HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewSteel Assault Review

Steel Assault Review

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Do you remember the days of the old 16-bit consoles? The Sega Megadrive, the Super Nintendo? One thing those consoles didn’t seem to have any shortage of was running and gunning platform shooters, games like Contra II and so on. 

Well, now you too can relive those glory days by firing up Steel Assault, a new old style game coming from Zenovia Interactive and Tribute Games. Is the world (and my ageing reflexes) ready for a throwback to an era when games were hard and gamers didn’t engage in ridiculous arguments on the internet (mainly because it wasn’t really a thing)? Well, come with me to a post-apocalyptic America…

steel assault review 1
Old school Steel Assault

The story of Steel Assault is pretty short and sweet, to be brutally honest. We play as Taro Takahashi, a resistance soldier who just so happens to have access to a steel suit of armour with some cool abilities. The only bit of narrative that I can glean from the various cutscenes that we watch is that there is a bad guy who has risen to be the lord of the destroyed world, and we’d rather he wasn’t in charge. Using typical video game logic, what we have to do is traverse some side scrolling platform stages and take out his minions one by one, until finally we can fight him. What could possibly go wrong?

Presentation is very much on the retro end of the scale; as mentioned above this is an homage to the 16-bit era of games. The design of Steel Assault is quite good, both in the levels and the sheer variety of different biomes to fight our way through. The character we play as is nicely designed and animated, as are the enemies that we face – from tiny flying robots right up the big, screen filling bosses. In fact, Steel Assault has a style that just oozes the era, and apparently the screen resolution is optimised for playing on a CRT monitor, just in case you are actually stuck in the 90’s. Luckily, I don’t have a CRT display, and so while I can appreciate the hand drawn style of the stages, I guess I must be missing out on the authentic experience!

The sound is very much as you would expect as well, with suitably rocky tunes blasting out whilst the sounds of combat and explosions are all being present and correct. There isn’t anything to complain about here, let’s just put it succinctly like that. 

steel assault review 2
Steel Assault is pretty hard – but pretty short

Now, combat and actual gameplay. Again, here the news is also pretty good. The first thing to say is that Steel Assault is a hard game, even on Easy; it is very much a one shot and done game. If you die, that is it – Game Over. You have to then start again from the last checkpoint, and when you die to a boss, this means having to run the gauntlet of the approach to the boss again, trying to preserve enough health to let finally beat it. This is usually easier said than done, although the patterns of the enemies are the same all the time, so it is entirely possible to learn what is coming your way and thus learn to time your jumps and attacks in order to preserve your health. 

The combat is interesting though, mostly as our hero is armed not only with a double jump, as is standard, but also comes with access to an energy whip and a zipline. Now, the zipline isn’t a weapon per se, but it is a means of getting about the levels, and as such deserves a little explanation. It has to attach to two fixed points, and allows you to shimmy along it. As an example, an early level sees us trying to climb a lift shaft after the lift is destroyed, and by jumping and firing the zipline, we can make our way upwards. The zipline can also be fired at any angle and as such can be used to climb up to platforms that are out of reach. It can also be used to avoid floor based attacks, such as bosses who set the floor alight or cover it in electricity. All in all, you should see this as a very useful tool. And another vital tool in our arsenal is a slide that makes us invincible while in motion; useful for passing through deadly beams and so on. 

The main weapon we have is an energy whip, and this is again a very nice bit of kit. Not only does it batter enemies that it actually hits, it can also be used to deflect bullets that any enemy may decide to fire your way. Well, I say bullets, but not all of the projectiles that come your way can be deflected; only by playing the game will you learn which to whip and which to avoid. No spoilers from me, if I had to learn the hard way, so do you! So, all we do is jump, attack, avoid and rinse and repeat, all the way through the game. 

steel assault review 3
It’ll scratch an itch

However, when I say ‘all the way through the game’, it must be said that Steel Assault isn’t the longest game in the world. In fact, even with my hamfisted attempts at getting to the end, I had beaten the game in about 45 minutes, which isn’t a particularly good return on your money. True, there is an arcade mode that challenges you to clear the whole game on one credit which is beyond me at the moment, but to be honest, having cleared it once, I’m not gagging to get back in there. If you are suitably masochistic, there are different difficulties to try Steel Assault on, but this tends to end badly. 

Steel Assault is a reminder of gaming’s past, and this brings back both good and bad memories. Expect to have a decent little time while you are in there, but Steel Assault is not something you’ll particularly want to take in over and over again. For a retro hit though, it does the job.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Great retro look
  • Difficulty is proper old skool too
  • Non-stop action
Cons:
  • Very short
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Tribute Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review)
  • Release date and price - 15 June 2023 | £12.49
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Great retro look</li> <li>Difficulty is proper old skool too</li> <li>Non-stop action</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Very short</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Tribute Games</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review) <li>Release date and price - 15 June 2023 | £12.49</li> </ul>Steel Assault Review
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