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Video Game / Cannon Fodder

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(WAR!) Never been so much fun!
(WAR!) Never been so much fun!
(WAR!) Never been so much fun!
(WAR!) Never been so much fun!
Go up to your brother
Kill him with your gun
Leave him lying in his uniform
Dying in the sun! (WAR!)

Cannon Fodder is a action-strategy Shoot 'Em Up game from Sensible Software released in 1993, originally for the Amiga, in which the player commands between 1 and 8 soldiers on a series of missions like "kill all enemies." It is remembered for attempting to avert Do Not Do This Cool Thing — your soldiers die horribly and in droves, each adding a tombstone to the pre-mission screen, and the game manual openly states that "war is a senseless waste of lives and resources."

A Mission-Pack Sequel, Cannon Fodder 2, also by Sensible Software, was released in 1995. An impressive Game Boy Color port, with entirely recorded audio and FMV-based menus, was released in 2000.

In January 2010, Codemasters (which acquired Sensible Software in 1999) announced licensing third game to be made by Russian developer GFI for PC and Xbox 360. It was released in different parts of the world in 2011-2.

The original game and its sequel are available for download on Good Old Games here and here (though be aware that it is the somewhat inferior PC port, and not the Amiga original).

Not to be confused with Canon Fodder. Or the third animated short film from Memories.

Cannon Fodder contains examples of:

