Genre: Action/Strategy Developer: Sensible Software Publisher: Virgin Interactive Ent. Players: 1 Released: 1994
Cannon Fodder is a game that caused quite some controversy back in the day. Though clearly meant ironically, many game critics and hardcore pacifists thought it was a wrong signal to title a war game ‘Cannon Fodder’ and give it the slogan ‘War has never been so much fun!’ The intro of the original version of the game on the Amiga (CD32) even had a funny movie of Monty Python-like English soldiers while the catchy “War has never been so much fun” song was used as background music (this intro is not included in the Genesis/Mega Drive edition). However, the biggest point of controversy was the use of the corn poppy, a red flower that is used as a symbol for World War I veterans. The Royal British Legion protested against the use of the symbol because they thought people could think they endorsed the game. Virgin removed the symbol from the box, but it’s still on the game’s title screen.
Cannon Fodder was originally released on the Amiga and later converted to many other platforms. It’s an action/strategy game in which the player has to lead his squad through different maps (or stages) by accomplishing different mission objectives, like shooting all the enemy soldiers. The game is created by Sensible Software, a British software house that made name with Sensible Soccer. Characteristic for this company is the use of small sprites to create cute looking gaming characters. In both Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder this technique is used. Of course, the original game had to be controlled with a mouse, but the joypad works just fine.
There are twenty-four missions to complete, each one with a different terrain and objective and split into a maximum of six phases. After each mission the player gets an overview of the ‘Boot Hill’ with a survey of all your killed soldiers in the mission. However, if your whole squad is killed in a mission, it’s game over. The game can be saved by means of a password system. In Cannon Fodder you control your whole squad at the same time; it’s not possible to select just one soldier (though it is possible to split up your troopers – as long as you have enough). So they follow each other and all shoot at the same time. If a trooper survives multiple missions, he gets a higher rank. The rank is shown above the head of your troopers.
The game looks pretty good and I don’t think many details of the original game were lost during the conversion to the Genesis. The variation in stages (ice, jungle, water) is very nice, and the sound effects are also decent. But there is a problem. Since it’s such a good transition of a PC/Amiga game, the limitations of playing on a console were forgotten. As I said, the problem is not the control with the joypad because that works fine. The main issue of Cannon Fodder is that everything is very, very small. This didn’t present a problem with Sensible Soccer, but in Cannon Fodder it doesn’t work as well.
First off, it can often be very hard to spot enemies. It’s common for the player to only hear them, without a clue as to where they are. Most of the time the little spirited fellows are just near a green tree, where they’re very hard to see. It can be a real chore to check out the whole map again just to find that one soldier you didn’t kill yet.
Another annoying aspect is the use of special weapons. From one point on, your troopers will find and be able to use grenades and bazookas. What weapon you can use is shown in the menu in the upper left corner of the screen. However, this screen is so microscopically small, you have to sit really close to your television screen to see what is says. Because of this, you’ll often fire a weapon on accident, mostly in hectic situations – just those moments when it’s extra unfortunate. Your troops will find these weapons in small boxes, which are usually located near enemy buildings with many enemy troops around. It wasn’t unusual for me to accidentally shoot the boxes or the building while my troops were too close, leading to a lot of seemingly unfair deaths and frustration. Besides additional weapons, later on in the game your troops can also use vehicles.
Cannon Fodder works when you sit in front of a computer, but it doesn’t do it for me on a game console. That’s a shame, because I really like the design, the game characters, and the whole attitude of the game. I have to add, also other original PC games, like Worms, Lemmings or Populous didn’t work for me on the Genesis. The only game that seemed to work is Dune II, but that’s not too surprising, as it got a special Genesis remake.
Overall, Cannon Fodder is an excellent conversion of a very good Amiga game. I just don’t think the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive is a suitable system to play it on due to just how small everything looks. Unless you have a really large television screen, I don’t think you’ll find this one easy to play.
SCORE: 6 out of 10