Let’s get this out of the way; I got this game because of its preorder bonus: a Majora’s Mask pin. I don’t play a lot of strategy games, but I knew from the free demo on eShop that I was a fan of its setting and art style, so I made the plunge . Will the fast pace, fun fantasy setting and colorful art style keep me playing or will my interest run out of STEAM?
The game is set in a colorful comic book style Age of Steam, where every technology is based on, you guessed it, Steam. This utopian society is under attack by a mysterious alien invasion, and as Henry Fleming from the novel Red Badge of Courage you fight the alien hordes, and pick up squad mates like the Lion from Wizard of Oz.
Eventually (minor spoilers, but don’t worry because its awesome), your squad is rescued from a particularly dangerous situation by none other than Abraham Lincoln in a zeppelin called the Lady Liberty. He explains that he faked his death to form a secret fighting force to combat the alien monster invasion, Code Name S.T.E.A.M., and he wants YOU to be an agent of Steam.
There are quite a few characters that join your team, each with their own special abilities and weapons. Choosing the right team-mates for your squad can make a huge difference in your success on a map. Unfortunately, sometimes you only know what character’s strengths would be helpful only after you fail a map, since there isn’t really a preview of each stage. There are a lot of colorful characters, mostly from literature to choose from. I don’t want to spoil your discovery of who they are, but I already mentioned one of my favorites you meet early in the game. Lion’s mane (sorry, couldn’t resist) attack is a jump that serves two purposes. You can leap over obstacles and gaps, and you can also do a lot of damage by landing on enemies. His secondary weapon is a steam powered crossbow that uses a very small amount of steam, but has devastating damage if it strikes the enemy’s weak spot.
The game is broken up into stages, with the perspective being from just over the shoulder of whichever character you are controlling. Each character in your squad has a certain amount of STEAM units, which are used up both in movement and firing that characters weapon. If there is steam left over after your turn, you can go into Overwatch mode, which allows you to fire on enemies during their turn. Longer stages have save points, which can also refill your health in exchange for coins. Stages are complete when you reach the goal at the other end of the map, you do not need to collect every power up, or fight every monster.
In addition to the campaign, there is also a versus mode with local or online PvP options. There are even occasionally tournaments hosted by Nintendo. The three types of matches are Deathmatch, Medal Battle and A.B.E. Battle where you battle in Abe Lincoln’s steam mech. Playing multiplayer can earn you coins and other items to help you in the campaign, and the computer only allows you 60 seconds to plan your moves against your opponent, so the matches go quickly.
I would say I’m enjoying the game so far, I love the cheesy dialogue, the ridiculous Steam technology, and of course Abraham Lincoln flying an armored zeppelin. I like that I can usually complete a stage in a half hour, and if not, I can save my progress anywhere.
Now it’s time to talk about Code Name Steam’s biggest failing. When your turn is over, the game takes the enemy’s turn, in real time. They often mill about for over a minute. Since your perspective is from your characters on the ground, you often spend a minute staring at the wall you hid behind for cover. This is inexcusable for a portable game. I shouldn’t have to play another portable game while I’m waiting for my turn on my first portable game. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. Please watch this video.
Fortunately, there is good news. A few days ago during the Nintendo Direct, it was announced that there would be a patch to address this issue.
I will personally be waiting to finish this game until the update is applied, but I am really glad that it is coming. I hope you enjoyed my First Look, and if the game sounds interesting to you, I definitely recommend downloading the free demo from the eShop.