Forging a head

Steel logo

STEEL is a blend of pig iron and carbon which can be manipulated by temperature to give the desired qualities - high carbon content for strength, low content for flexibility. Steel, it also transpires, is a new game from Hewson.

If you were cool and hard without a hole in the middle then you would probably be a steel commando, a man with a mission - sorry, a robot with a mission. Your task, should you decide to accept it (this review will self destruct in five seconds - or sooner if the editor gets his hands on it) is to board a spaceship whose robotic crew has gone rogue.

Shut down the system by deactivating the terminals (this is highly irregular, Dave) and plugging in some cartridges that you'll find at various points about the ship. Exactly why you should do this is never explained, nor why you in particular should do it. An android's lot is not a happy one.

To deactivate each terminal you must play a sub-game. These are all exactly the same, shooting holes in moving conveyor belts, against the clock. All very reminiscent of an old arcade classic called Phoenix. These subg-games are not particularly taxing and not fatal if you should manage somehow to lose, they just knock a bit off your energy and let you get on with it.

Aside from insidious sub-games, rogue robots patrol the corridor waiting to deal out summary justice to any infiltrator. These mechanical meanies come in three flavours - bit ones that bounce off you, little ones that shoot at you and medium sized ones that shoot at you and then bounce off you. And remember, bouncing sure means trouncing - they'll kick seven shades of alloys out of you if you let them. That's what you get for pretending the danger's not real.

When you're feeling down there are frequent fuel stops where points make energy increases. However, it is rare that the denizens of such areas will leave you in peace for a complete refuel.

Control of your man of steel is very frustrating. OK, he moves up and down corridors pretty well, but just try shooting something. You have to be moving towards them. And why are you trying to shoot them? Yes, it's to stop them from crashing into you. Very clever.

Hazardous assignments are one thing, but trying to complete them with a lumbering hunk of junk is a complete no-brains volunteer job. If there is one thing that makes a game metamorphise from a challenge into that great spectre of frustration, it is gameplay purposely designed to make the game harder. It is equally an admission of failure on the programmer's part if he can't make the game tough enough without imposing seemingly senseless limitations on the player. Agreed, it is quite hard, but so is building a Ferrari out of Swiss cheese. And at least you'd get on to Wogan if you did that.

The game is not too bad graphically. Excellence in this department is really the hallmark of Hewson games, and although this one looks a little strained in places, it's still well above average. There isn't much by way of animation, but then there isn't all that much to animate.

The wandering monsters play no real part in the plot, they're just there to get in the way. They're not even consistent, because they don't travel from one screen to the next - they're just random annoyance.

With a plot similar to Paradroid, and from the same software house, you are forgiven for thinking that it may be more than just the same tired old maze stuff - but it's not.

Steel logo

Wer hätte gedacht, daß einen Robot übernehmen, damit ein fremdes Raumschiff eindringen und die feindlichen Verteidigungsanlagen deaktiveren, eine ziemlich langweilige Sache ist?

Acht violette Patronen wollen gefunden sein, ehe das Verteidigungssystem außer Kraft ist. Kein leichtes Unterfangen für unseren Robbie, da eine Menge anderer kleiner Blechköpfe durch die Gänge schwirren, die nichts anderes im Sinn haben, als den Helden in seine Atome aufzulösen. Da hilft‘s nicht viel, daß man die verbrauchte Energie zu Lasten des Scores an speziellen Tankstellen wieder auffrischen kann...

Die Programmierer haben wohl selbst eingesehen, daß die Hatz durch die Korridore schnell langweilig wird, und deshalb noch ein Unterspiel eingebaut, das an aufgestellten Terminals abgerufen werden kann. Nur, auf Dauer ist das ja auch nix Genaues und gewiß kein Ersatz für eine vernünftige Spielidee.

Die Grafik hingegen ist gut gelungen, der Sound beschränkt sich jedoch auf eine kurze Titelmelodie und einige recht nette Effekte. An der Joystick-Steuerung gibt es nichts auszusetzen – kein Wunder, kann die Spielfigur doch ausschließlich in der Horizontalen bewegt werden. Besonders traurig: Der Bildausschnitt wird nicht einmal gescrollt, es wird einfach in den nächsten Screen umgeschaltet.

Steel erschien schon vor einigen Jahren als Billigspiel für den C 64, wir Amigianer sollen jedoch richtig zur Kasse gebeten werden. Ich jedenfalls wüßte bessere Wege, mein sauer verdientes Geld unter die Leute zu bringen! (ur)

Steel logo

Steel is Hewson's latest foray into the 16-bit battleground and is set on a spaceship where a bunch of renegade robots have gone 'troppo' - (That's Aussie for having kangaroos in your top paddock, which is Aussie for being as mad as a hatter!). Sean Kelly and David McCandless donned their Metal Mickey suits and went for a stroll through the tin machine.

