In a world where steam engines are still the dominant technology, it only makes sense a man in flying machine would need to keep the city lit at night by flying around and collecting fire flies. Enter SteamPilot, an endless runner from Lycette Bros. It’s not the most feature-packed game in the genre, but its interesting art style and gameplay quirks make it a unique – if sometimes frustrating – iOS title.
During each run, players control a man in a top hat as he flies around in a Zeppelin-like device, avoiding buildings and evil birds while collecting fireflies and dropping them onto light posts. It’s definitely an odd premise, a steam-punk inspired world with a goofy and endearing little personality.
Using the simple touch controls, players guide the machine up and down, towards the lightning bugs flying aimlessly around and dropping them like bombs onto the important lightposts, which keep the hard-to-avoid birds out of the way.
With each mid-air collision into a building or animal, a piece of the life meter is lost, which leads to one of two possible deaths when it runs out. The other is night time, which in a world without electricity, makes it quite hard to see in the air, and therefore, instantly deadly.
While the visual design and gameplay concepts behind SteamPilot are quirky and original, the ball is dropped a bit in its execution. It’s hard to ever get a smooth feel in each run: there are too many unavoidable collisions, and most games end quickly and in frustrating fashion.
There was a few times where I felt I had no control over whether I lived or died, and without any extra modes or challenges to complete, there wasn’t a whole lot of reasons for me to return, either.
A few tweaks to the difficulty and some objectives that awarded upgrades or score multipliers would go a long way to adding some replay and accomplishment, and for an endless runner in 2012, it doesn’t make sense why they aren’t included.
A lite version will release on Monday June 4th, so hesitant gamers will be able to give it a whirl before diving in for the full purchase. It’s definitely worth checking out: SteamPilot might feel a little bare bones at times, but the original art style and gameplay provide a solid foundation that can be built upon, either with some updates, or maybe a SteamPilot 2: The Steamaning somday in the future.