- Zip and whip
- Thorough tutorial
- Smooth gameplay
- Interesting boss battles
- Limited number of stages
- Easy mode is a bit too tough
GenreAction, Adventure, Arcade, Platform
File Size (Minimum)279 MB
Release Date (NA)Sep 28, 2021
Steel Assault is a 16-bit, side-scrolling action platformer developed by Zenovia Interactive and published by Tribute Games. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic America and offers simple gameplay with quick movement and tons of combat through a nuclear wasteland. But is it a future worth fighting for?
The story begins in the late 2030s, where radiological agents are used in warfare. The Second Pacific War saw a unique radiation bomb that left cities inhabitable but left buildings intact. America’s cities were left in ruin with people fleeing or dead. However, amidst the despair, an inventor-turned-army-general named Magnus Pierce started a full-scale purge of possible enemies, including protagonist Taro Takahashi’s parents. Taro joined the Daybreak Resistance with help from Hans Albrecht and Sonia Singh to determine what General Pierce had been working on. In the year 2046, General Pierce’s soldiers utilized robotic tech and nuclear resources to create power grids in various cities in their push for control. The resistance sends Taro to investigate.
Movement by the main character is pretty straightforward, with one twist: Toro can use a zipline to help get around. Aside from general movement, Toro can jump or double jump to reach higher locations. If those aren’t enough, he can use a zipline in any cardinal direction to get where he needs to go. (There is a well-made tutorial level that teaches you the controls.) As far as dodging attacks goes, he can slide, which provides temporary invincibility, crouch and crawl under enemy fire, or utilize his electrical whip to negate enemy fire. Certain enemy rounds, designated by flashing blasts, cannot be cancelled with the whip.
In combat, Toro only uses the electrical whip, which can be sent in any cardinal direction. He can also unlock a special attack from a box hidden on each level which sends three blasts from the whip. He’ll lose that attack if he receives enough damage, though. Depending upon the difficulty setting (very easy, easy, normal, and expert), Toro starts the level with different amounts of life and receives varying damage from enemies. The difficulties are harder than the names suggest, however. Easy is not that easy, for example; in the second stage, it’s hard to avoid getting damaged. If Toro gets defeated, he restarts the level from the beginning or from the last checkpoint (if reached). Still, with the higher difficulties available, the game has plenty of replay value.
The enemies start off pretty simple at the start of the game. You’ll easily defeat the robotic-looking humans who shoot three separate, small blasts every couple seconds (easily dodged with whip cancel, or crouched or crawled under). The foes scale up later in the game, such as the little flying robot bugs that shoot three blasts down at an angle. In addition to more complicated enemies, they appear quite frequently, respawning almost nonstop through the level and with a variety of attack styles at once. The robot enemies aren’t the only obstacles you’ll be dealing with in each stage. There are hazards like radioactive waste water or electrical shocks that can inflict damage. Of course, no one ever said a post-apocalyptic future was a walk in the park.
The real gems are the boss battles, which are quite enjoyable and require the full use of your abilities to survive. For example, the Lt. Karla Schmidt battle has a plane that rips open a train (!) and requires use of a zipline to stay off the ground to avoid shock damage. One of the more interesting bosses has a machine gun turret platform that can be used by Taro to fire down a tunnel at the multi-headed robot dragon boss (!!!). These encounters are definitely the game’s best moments.
Synthesized and Simple
The colorful, 16-bit graphics are fairly simple, but they work well for the fast-paced environment. There are five chapters (aka stages) in total which each feature a unique setting. In one, you’ll be traveling through a burning Potomac Forest Wildlife Reserve along a nuclear waste filled river, and in another, you’ll go through a nuclear waste filled factory full of machines, tubes, and electrical wires. Some of the levels differentiate themselves by showcasing different ways of getting around, such as moving across the level on a boat or flying through the air on a hovering platform. Unfortunately, the number of stages available is a bit on the short side in duration, but they are quite difficult nonetheless.
The music matches the nostalgic, side-scrolling aspect of the game with its synthesizer tunes. The music is fairly lively, and naturally tends to get more intense sounding during boss battles. The sound effects add to the experience as well, from the gunfire and whip cracks to the grunting of the main character. The future may be a wasteland, but it’s nice on the ears.
Start Your Assault!
Overall, Steel Assault is a simple but solid, retro-feeling, side-scrolling indie platformer that is both enjoyable and challenging. While it would be great to have a few more levels, zipping through the nuclear wastelands of America is still well worth your time. The resistance is ready, so jump in and join the fight.
A Nintendo Switch code was provided for this review.