Unfortunately, the scenario for Steel is a load of crap. Quote: "Robots have gone rogue on the space ship Steel… board the ship and deactivate the system." That’s it. So we bring you ‘Steel: The ZERO Scenario.’ Eight purple cartridges, each the master of one track from the new Kylie Minogue album, have been stolen by the Society for the Propagation of Good Taste, who have hidden them within a vast spaceship. Your task, as Droid President of the Fluffy Dice And All Things Naff Preservation League, is to get the eight cartridges and place them in cartridge slots, thus allowing their transmission through the cosmoverse.

The eight purple cartridges to be collected can be found in various locations around the complex. Once found, they must be inserted into the cartridge solots, all of which are in one room. Only three can be carried at once, so completing the game is going to involve a lot of moving around in the huge flip-screen complex.

The complex is made up of a huge number of corridors, interconnected by walkways. Mapping is, as in most arcade adventures, going to be essential. This is primarily because the corridors, although there are obvious differences to each section, look very similar and tend to blend into one another after a while. Of course, chasing about and getting lost so frequently makes a big dent in the poor ‘pressure cookers’ reserves of fuel, but fortunately refuelling is possible.

Refuelling is done by accessing the power points to be found around the complex, although each time you collect more fuel, your score decreases. Fuel is gathered by pushing up on the joystick, while pushing down will decrease your fuel. This option seems a bit stupid to us, but it might be useful for idiots who don’t know their up from down.

Think ‘Hewson’ and you think ‘sub game’, and Steel is no exception. Here it is – a simple shoot ‘em up, which involves shooting a data bus within a set time limit. This isn’t helped by the fact that rotating around it are drivers (bus drivers?) which must be blasted away before you can shoot at the bus. If the droid fails within the set time liit, then he loses some of his energy. If your shooting is more accurate than John Wayne‘s and you succeed, one of the Kylie cartridge slots becomes active, allowing the insertion of a cartridge.

This might sound like ‘une piece de urine’ as the French might say, but it’s not all plain sailing. Throughout the complex there are numerous droids (Kylingons), all programmed to obstruct you, while some fire at you and reduce your energy level too. They should make the going more difficult, but do they make Steel worth a trip to the local software shop to part with your dosh?

Atari ST reviewSean: Steel is an unusual game. Initially, it’s an absolute beggar to get to grips with, mainly because the instructions aren’t incredibly clear.

Once you’ve worked out that the strange things leading out of the passages are actually walkways, you realise that it’s actually bigger than you thought, and it begins to open up.

The graphics are effectively designed, presenting a huge metallic spaceship with lots of colourful and highly detailed passages. Once you’re past the nice graphics, however, Steel shows itself to be a fairly unremarkable çharge-round-and-collect-things-whilst-killing-the-meanies’ game.

The robot adversaries come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, but they are all frustrating. Some will bump int your droid before floating away, others will float away if you shoot at them, whilst others will indulge in a huge gunfight. Unfortunately, you can’t fire cannons and remain still, so you have to move in either direction as you fire. As you move fairly fast, you’ll inevitably bump into a robot before you fire power has destroyed it. And bouncing into too many of the blighters will obviously waste time and energy.

In the end, however, they all interfere with your progress, and rather than being fun to dodge and shoot, they are a constant irritation, and can make progress incredibly slow at points.

It’s fun, though, and I suspect that with its straightforward and simple gameplay it will have its fans. Personally, I found it a little bit too simple, and consequently not very exciting.

Amiga reviewMacca: They guys behind Steel have obviously been watching their fair share of Walt Disney films (he starts cryptically). The style and setting of Steel owes a lot to The Black Hole, a prehistoric sci-fi ‘epic’ which featured lots of cutesy robots floating around on strings inside a spaceship.

Unlike the film, Steel is well presented, looks good and plays well. The graphics are very good indeed. There are lots of colourful mechanical ‘habitat’ interiors, with suitably futuristic pipes and computer terminals, as well as beds, cupboards and doors. The central character and the other dangling robots are well-shaded and solid-looking. The attention to detail is good – the droids shift up and down slightly as they float, and their shadows drift across the floors. The sound is great, right from the funky title track to the satisfying zappy laser blast noises.

But Steel is much too easy. I half-completed it on my third go. The energy terminals are too widely available, the sub-game is unchallenging, and the layout of the spaceship is predictable. The only thing that is remotely difficult is controlling your robot. If you release the joystick he faces forward, so that you have to turn and move either left or right to fire in that direction. This invariably leads to a collision with the endless incoming droids.

There’s not enough challenge or depth there to keep any gamester happy for very long. It’s a pity, since Steel could have been brilliant with perhaps a little more objects, some puzzles and a few more ways to die.