I have this unfortunate habit, where as soon as I get rid of a system, I get recommended a bunch of games by my friends that I should play on the system I no longer have. That was the case with my Gameboy Advance. A few weeks after I got rid of mine back in the mid 2000’s, people started telling me that I needed to play the Advance Wars games because they knew I liked turn-based tactical games and their accessibility.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the system, so I missed out on the first generation of this excellent turn-based strategy game. Thankfully, if a game is good enough, you can usually count on a remaster. So as soon as Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp was announced, I knew I had to pick it up. And the simple way to put it is I have a new, pretty accessible, addiction.
These two Advance Wars games task players with going through two campaigns. Each has various officers in the armies of Wars World engaging in tactical turn-based battles. Everything from infantry to bombers and submarines is at their disposal. Each chapter puts you in the role of a commanding officer facing off against the computer, or another player online. Players take turns directing units in what amounts to a large game of rock-paper-scissors. Infantry are needed to attack a certain objective, armor beats infantry, artillery beats armor, and so on. There is a casual difficulty for those learning or wishing for a more relaxing play. A harder difficulty mode can be unlocked. Neither of these affect the core gameplay other than the difficulty itself.
Even though this sounds like a rather simplistic description, I was immediately attracted to the incredibly deep tactical combat. From other outlets one of the criticisms is that you don’t have access to all of the units until halfway through the first game’s campaign. For me, a newcomer to the series, that’s a marker of just how deep the combat actually is.
Because it’s a turn-based strategy game, unless you’re playing online where turns are timed, there’s absolutely no fine-motor barriers. Except for the trademark requirement of most Switch games, pressing both shoulder buttons to go from title screen to main menu. Once you navigate past the title screen, the entire game can be played with a single finger or mouse stick.
Another great thing about Advance Wars is that the game story itself is told with large, easy to read, text-boxes. At no point during my approximately 20 hours with the game did I notice sound cues that would pose a problem for Deaf and hard of hearing players. The game features a large and overstated anime art style, that some have said were reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons. For low vision players this means Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp’s accessibility is definitely ahead of many turn-based tactical games. A genre that often features hard to read text and difficult to differentiate units.
Unfortunately, there is one fairly significant accessibility shortcoming in Advance Wars. That is the game’s heavy reliance on color to differentiate between factions. All of the units are cartoony, but each army is comprised of the same units. Green Earth’s artillery looks the same as Orange Star’s, and so on. There’s no way to tell what army a unit belongs to just by selecting it.
You could probably reason your way out of this, just by examining the position of each unit on the board. However I would not be comfortable recommending this game to most colorblind players. Especially given the punishing nature of gameplay when you accidentally leave an enemy unit alone, thinking it was yours. This is incredibly frustrating, as there are ways to design for color blindness such as using different shapes or labels. Until WayForward patches in a solution, players with issues differentiating between the faction’s colors may want to stay clear.
I want wholeheartedly to recommend Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp to as many disabled players out there as I can. It’s an incredibly deep and intellectually challenging game, without being physically challenging. However, due to the one glaring oversight, I can’t give this game a completely barrier free recommendation for all players with physical impairments, and that’s really unfortunate.