Game Review: Steampunker

I admire the developers of Steampunker ($3.99) because in a market where “adventure game” has practically become synonymous with the hidden object game, they dared to do something different. Unfortunately, while there are several individual elements to like, as a whole, the game just doesn’t really work for me. I think these guys have a bright future ahead of them, but I’m not entirely sure I can recommend this particular effort.

The story appears to be a variant on the War Of The Worlds theme, though rather than killing the invaders with germs, it is the task of the protagonist to wipe them off the face of the planet through brute force. The problem is that aside from the intro (and possibly the conclusion, which I haven’t reached yet) the story isn’t fleshed out much aside from posters you find littered throughout the environment. Since the heart of a true adventure game is the story, I’m not real crazy about that.

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The game itself plays like a 2D version of Myst where you actually get to see the protagonist. It’s billed as a classic point-and-click adventure, but there really aren’t any object-based puzzles. Instead you must figure out where each puzzle is so that you can have the puzzle tell you what you need to collect before you can complete the puzzle. Don’t think you can cheat the system by collecting obvious objects before you’re told you need them, though, because the game won’t let you. To make matters worse, once you know what you’re looking for, the objects can be excruciating to find. In one instance where I had to collect 9 of an object it took me almost 15 minutes just to find the last one. Several other items in that group were found by pure luck when I accidentally clicked on them. Not my idea of a fun time.

Robot Shooting Gallery

The collection of mini games is quite varied, which is nice. There was even a couple that forced you to rotate the device around to find everything you needed to destroy. Those have proven to be my favorites so far. Unfortunately for the rest of the puzzles, it seems like the more creative they are, the less stable the interface, thus making them ultimately more frustrating than entertaining. Then you have to add to that the fact that while it might be short, there is a load time between every single screen. This makes it very irritating when you have to search for multiple instances of something and end up traipsing back and forth between the same set of four or five screens because you can’t find the objects.

The visuals are probably the highlight of the game for me. The combination of highly detailed backgrounds and a subdued color palette really give the graphics a stand-out look. Unfortunately, it is this same combination of properties that often makes finding objects unnecessarily hard, especially when they are small. The sound effects are decent, though since this is a solo effort with nary another human around there is no voiceovers. I really like the music, which adds a nice sense of melancholy to the whole situation.

Under The Sea

I think Steampunker has a lot of potential. Sadly, I often found it to be more frustrating than fun. The slick visuals often hampered game play, the controls on the mini games made many of them unwieldy, and the load times, while individually short, made for some cumbersome object searches. Despite all that, I do hope these developers make another game, because while this might not have been my favorite adventure game experience of the year, it’s hard to find people in certain genres that are willing to think outside the box.

iPhone Life raitng: 2 out of 5 stars

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<p>Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to <a href=""></a> and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.</p>