Sunday, November 25

Review: Steamburg [Nintendo Switch eShop]

With an abundance of pretty great puzzle games on the Switch that come in all sorts of formats it can be a challenge to make an impression. Certainly in the area of aesthetics Steamburg has the right approach, taking on a Tesla coil-filled steampunk theme that’s catchy. Unfortunately, its mechanics and quirks overwhelm the sense of wonder in its setting or story, making for a middling experience at best.

The premise has you trying to save the city of Steamburg, as well as your fiance, from a robotic invasion. Armed with only your wits and a limited supply of electro-bombs that are handy for distracting and temporarily stunning the robots, you’ll need to work to eliminate the robots by getting them close to a Tesla coil. Of course if you get too close yourself you’ll get fried by them as well and since the robots continue to get faster and more numerous you’ll need to be very cautious and put together a plan of action for your success.

Early on key concepts are introduced to you like how to trigger different generators or devices, make use of teleportation spots for both yourself and for your bombs, and some tactics on how best to deal with the robots in general. From there you’ll need to apply that knowledge to contend with ever-more challenging scenarios. On a general level you’ll first want to plot out how to trigger any devices that will let you move around, size up the teleporters (these are color-coded since there will often be more than one), see where robots are, and look for how you’ll acquire the 3 bonus orbs along the way. Keeping in mind you only have a limited number of your electro-bombs you’ll need to determine how best to make your way through it all.

Where the issue tends to come in is in the execution and how awkward things can be. There’s no visual indicator for what the range of the coils or even the robots’ death rays are, and you’ll need to experiment and likely die quite a bit before you get a handle on that as well as just the visual range the robots will see you at. Throwing your bombs slows time and in general the controls for throwing them make sense but there’s still an element of clumsiness to them, particularly when the the pressure is on. Just in general it’s far easier to plot out what needs to be done than to execute it in action and that’s a bit aggravating. The fact that some cloud cover or a random blimp will sometimes fly over and temporarily obscure your view does nothing to help this.

With over 30 stages there’s a fair degree of challenge and even some variety to what Steamburg throws at you but in some ways it’s tough to say who the target demographic for it is. It has puzzles but in then relies heavily on how well you execute the action portion of things for success. However, the action is a bit stilted and can be frustrating at times. In the end Steamburg has a cool look and some decent ideas but struggles with being compellingly fun, so take a good look at it before you decide to buy.

Score: 6

  • A great sense of visual style
  • Some creative ideas

  • The execution end of things can be frustrating
  • Though elements like the clouds or blimps can add to the ambiance the fact that you need to wait on them to pass at times or risk death can be annoying
  • Struggles with being fun