This article is was originally written in 2015 for the now defunct GamerTime UK website.
Brief history lesson: SteamWorld Dig was a 2D platformer that saw players digging deep into subterranean caverns. It was a joy to play and stands out as my favourite underground game – I’m sorry Spelunky. Jumping back to the present and we have SteamWorld Heist. Although it’s set in the same universe as its pickaxe wielding predecessor, instead of collecting ore and going caving, you are in space taking part in turn-based 2D squad combat. Welcome to Steampunk Space Western.
SteamWorld Heist takes the grand strategy of the likes of XCOM and it’s ilk, does away with the percentage variables and instead adds tricks shots. What you end up with is a hilarious, yet skilful strategy game. If you point your gun in a given direction a bullet (or bullets) are going to fly from that gun and continue in the direction until they collide with something. If you leave your team out of cover, flanked or within grenade lobbing distance then prepare for some pain. This game is welcoming, simple and great fun, but can have a mean streak. And that is why it’s bloody excellent.
Whenever a shot is fired if there is a wall, ceiling or floor in its trajectory then it will bounce. This can result in amazing trick shots where the bullet ricochets off of several walls before landing a perfect headshot. However, it can just as easily miss the mark and just ping across the map. While some guns have handy laser sights the real skill in SteamWorld Heist comes in weighing up taking that risky shot or not. SteamWorld Heist perfectly combines both skill and strategy into each level. Plus it manages to extract the same amazing joy of performing trick shots in pool or snooker and putting them into a strategy game. That alone is worthy of applause.
Captain Piper Faraday and her crew are all well crafted, funny and different characters. Rather than having an infinite supply of blank slates, SteamWorld Heist gradually releases a cast of characters to you. This flip in how units are treated makes you care infinitely more about them, even if perma-death (they die forever if they get killed on a level) is not a thing in this game. You still don’t want your southern bounty hunter to get beat up even though you know she’ll just get put back together again at the end of the level.
The game is amazing and you should definitely play it right now if you have a 3DS, and be hungry in anticipation for its release on other devices if you do not (editor’s note: since this review was written, it’s released on almost everything). And that brings me finally to hats and songs. These two components alone make SteamWorld Heist one of the best games on the 3DS. Firstly hats. As you are fighting enemies across the galaxy you will notice that they all have hats that you can shoot off. If you manage to do this and then pick up said hat then it’s yours to keep, forever. And there are a lot of them. However, what this does is allow you to create your own difficulty setting. Do you risk getting this new hat and potentially get shot to pieces or do you play it safe, but be hat-less. Personally, I have spent many hours just collecting all the hilarious and wonderful hats like some mad department store manager who’s worried about his stock.
Now, songs. Video games have some amazing songs, but they also have some horrible ones. SteamWorld Heist’s songs are my favourite in any game ever. Ever! They suck you into the universe so completely and are so catchy that I found myself cranking the 3DS volume to full and just listening to some of the songs while washing the dishes. The music is good, but the lyrics and the songs are just stellar and I want that soundtrack.
And that is SteamWorld Heist, a wonderful game all about hats and bullet snooker. Buy it, it’s great.