Developer(s) – Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director(s) – Paul Patraschu
Producer(s) – Toru Narihiro & Hitoshi Yamagami
PEGI – 12
Marking the directorial debut of Paul Patraschu with the assistance of Nintendo veteran Hitoshi Yamagami, Codename S.T.E.A.M was released on the 3DS in early 2015, where it was met with mixed to positive reviews and only managing to sell around 1800 copies in its first week. From what I understand, Nintendo was looking to combine tropes of both Japanese and western gaming with this title, but in my opinion, it fell way too short of its intended degree of success.
Graphics – 7/10
One aspect of the game that I can’t criticize too much is the visuals. Inspired by steampunk culture, as well as the works of cosmic horror writer HP Lovecraft, the also game takes advantage of cel-shading to present players with a cartoony, yet quite a gritty take on a futuristic Earth, taking place in a variety of different cities and world landmarks, such as London, England, Monument Valley and even the land of Oz at one point.
Gameplay – 4/10
Unfortunately, the concept of the gameplay is nowhere near as creative. Mixing third-person shooting mechanics with turn-based RPG mechanics similar to the original Fallout, it is without a doubt one of the worst ideas I’ve ever seen come out directly from Nintendo; if not the worst. What was designed to be innovative and the evolution of the two genres can become very frustrating very quickly, as players will struggle to find any legitimate fun out of the game. To me, it would have made more sense to have simply focused more on the third-person shooting aspect (as indeed I thought Nintendo had done when I first laid eyes on it), and not tried to add a half-hearted RPG element to it.
Controls – 4/10
The game’s control scheme to me was just as frustrating in the same way as the first Fallout game was frustrating; players and enemies have to take turns to even move. Not only does this make playing the game feel more like a chore than a pleasure, but it also adds an unwarranted element of impracticality in both the sense of gameplay and story. In what’s supposedly a narrative set in the future, it’s hard to believe that technology would evolve to a point that people need a huge can of fuel on their backs in order to move.
Lifespan – 6.5/10
For those who are willing to persevere, and who are more lukewarm to this kind of gameplay than indeed I am, there is a fairly long experience to be had in Codename S.T.E.A.M at least, lasting an average of around 18 to 20 hours. There is also the multiplayer mode on top of that, which adds even more to the game’s longevity. Although I think most gamers will probably decide they’ve had enough of it after about 5 minutes, the campaign still lasts a great deal longer than the average game in the genre.
Storyline – 6/10
The game’s story follows a steampunk soldier named Henry Fleming, who with the help of various fellow soldiers, as well as a multitude of characters from across the Oz universe, as well as HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, embarks on a mission to save the world, as well as several different major world monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth II, from an army of aliens. Aside from the story’s concept simply coming off as a mish-mash of different ideas rolled into one largely nonsensical package, the game’s voice acting is also extremely lackluster. Even with the likes of Adam Baldwin, Will Wheaton, and Paul Eiding lending their voice talents to the game, the entire experience comes off as being even more half-hearted than it already is in most other aspects.
Originality – 6/10
Although Nintendo dared to try something different with a genre, which in all fairness lacked a great of innovation, to me, it simply came across as unique, but for all the wrong reasons. On the whole, this game actually made me quite fearful of how at one point, Nintendo was considered to be the great innovators of the industry; offering gamers experiences unlike any other, yet as the years have progressed, they have, to a certain extent, not only chose to rely on the same formula with each console to be released but sometimes fail to perpetuate innovation. This game is one of their most recent examples of this.
Overall, Codename S.T.E.A.M is an extremely lackluster gaming experience, and in my opinion, a contender for the worst 3DS game to have ever been released. What was designed to be a unique gaming experience like no other simply comes off as a terrible compilation of random ideas, which perhaps may work in terms of visual presentation, but not much else.