Steel Assault Review – Nostalgic Arcade Mayhem

    Title: Steel Assault
    Developer: Zenovia Interactive
    Release Date: September 28, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Tribute Games
    Genre: 2-D Action Platformer

The Oxford language dictionary defines Nostalgia as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past.” Personally, this feeling is one of my most sought-after emotions provided by video games. Certain games can lock moments in time, invoking lasting impressions.

I have vivid memories of the dainty rug I sat on in the basement of my friend’s house as I beat Ocarina of Time. I can still remember my sweaty palms and pockets filled with quarters as I stood in the arcade with the smell of greasy pizza and lemony bleach in the air the first time I played Ninja Turtles. I am continually chasing these fleeting moments that create lasting sentimental reactions. A game is released every once in a while that brings back waves of emotions from the games that inspired it. Steel Assault is a prime example of how a new release can provide that feeling.

Steel Assault is a side-scrolling action-platformer that features some beautiful 2D pixel designs. During gameplay, play as Taro Takahashi, Soldier of the Daybreak resistance movement, on a revenge mission against a diabolical dictator, Magnus Peirce, and his army who rule over post-apocalyptic America.

Thankfully, the gameplay is tight and well-balanced, drawing inspiration from classic games such as Bionic Commando, Castlevania, and Metal Slug. Melee combat takes the stage with an electrified whip, but as you become better versed with the abilities, the zipline becomes the real star of the show. This tool can be used for vertically, horizontally, or diagonally traversing stages, extending double jumps, and keeping Taro suspended and above ground for prime attacking opportunities.

There are some added options for accessibility with four difficulty levels providing an appropriate challenge for players of any skill level. Those looking for a more extreme challenge test their skill in the arcade mode, which increases the difficulty, removes checkpoints, and leaves the player with only one life to clear the game.

Steel Assault 1

The pixel art of Steel Assault is stunning. Stages are diverse and unique. Vibrant neon cityscapes, flooded streets, and dense jungles engulfed in flames made each level feel new and exciting. In addition, I found the level design and pacing to be incredibly engaging.  Just as I became tired of using the zipline, I was gifted with turret sections that spiced up the gameplay.

Falling platforms, levels with rising toxic ooze, and levels in pitch darkness increased the difficulty while keeping that vintage reverence.  To offset the challenges, there are health and shield power-ups found throughout the levels, as well as an upgrade for your whip that allows for short electrified projectiles.

Steel Assault 2

Enemies are diverse, with a range of soldiers with single-shot projectiles, homing drones that self-destruct, and full-blown mechs with flamethrowers. In addition, each level features a challenging mini-boss midway through the level and a final boss’s, all with their own intricate attack patterns. As your skills improve, the bosses act as a way to test how you’ve improved, constantly introducing new ways to approach the action combat, which made them fun ways to cap off the levels.

My one concern with Steel Assault is the length. Playing on normal difficulty, I was able to beat the game in under an hour. A retail price of $14.99 may be a bit steep for an hour’s worth of gameplay, but Arcade Mode really made up for it. This challenging mode provided hours of gameplay as I honed my skills and attempted to best the game with one life.

Steel Assault 3

Steel Assault is a beautiful retro-inspired treasure. Despite its short length, its fluid mechanics, tight controls, and challenging gameplay provided a fun arcade experience while adding in various options and ways to tackle gameplay. So if you’re looking to get swept away in the nostalgia of a classic action platformer, look no further than Steel Assault.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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