Fantastic Plastic Squad [Free] is a game that punched me in the stomach. I’ve rarely felt so excited and then so disappointed in such a short amount of time. Maybe that’s not fair, but let’s start with the good part: The game has one of the strongest first five minutes of any game I’ve played on iOS. It introduces you to these awesome '80s action figures that walk around in a hilariously stiff way (they are plastic, as the game’s name suggests), and you get to use them to shoot aliens around a giant house! I absolutely love games that take place in ordinary places seen from a miniature perspective--probably because of playing with action figures as a child--and this game nails that feeling. The controls are smart and tight, and I could feel myself getting super pumped while playing through the tutorial. I could tell this would be a game I’d be playing for a long time. But I was wrong.


What happened? Your first guess is probably the free-to-play model, right? That’s not it, believe it or not. It’s pretty much the same model as MARVEL Contest of Champions [Free] or any of the other thousand games on the App Store where you collect and combine and upgrade randomly drawn characters. It’s not ideal, of course, but I’m so used to it that I don’t mind it. There are several currencies and timers and all that junk, so if you have an allergic reaction to that stuff than you should probably steer clear anyway.

So it’s not the pay model. Is it the controls? Those can easily make or break a game. But no, as I said earlier, the controls are fine. The game is played in a third-person perspective with typical first/third-person touch controls. There’s a movement stick on the left and you’re free to swipe anywhere on the right to aim. The game auto-fires when an enemy is in the crosshairs, which is something I appreciate on touch screen devices. You can also swipe to perform evasive moves like rolling. Everything works really well, though it was a bit too sensitive for my liking at first. You can change it in the menu, which I did, and it’s great.


What’s wrong, then? Is the game just not fun? No, it’s actually quite fun. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I love toy-based games like Micro Machines and all that junk. It can feel really satisfying shooting down aliens while leaping from an open drawer to a messy bed, for example. The levels are designed well and the shooting mechanics are solid. Everything feels great.

It must look like garbage, then. Is that it? Nope. It looks amazing, with tons of detailed characters that look and move like toys would and lots of bright, fun colors everywhere. There’s a cool sort of 80’s comic book theme to all the menus and the in-game graphics run really smoothly on my iPad Air. Everything is fluid and sharp.

This whole “asking myself a question and then answering it” thing is starting to feel annoying and gimmicky, so I’m just going come right out with it now: Fantastic Plastic Squad has an auto-play system, and it nearly ruins the game for me. It’s called “commander mode”, and when you trigger it, the game takes control of your character and does all the running and gunning while you can push a couple buttons to reload and roll out of the way, if you want. This might sound perfect for a mobile free-to-play game with lots of grinding, but it really does suck all the fun out.


I know, I know. I can just choose not to use it. And I do. But just the mere fact that it’s there somehow makes everything I’m doing feel pointless. Why control the character myself when the AI aims perfectly and always knows where to go? It’s like you’re in a pie baking competition, and under the counter there’s a bunch of perfect pies already made, and anyone can grab one and get a perfect score. Why do any work, then? Even if the baking is fun, you’re choosing to do it yourself and you know you’ll end up with a worse pie when you’re done.

Other games include auto-play to help ease the repetition of grinding, of course, like Need For Speed: No Limits [Free] and Taichi Panda [Free]. The difference is that those games require a human to be behind the wheel initially and only let you put it on autopilot for grinding. It’s a great idea for free-to-play games like this, but it almost breaks the game when they take that requirement away. I keep trying to think of other ways to describe the way it feels to play Fantastic Plastic Squad knowing commander mode is there, but “pointless” pretty much sums it up.

I feel the need now to express that these reviews are essentially just opinions, and your experience with Fantastic Plastic Squad might be totally different than mine. (Indeed, people in our forums seem quite taken with the game.) Maybe you don’t mind using auto-play for the entire game, or maybe you’re able to enjoy playing “manual” even with commander mode there. Personally, I can’t bring myself to do either of those things. If I’m going to let a game play itself I’d rather it be a simple clicker or something, and I just can’t enjoy playing the game myself when I know I can easily hand the controls over to an AI that will do everything better.

All that being said, literally everything else about the game is incredible, and despite being quite hard on it in this review, I think it’s still worth checking out to see if it clicks with you. The production values, the characters, the environments, the controls (if you use them)--it’s all basically perfect. Those first five minutes were really amazing.

TouchArcade Rating

  • gaymerX

    Hmmmm.... I had no initial interest in this game up to now. But this review (plus it's free) has convinced me to at least give it a go. Thanks!

    • speedyph


  • SimonMagus

    This review quite annoyed me. I am not sure if it was his writing style, verbiage, his opinion, or a mix of all these things. Now, I will revive Plastic Squad from the graveyard so that I can remind myself why I deleted it, but I do know for damn sure, it was not due to an (optional) auto-mode feature..

    • Tallgeese

      I thought it was fine. Almost like twenty questions...

    • Digibear

      I agree. I did not like this review. I don't read reviews to slush through all these nice things to find out an optional thing ruined a good game for you. If it gives you the choice you should appreciate that some people may like that feature.

  • GSport

    Obviously it is your review, and you are entitled to your opinion. I just don't understand why that feature ruined it for you. Just don't use it.

    • Anova

      Yeah, 3 stars (which is all lots of people look at) seems low for a game you essentially think is perfect. Commander makes the game feel pointless? Games are pointless, if the manual mode is fun then don't use commander.

  • Anonomation

    I could never connect properly.

