Steamroll is a steampunk adventure, puzzle game that has hints on mini-golf tactics in it. The game has been developed and published by Anticto and has been on Steam since 19th February. It is currently priced at £9.99 ($14.21). The game employs many different playstyles that it keeps the player coming back for more.
You play as a nameless junior engineer that is starting his new job in the mines. Inside these mines, people navigate using steampowered balls called a Scarabeus. These balls have a seat inside them where the engineer can sit and use the gyroscope-like feature to make sure that they do not end up upside down. Whilst learning the ins and outs of your new Scarabeus, you set off an explosion which causes the mines you currently reside in to start crumbling to pieces. However, before you begin your escape, you hear voices over the radios placed around the mines. There are more people alive in the mines, you simply cannot leave them. Now, you have a new mission. Using your new Scarabeus and your knowledge (however little much you have) you must venture further down into the mines in order to save the two people you can hear and get out before the mines come down on you.
As like many games that have converting vehicles or games where you can run around on foot and then get into vehicles, there are two separate control schemes for Steamroll. Although there is no physical on-foot movement, the Scarabeus in rolling mode is essentially the on-foot section of the game. The controls here consist of using the spacebar to release some steam to power your ball forward and using the arrow keys or "a and d" to turn left and right. However, the player can also use the mouse to direct the ball, there is no need for clicking. During the shooting parts of the game, the control scheme changes. Once in a dock, the players mouse only becomes useful for aiming (right click) and firing (left click). Most of the sections played whilst inside a Scarabeus involves the keyboard. The player uses "W" and "S" to charge the cannon with the amount of power that is desired in order for the steamball to reach its destination. If there have been any level specific drops picked up, the player can cycle through these using the left and right arrow keys. These drops will be explained later. However, some of them require positioning, like the walls. To do this, while in a dock, the player will use the up arrow to switch to the angle mode where they can freely move and angle the wall to the desired button or vent. The game also has controller support, meaning you can use an Xbox controller or a PlayStation controller. This is helpful as this game might take sometime to get your head around, meaning you can relax whilst solving some puzzles.
Steamroll is a game based underground, while you as a player is encased in a metal ball. The question is, how does this game get the sound design so right? Firstly, the soundtrack is one of the first things you'll hear while you are sitting on the main menu. The rich, hearty clunks and bashes that combine with the almost eerie backdrop of cymbals and squeaks all come together to enhance the atmosphere of the game. However, the only problem with the soundtrack is that there isn't enough of it! Unfortunately, we get two tracks. One that plays on loop in the menu screen and another that loops whilst in gameplay. For me, this went unnoticed until I had to stop playing to write notes on the game but, either way. it is a shame as you can tell that Anticto had potential with this soundtrack from what we can hear. It has a certain feels as though you are roaming around in these mines that just go on forever. The Scarabeus has its own mobility sounds at it rolls along all of the metal flooring or the rocky structures. Similarly, the firing mode has unique sounds for its wall deployment, bomb explosions and its ramp deployment. The only downside to these amazing metallic sounds is that, they are also on loop. As the Scarabeus moves rather slowly, even with you constantly using your steam, the noise of the dragging just loops. As said, the Scarabeus is slow, meaning you have to listen to this for a good 20 seconds before you get to your destination. Unfortunately, this can lead some players to either take off their headphones or mute the game entirely, which definitely is a shame. Moving on from this, there is a lack of any voice acting…whatsoever. Throughout the whole game, we do not get one line of dialogue spoken to us by an actor. The story and dialogue is delivered to us through pop ups and subtitles that the player has to read. This then shuts off more potential as we have a story that is told partially to us through speakers and audio radios, meaning that Anticto are missing out on the opportunity to add radio fizzles and cut offs. This is a shame because this would have made the Steamroll experience more immersive.
With Steamroll, there is not much to say about the graphics. When you go into the options menu, there are four settings you can choose from for your graphics settings. These all look fantastic no matter what setting, ranging from "low" to "epic". Most of the game is set underground which means that it lacks in distinct colour, the main colours you see are blacks, browns and greys. However, there are points when yellow and red lights are used and it just ties up an area so well. For example, the screenshot below where you have to navigate a whole maze using the different balls available to turn off a switch to advance. The four red lights just make the area seem like it is actually in peril. Unfortunately, there isn't much more to say about the graphics.
Wow. I didn't expect to get as much fun out of this game as I did. With titles available on Steam like Portal and The Talos Principle, Steamroll has definitely blasted its way into my top 10. It combines so many elements that it is hard to put it into words. That's not going to stop me though, here I go. Firstly, from the get go, you are thrown into the level select screen. Each level is presented with a small picture so that picking a certain level is made easier on the player. Then, next to the picture, is a three star system. These stars represent the smaller challenges that you have within the level. These consist of how many resources you used (in terms of steamballs) and how many seconds that you took to complete the level. These smaller goals are so good for completionists or for players who strive for more than just the main story missions. They give you something extra to work towards.
Next, you are told to micromanage, a skill that you think you wont need until you actually start your mission. The steam is the smallest problem that you have, especially once you have to keep track of all of your different steamballs that you can use and how many you have. Working with the fact that you have limited resources, comes with the simple fact that the levels and puzzles are good! You can tell that someone has sat down, though of the puzzle and kept tweaking it until they find a solution that works. I would even go as far to say that some of them do come up to par with the difficulty of those in Portal. A few levels even stumped me that hard that i had to take a break from the game and I couldn't solve it until I came back. Not only this, but the cameras perspective in the game matters.
Doesn't it look like the pipes on the right hand side are covering that metal grate? They aren't. It so inventive how the game encourages you to actually, quite literally, look at the game from a different perspective to find the answer. The answer to the puzzle here is you have to shoot the steamball underneath those pipes…but I shall say no more! However, I was genuinely impressed when I discovered this and this is why I feel that this game can do so well, it just has so much potential, along with DLC potential which I feel would be incredible. It is sad to say that, with the good points, comes some bad ones too. Although the whole perspective "let's make the player actually look" idea is cool, the camera is put on a slider which means you can only go so far. Not only this, but it's on a track, a set path that you cannot deviate from. This makes the puzzles and levels feel restricted and slightly annoying when you only want to look slightly out of the cameras bounds to see if there is a solution that you cannot see. Along with this, the steamballs that you fire all crumble into debris when they expire after being shot. This is all well and good, it adds to the games "crumbling mines" theme, but the debris has collision! Any small parts that crumble off the balls or any explosive steamballs that cause walls to blow up will leave debris that the smaller steamballs or even the Scarabeus can interact with. Also, if any of that debris gets in the way of one of your steamball paths, it will make the ball deviate. The is really annoying as, if the debris does cause the steamball to move, you have to revert to the last checkpoint or start the whole level over again. This is the only major issue I have with Steamroll.
Overall, I feel as though Steamroll is a brilliant game. Not particularly from a narrative standpoint, but more of a gameplay and puzzle standpoint. The way that the angles and the physics work so well with the steampunk setting just makes it feel so good when you solve a puzzle. This game has so much potential to work its way in amongst the greats of the puzzle genre world and Anticto have amazing potential here to boost their company through the works. Overall, I would give this game a solid 8/10 and would recommend this game to anyone of my friends.