Steel Assault is an exhilarating 2D action-platformer that is here to show you a good time, if however brief. And I’m okay with that – mostly.
Developers Zenovia Interactive have created a game that wonderfully delivers on its retro appeal, with bombastic, responsive gameplay that feels right at home on the Switch.
All action, no fluff:
This game is all about the action. After a very stylish intro, accompanied by an adrenaline surging score, you’re quickly thrown into your first mission.
You play as Taro Takahashi, a resistance soldier on a mission for revenge. Equipped with a zipline, an omni-directional electric whip (for combat purposes only… as far as I could tell), and impressive movement, the game feels great.
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic America, which has seen Magnus Pierce – a renowned inventor turned Army general- become dictator, Taro is pitted against hordes of robotic foes.
Each mission consists of you having to navigate through various stages; zipping, dashing and fighting through enemies at a relentless pace. Thankfully the game is simple to pick up, with jumps, whip attacks, the zipline and an all important – iframe gifting – sliding dodge being mapped to a select few buttons. The real challenge is found in learning how to use these various maneuvers in conjunction to swiftly deal with the concurrent enemies and platforming challenges.
The zipline is a fantastic addition that can be used for a number of purposes. Travelling in eight directions, you’ll have Taro weaving through stages vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Moreover, with practice, it is a great way to set-up creative attacks on enemies. Mastery of this skill is especially important during the game’s more challenging platforming sections and boss battles, which act as all important skill-checks for the player. Not to mention: it is just so fun!
Stages themselves are designed in such a way that the action never stops. Four difficulty choices and generous checkpoints mean that death isn’t discouraging (I must have died over 25 times in one of the very first platforming sections), and this encouraged me to experiment with my approach during each run.
A brief nostalgia trip:
The 16-bit dystopian sci-fi world of Steel Assault looks great. The various enemy and boss designs are memorable and the backdrops; from neon cities to jungles, all look fantastic. There is an impressive diversity in the game’s aesthetic. Add in a high-energy soundtrack that carries both hype and motivation in spades, and what you have is a real visual treat.
That being said, whilst I found my journey through this nostalgia trip to be thoroughly engaging, it was very brief. Now, I personally welcomed this; my playthrough took just over an hour (and I am admittedly not the best at these games), however, once that trip is over there is not much incentive for the player to replay.
There are no customisation, upgrade elements or new stages to be found on replay. What you do have is arcade mode, which challenges you to complete the whole game with just one life. This challenge is welcome and absolutely necessitates mastery of every mechanic, but no new changes to missions or unlocks means you’re playing purely for pride. That will do for some, but I personally found the content offering lacking.
The brevity of this experience is both the games biggest strength and weakness; both managing to deliver a quality experience, without overstaying its welcome, but at the same time lacking the additional content to make it an easy recommendation at full price.
I had a great time; the game is incredibly polished. I just wish there were more opportunities to use the awesome zipline.