Game Review: The Mean Greens

Nick Smit reviews what is basically a Toy Story shooter.

As video games continue to explore the kinds of experiences that make game snobs like me proud, it’s also important not to forget the value of some simple fun. Indeed, as there will always be a place for films like Die Hard, there should always be a place for games like The Mean Greens.

If you can imagine a multiplayer shooter based around the plastic army men from Toy Story, that’s pretty much the length and breadth of what the developers were going for with The Mean Greens. Leaping straight from a ten year old’s imagination, the battles between the ‘Greens’ and the ‘Tans’ take place in various household settings, from the kitchen bench, to the fish tank, to the bathtub. Lego castles and shoe-string zip lines really help to sell the toy aesthetic, as does the rendering power of the new Unreal Engine 4 that gives everything an appealing gloss.

Each map is bundled with a particular game mode it was designed for, like king-of-the-hill, or the aforementioned Lego castles or death match for a table-turned-cityscape. Then The Mean Greens starts to get creative with a race to thaw a dinosaur trapped in the freezer, or a game of Foosball in which you can move the ball by shooting it. Unlike most of its kind in the shooter genre, The Mean Greens doesn’t rely on a vast and varied weapons store to foster engagement, but just lets them be simple and intuitive. Players have access to all five weapons at any time and can switch between them at will.

There’s no level-up treadmill or meta-game for the best equipment, but simply two players circling each other with shotguns.

There are no real surprises in what’s available; sniper, shotgun, assault rifle, bazooka and flamethrower. To balance specialised or more powerful weapons like the sniper or bazooka against the standard rifle, The Mean Greens uses ammunition followed by a cooldown timer to ensure that you don’t use the more powerful weapons too much, but only when the need arises. It’s pretty efficient against campers, for instance, since the player is not going to stick around for a minute before they can try sniping again. The exception to this rule is the flamethrower, which can and should be used at every possible opportunity because the melting death animation of your opponents is hilarious. The flamethrower is also used to complete various objectives throughout the game, like thawing the dinosaurs or lighting candles on a birthday cake, and is balanced against other weapons by range and damage. A shotgun and a flamethrower may have similar ranges, for example, but a direct hit from the shotgun is an instant kill.

The result of this simplicity is that skill contests come in a raw form that has perhaps disappeared from games as of late. There’s no level-up treadmill or meta-game for the best equipment, but simply two players circling each other with shotguns. This was some of the most fun I’ve had with games in recent times. I’m not sure of the last time I giggled while someone was trying to kill me, but this time, it was with The Mean Greens.

The only real problem I can mention with The Mean Greens is servers. Most running matches are actually empty, and the few servers that had players were mostly American. My recommendation is to run your own server with a group of friends. The Mean Greens would make a great party game, and with any luck, some other players might join to fill up the numbers. In this way, The Mean Greens feels like somewhat of a return to the LAN era of gaming as the perfect way to bring people together while blowing them apart.

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