Steel Diver


Itís no secret that the launch titles for this brand-spanking new handheld havenít really delivered with many of them just being 3D re-hashes of older titles, albeit with a few extra bells and whistles in some cases.

Even this title started life as a tech demo for the original DS. In its released form however, this game probably more than any other, provides clues to unlocking the real potential for this new machine.

The mission mode of the game sees you helm the controls of one of three subs, each with their own characteristics. You are then given a time limit in which to complete a set challenge, which will involve you getting from one end of a 2D course to another, with the least amount of damage. Mines and missiles need to be avoided, as well as other enemy vehicles, including other subs, ships and planes.

You control your sub with two sliders that appear on the lower touch screen: one controls your speed by moving it left and right Ė including reverse, whilst the other controls your depth by moving it left and right.

The top 3D screen shows your movement in the sub, where you have to keep an eye on manoeuvring it without scraping it against the rocky terrain. Itís a little like a puzzle game, where you have to guide your vehicle through the watery maze without taking too much damage when hitting the sides.

boom reviews - Steel Diver image
Oh that's right, I sank your battleship!

The visuals on the top screen are probably the crispest 3D visuals thus far to appear on the 3DS, despite only being delivered in 2D. You can only move your sub up and down and left and right, but you manage to get a feeling of 3D in much the same way as, say, the recent Donkey Kong Country Returns game on the Wii, rendered in what is often referred to as 2.5D.

Itís difficult to say how, but the usual wobbly 3D sweet spot of the 3DS appears to less fussy with this title. Even when it comes to moving the 3DS around in the periscope sections, both the foreground and background are solid throughout.

Thereís also a boss battle to look forward to at the end of the level, but be warned, if you fail to finish your foe off, you will have to return to the start of the level. Not having mid level save points, particularly when levels can have time limits of 10-15 minutes, is just madness.

And then thereís a mini-game style periscope game, which is rather tagged on to the level. This gives you a couple of minutes tops to move your 3DS around 360 degrees to find and shoot enemies at sea. Thereís actually a bigger idea of a game here thatís struggling to get out, but sadly doesnít make it. You can access this level outside of the main mission mode, but it just feels like it had more potential than was given to it.

Also here is Steel Commander, which is essentially a Battleships-style, turn-based game that can be played on your own or in multiplayer. Itís adequate enough, but isnít terribly exciting.

Despite the developerís attempt to vary the gaming experience, there just isnít that much longevity here. Once youíve completed a level, thereís no real incentive to play it again. Sure you can complete it with the two other subs, but nothing within the level changes. And after the five main levels are completed, only two others are unlocked. A time trial mode is available for those who give a hoot, but other than that, the repeat play value is shockingly bad.

Thatís a real shame as the game has signs of flashes of brilliance, but in order for it to have been a must-have title, it desperately needed more soggy meat on its watery bones.

As it stands, Steel Diver offers a glimpse of not only a possible sequel worth looking out for, but also acts as an excellent example of note for other developers that the 3DS has the potential to offer gamers truly unique experiences. Hopefully ones that will be less patchy than this one.

three out of five