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.