SteamBirds Review

In an alternate reality, steam power has changed the face of aeronautics. And, of course, being humans, we eventually use this technology to take combat to the skies. SteamBirds, a port of Andy Moore’s excellent Flash game of the same name, puts you in control of these planes as you engage in turn-based, strategic aerial combat.

SteamBirds makes a seamless transition to the iOS platform with enhanced graphics, great touch controls, and the same addictive gameplay. It may be a little lacking when it comes to the number of levels available, but with a high level of challenge and lots of replayability, SteamBirds is still a great choice for strategy gamers.

Pole for pushing troops into position not included.

It’s 1907 and steam power, which had been developed nearly eight decades previous, is now being used to power aerial combat. SteamBirds allows you play out some of the most important battles from this alternate timeline, with more than 20 different stages that span several decades.

The story itself is very minimalist. There are no cutscenes or dialog of any sort. Instead, you can gleam brief snippets of narrative via the one-sentence descriptions for each stage. These do an excellent job of revealing the world you’re playing in without beating you over the head with a long, overwrought story.

But the main focus is combat. Controlling your planes is as simple as moving an arrow in front of them, which will determine what direction they go and how far they move. Once you’re satisfied with your decision, you simply touch the play button and see how things play out.

All of the planes on the battlefield– both yours and your enemies’– will move for a short period of time, at which point the action will stop and you’ll have to make your next move. This turn-based set-up adds a lot of strategy, as you can’t simply fly in, guns blazing. Instead, you’ll have to carefully formulate the best method of attack. Adding an extra layer of strategy, your planes also feature certain special abilities that can only be used every two turns. These range from a boost of speed to the ability to leave a trail of poisonous gas behind you.

Choke on this!

Since the game takes place over several decades, as you progress your enemies will become stronger and more technologically advanced. You’ll start off by dogfighting with simple fighter planes, but eventually you’ll take on giant Hindenburg-style battle blimps and a massive plane aptly dubbed the Floating Palace.

The steady increase in challenge doesn’t just come from the strength of your enemies, but also the situations you’re put into. Figuring out how to defeat a fleet of five more powerful aircrafts with just two planes at your disposal will definitely put your strategy skills to the test. Depending on how successful you are, you’ll earn a number of stars for completing each level. This encourages replays, because you can always go back to improve on your score.

Even though it only comes with a handful of levels, SteamBirds will keep you busy for quite some time. Simply beating all of the available levels is hard enough, but for completionists the draw of going back to achieve a perfect score on every stage is very strong. The combination of solid, turn-based strategy with a unique world and presentation make this a great game, and well-suited for the platform.

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