Here we have one of the few gems in Atari's Jaguar lineup, an entertaining little mech game called Iron Soldier. You play the role of a rebel living sometime in the future who works for an organization that has stolen a giant mech called an Iron Soldier from the evil Iron Fist Corporation, and now it is up to you to wage a one man war against them and end their evil totalitarian reign. Not much of a plot, to be sure, but it gets the job done.
Quite possibly the only game to make the telephone key pad thing that Atari passed off as a controller make sense (other than the obscure sequel), this game is quite a bit of fun by Jaguar standards, and really enjoyable by any game standards. You use each of the numbers on the keypad to represent a part of the Iron Soldier's body, and you can mount weapons on its shoulders, hips, and on its right hand (the left is reserved for pummeling things). This makes switching between weapons largely a painless process during game play, and the fact that you can custom mount the weapons onto your Iron Soldier before each mission gives the game a sense of freedom and customization that is easy to appreciate.
During play, you have a screen that shows your speed, health, ammo supply, selected weapon, and a radar that shows where enemies are located and also warns if there is a stream of missiles headed your way. The graphics are notable in that this is one of the only 3-D Jaguar games that really looks pretty good. The explosion animations are actually done quite nicely; helicopters and tanks look pretty good, and the levels are surprisingly large. The buildings look rather plain and non-descript, and the game isn't the most colorful, but that is quickly forgotten as you play through the game.
The game is divided up into 4 levels with a total of 16 missions. Each mission is entertaining, with the exception of 2 missions that have you escorting a convoy through a level while it is constantly being attacked by enemy tanks and helicopters. Those 2 missions are annoying and dull, in my view, and the route the convoys take suggests that the drivers are suicidal, reducing your desire to keep them alive. Alas, you cannot advance without doing so. Fortunately, the other 14 missions have you going after specific targets and destroying them, or defending static objects from attack, which is far more entertaining than the 2 dud missions. You are supplied with plenty of ammo, and as the game progresses you will find more and more weapons, for a total of 8 weapons. They range from a semi-useful assault rifle to a cruise missile that you pilot remotely into whatever you are trying to destroy. Your Iron Soldier can even step on tanks, rocket launchers, and fixed machine gun positions and destroy them without firing a shot.
Aside from the aforementioned crap missions, the only other complaint some gamers may have with this game is the fairly slow control. It is certainly responsive to your input, but your Iron Soldier is fairly slow to turn and doesn't exactly sprint across the stage. I wasn't bothered by this, since I took it as the developers trying to simulate a giant hulking robot, which I can't imagine being particularly nimble. Nevertheless, be aware that this might be something you'll need to adapt to. Personally, I got used to it in about 5 minutes, but it depends on your tastes.
All in all, if you have a Jaguar, this game is a no-brainer. It can be found on eBay for like $10, or probably fairly easily and cheaply if you have a local game store that actually still sells this old stuff, it has enough missions to keep you busy for a decent amount of time, and you can just pick it up and play it whenever you want, play for 5 minutes and maybe finish one of the easier missions, or play for a few hours and finish the whole game. Were it not for the 2 obnoxious escort missions, I would probably score the game even higher. Highly recommended.