It has to be said that I am a big fan of the side scrolling shooter. Such a basic concept can, and has, offered some amazing gaming experiences over the last 30 or so years. With that said there have also been some terrible additions the genre. Where does Steel Rain X sit in the side scrolling hall of fame? Read on to find out.
Swiss indie developers Polarity Flow have set out to make a game that sits firmly among the greats but also add an extra twist to what is quite a generic formula. When I first launched the game I was met with a few on screen instructions, which to be honest I skipped through. This, however, was to be my downfall because Steel Rain X offers a multi-genre experience and you really need to know what’s going on. With your standard seizure-inducing space battles also comes an RPG style element whereby you have to plan and prepare in order to win.
Your ship is equipped with 3 fire formations, A, B and C. Each has it’s own place during battles. Each fire mode should be used to gain the upper hand in specific situations. An example of this is fire mode C, which is an incredibly short ranged mode but also very powerful, so it is best used when the enemies are going through their fire cycle and there isn’t much in the way of obstructions that could potentially take you out of the game. I often found myself using fire mode A, though, and making it through most of the levels unscathed. I suppose it depends just how tactical you want to be.
With any upstanding side-scroller the weapon upgrades are what we come to enjoy. There are a few different fire types and again each one suited to a specific situation. I, myself, pretty much stuck to the type that fills the screen with as many bullets as possible and concentrated on not getting hit by enemy fire. There is an addition though where you can purchase upgrades that you keep as you progress. This is certainly something that isn’t expected from most side scrolling shoot ’em ups. The currency for your upgrades are dropped by the enemy and also awarded when you finish the level. The amount you receive will also depend on how good you are as each level awards you with a “Devil May Cry” style grading system of B, A or S.
Whilst Steel Rain X’s main objectives are the shooting levels, there are many side quests that can be done to boost your earnings or let you proceed to the higher levels. Each stage has 3 levels, once you have completed them you can the colonize the planet for yourself. Colonizing is the RPG element as you can build stuff and gain points through research which in turn can be traded in for awesome upgrades to your battleship. The nice thing is, is that the colonizing aspect is not mandatory, whilst it does open some doors it is not completely necessary.
The battles are everything you’d come to expect however there is no real transition when it come to the boss fights. I quite like a small break before embarking with a deadly behemoth, however the boss appears on most levels with no introduction and often with some fairly imbalanced abilities. It is best to be prepared for just about anything.
Due to my impatience, and to not reading the instructions, it took me longer than it should of done to actually get to grips with the game. I spent quite a few moments just sat not really knowing the point or objective, I suppose therein lies a life lesson for me. I was surprised to see that this game only has 12 achievements and each one is worth a good amount of G score. I was hoping that Steel Rain X would give me the score I need to end my G Score with a 0 or 5…I got stung a while ago and now my score looks funny!
Overall Steel Rain X offers a little bit of everything for gamers who enjoy just that. It’s not without it’s faults though and sometimes it is obvious that Steel Rain X is a port from PC as some of the controller options maybe are better suited with a mouse and keyboard. I can look past that though and I have to say that I am extremely critical when it come to my beloved side scrollers, but Steel Rain X didn’t disappoint and it did offer some refreshing additions to an already fully established genre. Polarity Flow have been brave to meddle with the formula that comes with most shoot ’em ups, but I feel it has paid off for them.
Many thanks to Polarity Flow and Xbox for supporting TiX