Review by JonAcheson

Reviewed: 08/01/06

Charming, but fatally flawed.

Steambot Chronicles is a game that I wanted to like more than I actually did. It's an RPG in which you play a pilot of a steampunk mecha called a trotmobile, which looks like an anime mecha crossed with a model T Ford.

The moral here is: if you're going to make a game that centers around mecha piloting, you'd better make sure that the mecha piloting part of the game is actually fun.

Graphics: 7/10

The graphics in Steambot Chronicles are fairly simple, rendered via cel-shading and high-quality texturing, but work pretty well. The design sense is instantly charming, a mix of steampunk and the 1920's. Everything looks a little chunky, but it all fits into a coherent style. The number of objects on the screen is a little sparse, however, and the level of detail in the backgrounds is low, making the game look empty or bland in places.

The in-game mapping features are: an on-screen map, which is too short-range to be useful, a world map, which is done as a perspective drawing and is therefore useless, and a local map which is too small to show an entire level, and is therefore useless.

Camera: 4/10
The camera is kind of a pain: it basically floats behind you, except when it doesn't. You can control it with the right joystick when you are on foot, but not all of the time. You can shift to a first-person view, but you have to keep holding the circle button down to do so, which is awkward.

Controls: 2/10
Ecch. The controls for this game are terrible from top to bottom.

The worst and most damning offender is the control for the mecha, which are called trotmobiles. The game uses both analog joysticks to move, in standard Katamari/tank style, but does not implement full analog control: it is supposed to work like an old-school 8-direction joystick, but in reality it just works badly. Control is unresponsive and sluggish at all time, which makes the trotmobile difficult just to steer around, and it makes combat a real chore. It's just not fun at all, and ultimately ruins the game.

The controls for walking around and using the in-game menus are nearly as annoying. X is action, which is good, but O is cancel, which is really counterintuitive.

Storyline: 6/10
Surprise: you're a teenager with amnesia. Then you meet a girl. Wow, didn't see that coming. Although, the various characters are fairly colorful, and distinct from each other. And the voice acting is generally good. And the plot is actually kind of fun, even if it is built from cliches.

The game advertises itself as a free-form sandbox game. It's nothing of the kind: it is a standard RPG with multiple endings and some minigames. You do have the opportunity to play the main character as a nice guy, or a jerk, and apparently he can even become the villian of the piece. So at least you can make choices that can affect the outcome of the game. But the "sandbox" part of the game is limited to which minigames you play in the various locations.

The minigames available include mecha combat at an arena, playing music through a DDR-like rhythm game interface, interior decorating, playing the stock market, and trading. The arena combat is every bit as bad as the normal combat, and the other games are not terribly compelling.

All in all, I would have liked to see where the story was headed, but the actual gameplay required to get there was way too annoying to bother with.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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