  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit
  • Banana Republic: The enemy leader is "El Presidente", a dictator of a fictitious South American Country. His name and the name of the country that he rules are never mentioned.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: A pretty dirty example. Looking into the game's code and finding the Virgin logo image for the splash screen, then setting the colour palette entry 31 from black to white, and now the image has the words "Free Sex" written four times all over it.
  • Black Comedy: The "Home/Away" scoreboard above Boot Hill.
  • Booby Trap: The level designers really had some sadistic fun in implementing obstacles that are very hard to see but are all capable of causing a cheap death such as tripwire bombs, spear traps, land mines, and small, unassuming holes on plank bridges.
  • Bowdlerise: Certain rude mission and phase names were changed in the PC and console ports, e.g. "Bugger me it's cold" became "Blast it's cold", "A nice set of bazookas" became "Barmy bazookas" and "Sheep shaggers delight" became "Sheep shearers delight". Though "Explore my hole" was somehow left in.
    • Another change was due not to obscenity but to bad taste. Several missions set in the moorland terrain included the word "moor" in their name, usually as a pun. One, in the original Amiga version, was called "Moors Murderers", a reference to the Moors murders, an infamous and horrifying series of child-killings in the 1960s (the two murderers were still very much alive (in prison) when the game was made). The ports changed this to "More Moors".
  • Cannon Fodder: Of course. They're also essentially Player Mooks, and when freshly recruited they're New Meat.
  • Creator Cameo: The first four soldiers are named after the development team.
  • Death from Above: Helicopters and those fucking roofs.
  • The Dead Have Names: And they're listed at the end of every mission.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Targeting most of the Military and Warfare Tropes.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: This game was an experiment to see if it was possible to avert this in regards to war. But it ends up as a fun, challenging, yet unique game that enjoyed until today.invoked
  • Desolation Shot: The whole game.
  • Escort Mission: A couple. They're less irritating than usual, though, as you usually have the chance to clear the map of threats before you start the civilian/prisoner moving.
  • Excuse Plot: Utterly straight in the original - they tried to make a bit more plot for the sequel.
  • Falling Damage: Be extra careful about navigating a map with cliffs: If a soldier moves over the edge and the drop is too high, they're dead. One of the levels was intentionally designed with this in mind by having you try to figure out how to get to another part of the map from atop a plateau without killing off your entire squad.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: For which it was banned in Germany. To be fair, it's fairly Gornographic to watch your soldiers bleeding to death in agony.
  • Friendly Fireproof: With guns and only guns — grenades and rockets can kill your soldiers. You also have the option of giving your own soldiers a Mercy Kill when they're mortally wounded and groaning. Also, it's possible to trick enemy turrets and vehicles into firing on their own side, and in some phases this is the only way to destroy certain targets.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Not totally game-breaking, but certain levels on the PC version are made far more difficult by a porting bug where enemy helicopters (that in other versions can be destroyed on their helipad shortly after the level begins if you know where they are) instantly take off and start attacking your soldiers. There are also occasional problems where helicopters constantly hover over inaccessible areas making levels unwinnable.
  • Grotesque Cute
  • Hair-Trigger Explosive: Grenade crates or bundles of rockets will explode if you shoot them. This is occasionally useful, but usually a waste of explosives and a hazard to your troops.
  • Infinite Ammo: All except your soldier's grenades and rockets; running out when you had to blow up a bunker/hut could make a level unwinnable.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:The main theme has a very cheerful and energetic tone to the music and singing, and yet the chorus goes "WAR! Never been so much fun! Go up to your brother, Kill him with your gun, Leave him lying in his uniform Dying in the sun!". This is in keeping with the games satire of the futility of war.
  • Made of Explodium: Just about anything sent flying by an explosion with explode when it hits the ground. Roofs. Snowmen (OK, maybe they're boobytrapped). Trees?
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: The penultimate phase of the first game orders you to capture the enemy leader. He turns out to be a big-brained but powerless mad scientist who, once you've destroyed the anti-aircraft guns guarding him, gets meekly into your helicopter without making any attempt to shoot you or run. The allegedly-neutral civilians you have to escort in some phases are less co-operative and more of a threat to your troops!
  • Mercy Kill: An option for bleeding soldiers.
  • Mood Dissonance: This is basically the video game equivalent to Erfworld.
  • More Dakka: The machine guns are nice, and the Amiga version makes them sound meaty, but nothing compares to the later missions when you get your hands on rocket-firing helis. AHAHAHAHAHAAA!
  • National Stereotypes: All the civilians are cartoon stereotypes: grass-skirted "natives" in the jungle levels, Inuit in the ice levels, Banditos in the desert leves, stereotypical shotgun-wielding farmers (one phase is even called "Get Orff Moi Laaand!") in the moorland levels, and robed Arabs, for some reason, in the tunnel base levels.
  • Nintendo Hard: The second game is significantly harder than the first, although Stoo did a lot to try and smooth the difficulty curve (the first suffers from an infamous spike in difficulty at the second phase of level eight).
  • No Plot? No Problem!: There is literally no detailed background to the first two games whatsoever which didn't stop anyone from enjoying them. The PC port had an ambiguous intro video that led to nowhere outside of "merely scratching the surface" and the Game Boy Color port addressed this problem with mission briefings but that ended up being a largely wasted effort.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted as some soldier names repeat. It's especially noticeable with Steve which is used three times, with the third instance happening shortly after the second.
  • On-Ride/On-Foot Combat: Many phases deeper into the game require you to load your soldiers into vehicles: first just jeeps, then tanks and helicopters. A large proportion of these phases fall into "fight your way through to the tank, then jump into it and slaughter everything", but some require you to leave the vehicle to accomplish other tasks.
  • On-Site Procurement: Grenades and rockets have to be taken from stashes in the enemy camps. While you might start the mission with a handful, it isn't guaranteed to be enough — "Bugger me it's cold" notably starts you off with a whopping zero explosives, meaning that if you somehow failed to realize that those exploding crates are collectible, you won't be completing this level any time soon.
  • Player Mooks: The title soldiers, except they have names, and they're all so damn cute...
  • Quicksand Sucks: Stay away from any terrain in the jungle that isn't grass or water. Sadistically, one level has a Bazooka powerup in the middle of a huge bog.
  • Recycled In Space: Cannon Fodder 2 has you fighting aliens.
  • RPG Elements: Soldiers who survive a mission are "promoted," essentially levelling up.
  • Save Point: At the end of every mission.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: After the Mission Eight difficulty spike, the first game stays at about the same level of average difficulty with isolated fearsomely-hard phases dropped in at random. 12:6, 14:2, 19:1, and 22:2-4.
  • Shout-Out: Each and every single level and sublevel name. The original Stoo's website has a thorough documentation of the lot for the sequel.
  • Time Travel: Cannon Fodder 2 uses this a lot, mostly to make palette swapped new environments.
  • Timed Mission: Mission 22 phase 3 requires you to beat an enemy vehicle to a civilian village before the enemy start killing people. The final phase of the final mission has a straight time limit.
  • Vapor Ware: Codemasters planned to remake this game for the Playstation Portable, but reconsidered. The third game in the series was repeatedly begun and cancelled. However... it did in 2011.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Each soldier has a name, and players often become quite attached to individual soldiers, trying to keep them alive as long as possible. It helps/hurts that at the end of each mission you're reminded of the names of the soldiers who died.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Of course, if you're a really sick and twisted bastard, then the above will probably go overlooked in favour of deliberately setting off explosions while members of your squad are close enough to be taken out as well. And then of course, there's the option of not dispensing a Mercy Killing to a mortally wounded comrade and just watching him bleed out instead.
  • War Has Never Been So Much Fun: The Trope Namer, with the phrase taken from the lyrics to the opening, but the game itself doesn't quite fit the trope, being more a case of Grotesque Cute. Incidentally, Cannon Fodder 2 changes it to "War has only been this much fun once before."
  • War Is Hell: For all its Grotesque Cute visuals and Black Comedy, Cannon Fodder, being a satire, bears a very strong anti-war message.
  • We Have Reserves: You can kill thousands upon thousands of El Presidente's troops and it would still be considered a drop in the bucket.
  • A Winner Is You: You don't even get a final "Home:Away" score!
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Whether or not it was intended by El Presidente, if you touch a specific type of sheep that was rigged to be a bomb trap, it will explode and (probably) kill one or all of your squad members. Yikes!


Video Example(s):


Cannon Fodder

A partial list of names the dead soldiers may have that the game displays at the end of missions.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheDeadHaveNames

Media sources: