We'd dearly love to begin this review by saying just how unique SteamBirds: Survival is, but seeing as its predecessor is already a firm favourite on iOS, Android, and the web, that would be somewhat disingenuous.
However, what we can say is that this update succeeds in making this already well-liked title even more immediate, enjoyable, and accessible.
For those of you who have yet to succumb to its charms, permit us to offer a quick explanation of what SteamBirds is all about. It's a turn-based aerial combat game where you battle in an alternative history with WWII-style planes, blimps, and bombers.For you, the war is over
Unlike in famous turn-based strategy games such as Nintendo's Fire Emblem and Sega's Shining Force, your units aren't confined to a grid. Instead, they can fly wherever they wish, but each 'turn' only permits them to travel a certain distance.
During each turn you can adjust the flight path of your planes, as well as use power-up items. These include speed boosts, missiles, poison clouds, and 180-degree spins. The latter item proves to be very important during dogfights, as all of the craft in SteamBirds have quite large turning circles.
As the title suggests, SteamBirds: Survival is all about seeing how long you can keep your plane in one piece. The game is divided into cities, and each of these has a series of mission objectives.Copper bottom
Once you've completed an objective you can either choose to move onto the next one or continue playing to see how much currency (known in the game as copper) you can accrue before you bite the dust. Copper is used to hire wingmen and unlock new cities.
When you've got three planes in the sky simultaneously, SteamBirds: Survival becomes a truly engrossing and demanding experience. Because all movement in the game happens at once – including that of enemy planes – you can never be totally sure that your chosen course of action is the right one.
This means you have to try to predict the outcome of some engagements, with your fingers firmly crossed that your plucky lads will come out best in a one-on-one game of chicken. Making the wrong manoeuvre under enemy fire leads to a fiery death, so there's little room for mistakes.Earn your wings
Success doesn't come easily - especially when you consider that new enemies can appear from out of the blue, breaking up your formation and ruining your tactics. You'll also need to use power-ups effectively, knowing when to heal and when to drop a steam of bombs in your wake.
Rather than being frustrating, StreamBirds: Survival ends up being totally and utterly captivating. Instead of hurling your iOS device across the room in anger, you'll want to drop straight back in and see if a change in tactics can assure victory.
SteamBirds: Survival was developed in conjunction with Fruit Ninja studio Halfbrick, and the results are impressive. The visuals are improved and the music is suitably rousing. There's also a narrative behind the carnage, with updates on the war effort appearing at the start of each mission.
With more content promised in the future and a challenge which rarely loses its appeal, SteamBirds: Survival is a fantastic way to waste a few hours. The gameplay is deep and rewarding, and the hectic nature of the action will ensure that you're constantly challenged.
If you're after a turn-based strategy title that does things a little differently, look no further.