact I've played it a lot, and I even played the Cannon Soccer special for the site last Christmas, but I'm going to write about it anyway. Because the game's a classic and I had to get around to it sooner or later.
Actually if you've got the CD32 version of the game, the sinister truth is revealed. The photos are actually taken from a music video (youtube link) featuring the developers messing around with toy guns and army trucks that they filmed to go with the theme tune.
There's still one thing I'm confused about though. Why the fuck did they stick the army recruiting office in the middle of nowhere? You have to walk across the hills to reach it.
Anyway before I start the first level there's something I have to get done first...
Okay basically the game works like this. I have a couple of soldiers and a crosshair. If I left click my mouse they walk to the crosshair, if I right click they shoot at the crosshair, and I've got to steer them around the jungle to complete my mission objectives. In this case 'KILL ALL ENEMY'.
This stage is only as big as the screen, so I think I've just killed the last of them.
Most missions have multiple phases (levels) that have to be completed before I can get back to the hill for some new recruits and a bit of saving. But mission 1 only has the single stage, so I can just get my promotions and go.
FUN FACT: The song for the 'Heroes in Victory' screen is an instrumental version of a track called Narcissus (youtube link), by lead designer Jon Hare. He co-wrote the theme tune too in fact.
MISSION 2 - PHASE 2 OF 2: "TRASH ENEMY HQ".
I like the way the camera leans towards the crosshair as I move it around so I can look a bit further ahead into the level. I'm not as fond of how they've put that grenades pick-up behind a pile of fuel drums. I need those grenades to destroy the infinite enemy spawning shack, but one stray shot could set the whole thing thing off... which would also destroy the shack and finish the level. But fuck that, I wanna blow it up myself!
I know war is generally supposed to be hell, but the theme tune assured me that in this particular case war has actually never been so much fun, and senseless random roof-related deaths just aren't much fun
MISSION 3 - PHASE 1 OF 1: "BUGGER ME IT'S COLD".
MISSION 4 - PHASE 3 OF 4: "VILLAGE PEOPLE".
I'm meant to be destroying the enemy buildings, but I'm not sure if those huts on the bottom left count. I'd like to avoid blowing up someone's village if I can help it.
BURN EVERYTHING! BURN IT ALL TO THE GROUND! SCORCHED EARTH, NO SURVIVORS! IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE.
MISSION 4 - PHASE 4 OF 4: "QUICKSAND".
This mission's called 'Quicksand', so I'm guessing that mud over there is probably instantly lethal. But do you see that rock next to it?
I guess the idea is that I'd learn from my mistake, and would start sweeping everywhere I go with gunfire to detonate any hidden mines. But who wants to have to do that? This is supposed to be fun war, isn't it? Or was the theme tune being ironic.
MISSION 5 - PHASE 1 OF 3: "THE VALLEY OF ICE".
At least I'm doing better on this level. I'm halfway through with zero casualties. These enemies aren't actually that much of a threat to my team because we're carrying better assault rifles. As long as I don't get too close I can easily pick them off before they get me.
A FEW DISASTERS LATER.
I've lost so many men to these guys now it's ridiculous. My new strategy is to split my team up and send them out alone or in pairs, so I can identify the rocket sniper locations and still have someone left alive to do something about it.
MISSION 5 - PHASE 3 OF 3: "MY BEAUTIFUL SKIDU".
Okay, I'm splitting the men into two teams again. One will scout out the area to clear a path for the skidoo, while the other team...
Maybe 50 years from now someone will find Windy and Donald preserved in the ice, then revive them to be superheroes in a new world they don't understand. Though it's more likely they're just going to get crushed by the next skidoo I drop down there.
These troops are going to keep pouring out as long as there's still a enemy shed on the level, but I think I'll do a few more laps before I sort that out.
Of course there could be a story in the manual explaining how we're actually trying to save the world from an evil cult or something, but in the actual game there's no hint that we're even fighting for the 'good guys'.
FUN FACT: The Game Boy Color version has a unique FMV intro (seriously), difficulty modes, a story, mission briefings, voices, and even lets you name the main villain yourself. Which almost makes up for the fact you're playing on tiny little screen without a mouse... but not really.
MISSION 6 - PHASE 1 OF 2: "THE GRAND CANYON".
I'm just surprised it hadn't happened sooner to be honest. I've managed to make it all this way without anyone stepping on a mine, falling in quicksand, or getting impaled on a spike trap, so I must have been burning through all my good luck.
I get that the game's about senseless death in war (the clue's in the title), but c'mon, I'm just trying to cross a bridge here!
I didn't have any trouble with the other sheds (fluke roof catastrophe aside) but getting close to this ain't easy. It's like the enemies are stepping out of it in waves, and to get close I have to fight against the tide. Usually I prefer to take out each group of enemies carefully, but it just doesn't seem to be an option this time. Plus it seems that some bastard has given the enemy decent guns on this mission.
10 MINUTES LATER.
It's completely hopeless of course, but I might as well go out fighting.
Oh shit, that says phase complete, not mission. That means I've got just this one guy left to finish the entire second stage.
MISSION 6 - PHASE 2 OF 2: "THE GRAND CANYON".
This is a game made by people who love being a bastard to the player. I know this because they decided afterwards that this game was far too easy, and worked to make the sequel more of challenge. I felt like I was the victim of bad luck and the game conspiring against me rather than my own lack of talent more often than I'd have liked. But then again I suppose that's part of the strategy side of the game, identifying ways to tilt the odds in your favour, and minimising risk. I don't think it's the kind of game you're likely to make it through on reflexes alone.
But let's face it, sooner or later I'm going to end up playing this again. And I'll probably even enjoy it again, up to a point. Possibly a point with those damn helicopters in next time. So yeah, have a gold star Cannon Fodder, enjoy your victory. I'll get my revenge when Cannon Fodder 2 comes around...
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