2011-07-14

Steel Diver – The 3D Sinks, The Fun Swims

by Yo Snyder

Steel Diver is exactly the type of game you want on a handheld
gaming console. It’s easy to pick up and play a few minutes at a time,
it’s fun and engaging and it gives you reasons to keep coming back.
However, as a launch title for a 3D gaming system, it’s not the
strongest one out there. While things certainly look pretty in 3D, the
effect does little to enhance the gameplay and it doesn’t really make
much of an argument for why anyone would need a 3D handheld system.

In Steel Diver,
you have a few different options for how to play. You can do missions,
which have you guiding your sub through sub-terran caverns, dodging
enemy subs, surface ships, sea creatures, mines and more to reach an
objective. Although the set-up is pretty simple, the actual gameplay is
pretty fun. You use the stylus and touch screen (you can use your
fingers, but I don’t like finger prints on my screen; I’m weird that
way) to control your sub. It can get pretty hectic trying to maneuver
your sub up and down, forwards and back while firing torpedoes and
trying to avoid mines and the cavern walls. Occasionally you’ll even
have to solve simple environmental puzzles, or use objects in the
environment to take out enemies. It’s just good, simple fun. You can
tackle each mission with a small, medium, or large sub; each of which
have their own abilities. The small one is fast and maneuverable, but
doesn’t have much fire power. The large sub packs a punch, but can be
challenging to fit through tight spots. On top of that, you can also
earn decals to put on your sub which will help enhance certain
abilities. All of that adds up to some simple but really fun gameplay.

If
you tire of the more exacting demands of running those missions, you
can play a simple periscope game. Here you hold the 3DS up and use the
screen like you’re looking through a periscope. The game uses the
gyroscope to let you spin around, find enemy ships and fire your
torpedoes to sink them. It’s not very involved, but it’s always fun to
see someone at work spinning around in their chair while staring
intently at this little device they’re holding in their hands. I’m
thinking the developers just put this mode in as a little prank to make
the rest of us look silly. It does, but it’s still fun.

The final
mode is called Steel Commander, and it’s a basic strategy game you can
play against the A.I. or against a friend via download and play. It’s a
little bit like Battleship as you are trying to find the opponents
merchant ships in order to sink them with your sub. You want to avoid
their escorts as they can potentially sink your sub, and if they do, you
loose. This was my favorite mode to play, especially with friends. It
even adds in the fun periscope mini-game when you’re trying to sink
enemy ships or subs. A wide selection of maps keeps the matches
interesting, and it’s always thrilling to find your buddies sub and hit
with depth charges. We’ve had many shouts of triumph and despair in the
office while playing this game against each other; good times.

While Steel Diver
is a fun game, it definitely wasn’t a great launch title. While it
makes good use of the touch screen and gyroscope elements of the 3DS, it
doesn’t do much at all with the 3D. Sure it looks nice, but unlike Pilotwings
where I liked the game better in 3D, in this one I commonly kept it
off. It was especially challenging when playing the periscope game as
you’re constantly moving the system around it was hard to keep the right
viewing angle for the 3D.  It’s hard to justify paying full price for
this game; although it’s fun, there isn’t much too it. It’d be a great
download title, but as a full retail game it feels a little shallow.
Still, if you find it bargain priced and want a fun pick up and play
game or a fun little game to play with friends, Steel Diver is a good choice for that.

Score out of 7:

Graphics:
5 – This is a solid looking title, although the 3D adds very little to
it. Despite being mostly in caves and underwater, the game is still
bright, clean and even a bit colorful. 

Sound: 4 – There are only
so many ways to make a submarine sound interesting, but overall the
sound is pretty decent. I still cringe when I hear that hollow, metallic
ring when my sub collides with a wall. Explosions and other elements
are bit thin, but that may be due more to the 3DS’ speakers than
anything else.

Gameplay: 5 – This is pick-up-and-play gaming at
it’s finest. The game is simple and easy to play, and you can do any of
the modes in a few minutes (although the strategy game can take a bit
longer). The differences between the three sub-types makes it worthwhile
to try levels over again, as do collection decals to enhance your sub’s
abilities.

Controls: 5 – The touch controls are fluid and
responsive. At first I had to get used to not using buttons, but I
quickly adapted and realized touch controls were the perfect way to play
this game. Simple though they may be, they can be challenging to master
on some of the more difficult missions. The gyroscope function is also
fun.

Story: N/A

Content: 6 – Just good, clean fun. Nothing to worry about here unless you object to sinking ships with basic explosions.

Final: 5 – I think if this was a download title, I’d give it a slightly higher score because then it’d be a better value. Steel Diver
is plenty of fun, but it doesn’t really do much to showcase the
system’s 3D ability, and while it has a nice variety of modes, it’s not
really a fully featured game worthy of a retail release. Look for it
bargain priced, or GameFly it for a week.