    • Tallgeese

      same here

      • EvanJO14

        My problem was it took to much much space on my(16gb)iPad mini 2

  • bf66

    I absolutely agree with this review and had the same struggle with auto mode. I like the fully auto mated games but end up loosing interest very quickly due to the lack of interaction required. I've been thinking about this lately and I'm actually happy to see someone put the thought out there.

    • Based Xatu

      This is why I love avengers alliance 2, it forces you to play the game.

  • SimonMagus

    More then 90% of the time, I prefer manual-mode for these types of games, but occasionally, I do enjoy setting the 'auto' feature. It can be fun to watch my characters work their AI magic.. Hell, they usually outplay me anyway. When I do set auto-mode, I spectate as if I am viewing an interactive anime show. Marvel Future Fight is a great example of this.

  • Topfnut

    This review describes my experience with this game perfectly. Really liked the game at first but the commander mode ruined it for me as I didn't feel I had to do anything to progress besides activating the mode.

    • SimonMagus

      What is the psycology behind this? You seem to really like the game, but the optional auto-mode ruined it for you? Do you lack the willpower 'not' to use the feature? ..or is it that you dislike playing any game equiped with this feature purely out of principle? ..or? I ask in seriousness.

      • Topfnut

        Fair question. Nathan put it perfectly in his review, even though I know that I can chose not to use it, the fact that it's there and "plays" in the most efficient way just makes all my actions feel useless. I generally like auto modes and use them in other games I played like heroes charge or Star Wars galaxy of heroes. But in those games the auto modes only activates once you beat the level yourself.

        And yes, maybe it's a willpower thing, but this is not like changing some settings to easy in the options. It's an integral part of the game with the Button part of the game interface. So why wouldn't I use it. The only problem is that in this case it's a part of the game that ruins it for me.

  • GiHubb

    Spot on review, commander mode ruined the experience for me too. It's the same problem I had with Geometry Wars 3 and its auto-fire feature - it took away the need the manually aim for 95% of the time and made the game redundant. I know people can say "just ignore it" but I can't, especially when it's doing better than manual controls.

  • YaoYao

    What ruined the game for me was the pay-2-win. You can't level your guys passed certain thresholds without backpieces or arm pieces. You can't get back and arm pieces without winning pvp. You can't win pvp without having high-leveled characters. How to get high-level characters without winning pvp? Drop money. Uninstalled.

  • Rothgarr

    I, too, absolutely LOVED the game for the first five minutes. It seemed so polished and creative. Then after another 10 minutes or so I also deleted it.

    I did think the Commander mode was silly (maybe I just didn't "get it") but for me there were two things I didn't like.

    1) I could see how this would quickly become an IAP money-suck. I'm not a stranger to IAPs, and there are plenty of games that I am happy to buy the IAPs. This just didn't seem like one of them. If there were additional chapters to buy or coin doublers (if it had that, maybe I missed it) those are things I would be interested in. Maybe even have some characters to buy like virtual skylanders or something (again, I may have missed that).

    2) The tutorial went from "fun run around and shoot stuff" to a bunch of upgrade and leveling stuff that confused the heck out of me. All I want is a selection of characters that each have unique abilities and that's it.

    Might be worth another shot -- I did admittedly delete it before even playing for 30 minutes. I may have missed some things.

  • CrazedJava

    The problem with commander mode is the game is so much better. When I did the manual control it was very confusing. Where is the objective? Where is the enemy? You kind of wander and look around until you stumble into what you are supposed to do. I'm not great with virtual controls but I am experienced with shooters and it still feels like commander mode just makes you, the player, redundant. Most auto-play features are good ways to make grind tolerable but to really advance I usually have to take control. In this game, there is no need for me to play it. Commander mode is much better than me, knows where to go at all times, and knows exactly where the enemy is at.

    It's one of the few games where auto-play did ruin the experience for me. From some of the comments about where the IAP kicks in it is probably for the best, but I totally get where the author is coming from.

  • Dragontears969

    Just so you know there are a few times when you actually have to use manual mode. Auto mode is most efficient except it never uses stamina which means it doesn't sprint. For some of the timed bonus achievements (that give you premium currency) you have to be either WAY over leveled or run it manually with a high stamina character. Also, commander mode doesn't dodge or reload properly between fights so it isn't quite optimum and you can do some small input, but yes it did make the game seem rather redundant. I still would have played it if it hadn't stopped loading after I was quite a ways in and at #3 on the pvp list without spending money. Had to reinstall which apparently deleted my save despite it having Game Center link ups.

  • boydstr

    I had the game on my phone and one of the first thing that I liked are the graphics but it was to repeating for me
    I think it's something for the younger gamer.

  • Mekklesack

    I love this game!!!

  • Mekklesack

    I don't know what anyone is talking about, manual controls are fine and you only need commander mode on rare attempts to obtain all five medals, you don't need it on any play through any level but the tutorial. Otherwise manual controls work just fine. And did you know that you can "wall run" in this game? I freaking kid you not!!! You can mutha' f*ckin' "wall run" in this game!!! Like in Titan Fall!! Why is everyone not playing this??????? Try it, just get in a certain angle and run jump on to a wall and the character will start wall running. It's sweet and simple to do. I can't believe this is a mobile game!!!

  • thestapler

    Its a fun and disposable game. It's very pretty, I'm also a sucker for the toy thing, and overall presentation of it is really cool. But even though the commander mode didn't bother me much since I just didn't use it, I would maybe give it 3 and a half stars instead of 3.

Fantastic Plastic Squad Reviewed by Nathan Reinauer on . Rating: 3