The Bluecoats – North vs South is a remake of a 1990 strategy video game which depicts the events of the Civil War in a rather light manner. However, those expecting to gain any sort of insight on things such as the economy, politics, or the issue of slavery from the time should probably consider looking elsewhere.
The game doesn’t take itself very seriously, though it doesn’t really make light of its inspiration. The characters are rendered in a pleasing cartoon aesthetic, rather than realistic; they don’t go to the extremes of squash and stretch, nor do their deaths on the battlefield yield bloodbaths or anything more violent than an old ‘˜80s episode of G.I. Joe.
Lincoln, Lincoln, I’ve been thinkin’.
And while the goofiness of a guard occasionally being knocked out of the on-screen window showing a bank vault can be entertaining enough, others might not be so amused by some of the game’s ethnic stereotypes. Both Native Americans (or ‘Indians,’ as they’re called in the game) and Mexicans (or rather, ‘mexicans’) are probably as far from politically correct as you can get, though one might make an argument for it being more accurate per the time period.
As for the gameplay, it’s rather decent. You choose whether you want to play as the Yankees or the Confederates, and your goal is to wipe the enemy off the map by taking out their armies. You’ll move from state to state, claiming them as your own and fighting the opposing side in order to take control. There are some strategic positions as well, such as forts that allow you to use the railroads to gain gold (used to purchase more armies, power-ups, etc.), and a lighthouse which allows you to call on reinforcements from overseas.
When you engage an enemy army or fort, the scene changes to either an overhead view of the battlefield and both armies’ men, or behind a soldier facing the residents of the fort. The former involves selecting which group you want to attack which enemies (cannons, cavalry, and infantry), and the other is sort of an arcade-style cover-based shooter.
Brother versus brother and all that.
Unfortunately, neither work very well, and just aren’t much fun to play. Thankfully, you can turn these battles off and have them run in an automatic form. You can also choose to tweak numerous other factors, from your strength and your opponents’, whether storms are a factor, whether Mexicans and Indians are a factor, and whether reinforcements can be called in. So if anything in particular seems to really bother you, it’s easy enough to adjust that factor.
Despite all of this, however, there just isn’t much to the game. Once you’ve won, it feels like you’ve seen everything there is to do, and getting that far doesn’t even take very long. This isn’t helped by the broad strokes which use the entire country, rather than smaller regions to work in. This is one area where multiplayer might have been great.
Overall, The Bluecoats – North vs South isn’t a bad game in itself, but it’s insubstantial. You’ll probably want to hold off on this one unless there’s a sale.