Not Enough To Stay Hooked

HIGH Tough, but do-able boss fights.

LOW The grappling hook can’t be used for attacking.

WTF Seriously, why can’t the grappling hook harm enemies!?

A tyrant has taken over a post-apocalyptic United States. Small bands of resisters are fighting back, and Taro Takahashi has answered the call to end the dictator’s tyranny. This is Steel Assault, the latest 2D retro-inspired action-platformer to grace the Switch.

Steel Assault sports 16-bit graphics with a very Sega Genesis flair. Sprites are colorful and well-animated, with scenery full of details that emphasize the dystopian United States – broken windows, dilapidated buildings, overgrown vegetation, and flooded cityscapes all add to the feeling of a crumbling nation.

While the backgrounds are great, the graphics really shine during the huge boss battles – every one is a feast for the eyes, which is perfect, since the boss fights are a high point for Steel Assault. They’re tough as nails, but patterns become easy to recognize, so players who persist should never feel completely hopeless.

Of course, many bosses will take more than one attempt as Steel Assault can be difficult, even on the easiest setting. I died numerous times and had to restart levels quite often. However, in addition to multiple difficulty options, it offers plentiful checkpoints. This means making progress is manageable, even with those high death counts.

Great controls also help ease the difficulty. Both jump and attack are precise, and I never found any defeat to be due to poor input. Steel Assault also boasts a grappling hook mechanism – shoot the hook out in two opposite directions to reach higher platforms or avoid traps along the floor. Once deployed, players can move back and forth along the line.

While great for vertical movement, the grappling hook is otherwise underutilized. With two large claws at the end of the rope, I had hoped that it could be used for attacks. Sadly, it’s used solely for movement — a frustrating omission.

Steel Assault does what it does well, although at the end of the day I can’t help but feel that it lacks a unique hook. After rolling credits, there’s little to say about it other than that it’s another one of the many, many retro action games currently available. Players looking for a tough, retro-inspired romp will find it, but there’s not much else to it.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Zenovia and published by Tribute Games. It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E 10+ and contains Fantasy Violence, Alcohol Reference, Use of Tobacco. No official description is available, but this game is relatively safe for most gamers. Enemies explode when defeated and the main character simply falls over when the lifebar hits zero. The tobacco and alcohol references are very minimal, as I can’t recall seeing them while playing the game.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. The entire story is told through text and there are no sound cues that impact gameplay. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable. Movement is restricted to the left control stick or direction buttons, but jump, attack, and grapple hook can all be assigned to a different face button. Shoulder buttons cannot be selected.

Brian Theisen
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