Playing Steel Assault, you might be reminded of classics such as Contra, Gunstar Heroes, and maybe even Castlevania.
A run ‘n’ gun game at heart, Steel Assault adds a twist in that your determined hero, Taro, doesn’t actually make use of guns. Instead he faces his enemies head-on with what is essentially of whip of pure energy, which you can aim in pretty much any direction.
As Taro, your ultimate goal in Steel Assault is to thwart the nefarious Magnus and put an end to his evil machinations. To get to him, however, you’re going to have to battle your way through his army of enhanced soldiers, menacing robots and advanced vehicles across five chapters of thigh octane side-scrolling action.
You know the score. You generally move from left to right, fending off enemies that attack from all directions. There is some vertical action as well though; one section requires you to ascend in order to avoid rising lava, for example, while in another you’ll be riding an elevator.
A limited arsenal means the gameplay is focused on you avoiding enemy attacks and retaliating when possible. What’s useful is that your whip can nullify some enemy projectiles, so there’s often the quandary of whether you attack through an enemy’s attack, or try to avoid it.
There are pickups, too, revealed by destroying metal crates. They’re limited in what they offer though – it’ll either be some health, a shield, or a temporary electricity upgrade for your whip, extending its range with crackles of energy. You can extend the duration of the upgrade though, by getting close to enemies and ripping out their cores with your fists.
The most unique thing about Steel Assault is that your character is also equipped with a fireable zipline, that can be used to create a rope between two points. You’ll often need to use it to gain height and avoid enemy attacks. It can appear a bit fiddly to use initially, but you soon get used to it. It certainly adds another dimension to the gameplay.
Bosses are, as you’d expect, a highlight. They all test your abilities in different ways, and they look great too. That’s a compliment that can be aimed at the entire game though. Presented in the style of a 16-bit classic, complete with 4:3 aspect ratio, Steel Assault is colourful and charming. It has a rocking retro soundtrack too.
A range of difficulty levels means that Steel Assault doesn’t just have to be for the hardcore. Even players new to the genre will be able to make their way through the game with a little persistence on the easiest difficulty. But crank the difficulty up, and even the most skilled players will be challenged.
It’s a game that you’ll want to play more than once, too, especially if you want to get your money’s worth. After all, you can be done with it in less than an hour. With that in mind, it’s a shame that there are no online leaderboards or other longevity-boosting features. There’s simply the standard game mode with multiple difficulty levels, and an arcade mode that challenges you to complete the game with no continues.
Steel Assault is a hell of a lot of fun while it lasts, but unfortunately that’s not likely to be long. After that, there’s not much else to do but play through it again on a harder difficulty or try to tackle arcade mode, but that doesn’t really offer anything new. At least it looks and sounds great while it has you in its grasp. And its price is fairly reasonable.
Steel Assault Review – GameSpew’s Score