I had a hard time figuring out what direction to take this review in.
As a game, Steam & Metal is a typical, one might even say derivative bullet hell shooter, but as a larger whole I can’t quite decide where it falls on the line between shallow replication and intentional self parody.
Set in a 19th century world on the brink of a steam-powered renaissance, you take up the mantle of your late grandfather, genius inventor and creator of a machine of unstoppable power for which the blueprints have been stolen.
I WASN’T SURE IF THE GAME WANTED ME TO LAUGH OR CRINGE
All that was left behind is your flying machine and mechanically inclined mind, which are the only things that stand between the dastardly scoundrels who murdered your grandfather, and their plans to turn his work against the world.
Steam & Metal’s writing is so representative of a base starting point of steampunk as a genre that I wasn’t sure if I was intended to laugh at the cliche ridden dialogue and premise, or cringe at the excessively articulated speeches of its characters and their tendency to jump between societal commentary and poking fun at the meaninglessness of the plot they’d been stuck in.
But that in itself begins to disrupt the idea that Steam & Metal is anything but a poorly told retreading of every tired element of steampunk literature. Its attempts at self awareness only make it harder to swallow, pouring out line after line in such painful earnestly that I wanted to tell the game to stop shut up for its own sake.
But when it decides to stop talking its soulless gameplay left me lost as to even know where to begin to describe it. It’s a bullet hell shooter, only with few projectiles and more room to maneuver than usual. The screen quickly fills with the chaotic frenzy of your enemies, but it all feels pointless and exists without reason.
There was no satisfaction in destroying enemy ships, no excitement from nimbly dodging through an onslaught of cannonfire, no pleasure to be found surpassing a difficult stage or defeating a tricky boss. I became numb to Steam & Metal before it even had a chance to wow me, slipping into a comatose like trance as I finished off the last few levels.
If I felt anything playing Steam & Metal it was that there was nothing especially wrong with the game, it just had nothing to offer me over almost any other bullet hell shooter out there. It’s a model of acceptable mediocrity; a project that seems proud of itself, but never finds a way to project its enthusiasm outward. Instead it plows forward, fully convinced it’s the coolest thing ever no matter how disinterested the player becomes. I guess that’s better than nothing?