Steamscope – Review

A review of Steamscope I wrote for the website

One of the truly forgotten genres must be the flying down a tunnel genre, as exemplified in the misunderstood Sewer Shark and the classic PC shooter Descent. Surely, in this age of retro re-imaginations, is now the time for this type of game to return?

It is and it has done in the form of new iOS game Steamscope.

The aim of the game is simple; fly down tunnels, dodging rocks and pipes and stuff and get to the end of the level. There you go. That’s it. Which is fine, the best games on the iPhone tend to be the simplest, games that have a particular idea boiled down to its very essence. The controls are similarly streamlined, they default to tilt controls so as you tilt your iPhone you dodge and weave through the tunnels.

Alright then, whats the catch? Well, that’s hard to put a finger on. Steamscope looks nice, but not great. This can be excused as the game plays at different speeds from slow to ridiculous and nothing breaks down. But after you’ve flown down one corridor and dodged stuff they all tend to blur into one without really doing much with the steampunk vibe. You do get quite a few levels with new packs available as in-app purchases so at least you are getting a decent amount of game for your purchase.

So whilst it is initially fun the niggles begin to stack up; the way that you move around corners is very annoying, the game basically grabs you and sidesteps you around them which can lead to you being pushed headlong into a crash that isn’t your fault. Bits of the level that looks like you’ll miss catch you and send you bouncing around. This is when Steamscope feels at it’s worst; when you die multiple times at the same point because the game puts you back in the same impossible position again and again.

You do get a brake, which helps with the cornering issue but at the same time feels utterly pointless, as does a Tesla Gun that you use to open doors and fight the occasional boss. Nothing feels slick or smooth about Steamscope, which it should be when you’re flying down corridors at breakneck speeds.

The ultimate issue, however, is with the controls. With tilt controls, and the optional touchscreen controls, it takes a while to get used to them. You have to play with the sensitivity options a while to truly make the game feel comfortable. Irritatingly, this option can be only selected in the main menu screen. So you have to load up the game, play it, quit back to the main menu, adjust it then start up a new game. It’s annoying.

And that there pretty much sums up the game; a half decent idea executed in an average way. You will get some fun out of Steamscope, it’s not broken or badly designed, it’s just okay at best.

Two stars out of five

Originally published March 28th 20112

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