Being a port of two prolific mobile games doesn't exactly look good on paper, but Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops doesn't deserve the stigma attached to the mobile market. While not receiving great amounts of polish before heading over to the PlayStation Vita, Tiny Troopers benefits from the Vita's two analog sticks, and as a result makes the entire game worthwhile. Joint Ops sits in the middle of the road when it comes to the classic twin-stick shooter formula. It doesn't do that much wrong, but at the same time, it's not really doing anything innovative or new. In this day and age of bloated "triple-A" blockbusters, a small-time throwback might be exactly what you need, so being uninspired doesn't damn this game in any major way.
As expected from any twin-stick shooter, you move with one stick, and shoot with the other. It's as simple as it is failing to do anything particularly new. The briskness of the early game means that you'll have a firm grasp of objectives from the get go, getting you into the meat of the action in a relatively short amount of time. Bigger weapons and utilities require the use of the touch-screen, which didn't feel like much of a stretch from where my hands were positioned on the Vita. It can be surprisingly jarring at first, or if you need the weapon on the fly, but it's a good system.
There's a surprising level of content that spans two campaigns, and missions never really drag on until you reach massive encounters that span multiple buildings and towering units. There's a decent variety of these micro-missions, and even a bonus wave-based zombie mode that may be better than the campaign itself. These encounters rarely run well, however. Joint Ops is far from a smooth-running game, and coming from mobile roots, this shouldn't be much of an issue. There's nothing game-breaking, but random bouts of slowdown, frame skipping, and general sluggishness can be, if nothing else, distracting.
A nice touch is the removal of micro-transactions that were present in the phone ports. Your currency comes in the form of command points, and you can guess how those could have been exploited on a phone marketplace. Difficulty is what determines how many command points you receive. With three modes to play on, the harder you set it, the more command points you'll receive. Command point upgrades are pretty balanced in what you can purchase. You can splurge on the weapons you'll need mid-fight, or save it for later and grab a boost for your entire squad.
The more you progress in one setting, the more droll the experience can become. The missions have variety, but they're so brief that you'll undoubtedly run through some of them twice. The game definitely nails the "pick up and play for 10 minutes" kind of gameplay that populates mobile phones. It just so happens to work on Vita as well. At the end of the day, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops does most of what it sets out to do, even if it's not the hardest of accomplishments.
Dylan Tierney is a writer, podcaster, features poobah, game music snob, obsessive fan of many things, and contributor for Front Towards Gamer.