Steam Heroes (XBLIG)

There's a lot of Xbox Live Indie Games that pass through here for review and, frankly, most of them are terrible and I just can't be bothered to review them all. So, I've been working off of this fl

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  • System: Microsoft Xbox 360 - Xbox Live Indie Games
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Max Players: 1
  • US Release: October 2010
  • Developer: Tiamat Games/Projector Games
  • Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
  • Similar Games: Bejeweled, Bejeweled Blitz, Bejeweled 2, Bejeweled 3, Chuzzle, Jewel Quest, Puzzle Quest, Galactrix, Hexic, Shariki, Goober's Lab, Aurora Feint, Diamond Twister, Back To The Future: Blitz Through Time and at least 10,000 others.

steam-heroesThere’s a lot of Xbox Live Indie Games that pass through here for review and, frankly, most of them are terrible and I just can’t be bothered to review them all. So, I’ve been working off of this flow chart every time an indie game passes by my way:

indie game flowchart

Thanks to this chart I don’t have to play through uninspired, unoriginal XBLI games and, instead, end up playing nothing but creative, original games like Steam Heroes, which is…A BEJEWLED RIP-OFF?! GODDAMN IT, THE FLOWCHART DOES NOTHING!!!

Though, to be absolutely fair, it’s not entirely a Bejeweled rip-off. The difference is that when you match up different shapes into groups of three or more, it corresponds with actions taken in a battle you’re engaged in.

So it’s a Puzzle Quest rip-off.

It’s a real-time steampunk Puzzle Quest rip-off, though, which means that you have to make matches obscenely fast and everything is arbitrarily covered with gauges and gears. Although, as far as the steampunk aesthetic goes, it seems like there were two art directors on this game. I assume one saw a lot of old-fashioned brass typewriter keyboards and nixie clocks online and thought that looked cool, while the other one read a bunch of old-fashioned superhero comic books and developed a thing for primary colors. The result is a mismatched, dreary-meets-flamboyant art style that looks like what would happen if Bioshock were set in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.steam-heroes

The game primarily consists of two modes: Story Mode and Steam Heroes mode. Story Mode follows your trio of heroes in their battle to save Steamland from the evil Baron Von Smog. The story plays out just about how you would expect—the heroes run into a more powerful villain, defeat them and then find a yet more powerful villain, repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s not much of a story, but hell, it’s made Dragonball millions of dollars so who am I to judge?

Each enemy you encounter has a different power they can use against you. Some can turn potions on your gameboard into poison or make your bombs work against you, but most just resort to making it hard to see the gameboard, which is one of my biggest videogame pet peeves. <soapbox>The difficulty from a game should come from the gameplay itself, not from the fact that the game just broke itself.</soapbox>

Once you get through a fight, the pre- and post-battle quips can get pretty painful to listen to, usually being from the “Halt, Evildoers!” school of corny dialogue. Voice acting in the game could be better, but I’m willing to cut indie games some slack here. I don’t really expect the developers to go hire real voice actors—especially for a story that is just some phoned-in filler anyway. And besides, I’ve played a whole lot of pro-games with worse voice acting. Symphony of the Night, anyone?

It’s sad that it’s come to this, but I was pretty happy with the game simply for not being broken. It played smoothly, did what it was supposed to, and the only glitch I came across was when Baron Von Smog and I ended up killing each other at the same time it said “Defeat” on my screen, but the victory dialogue played in the background and it ended up playing the epilogue movie anyway. I would have been pissed if it said “Victory” but made me do the level over as a defeat, but since things worked out in my favor I couldn’t care less.

The other game mode is Steam Heroes Mode, in which the enemies are much harder and you try to beat them as quickly as you can in order to rank on the game’s global leaderboard. Also, if you defeat them all, you can defeat the game’s true final boss enemy. I played against the first enemy about six times, lost every time, yelled vulgarities at my TV, and gave my Xbox the finger before giving up on this mode entirely. You can keep your stupid real final boss. I didn’t want to see him anyway. So there.

I’ll come clean with you: I hate Bejeweled. I hate it lots. However, if I want to be impartial, or at least create the illusion of being impasteamheroes1rtial, I have to try to pretend that the fact that this game’s primary gameplay elements are incredibly similar to Bejeweled does not immediately make it something that isn’t worth playing. This, of course, is like going to a car dealership and trying to ignore the fact that the car you’re looking at is 25 years old, has three tires and is currently on fire, but I’m going to do it anyway. If you aren’t a Bejeweled fan, then you probably recognize that a game of Bejeweled plays out like someone with severe OCD organizing their spice rack—endlessly rearranging with nothing to show for it, leaving the player a little emptier inside than they were coming into it. But, if you are the type of person who…ugh…likes to play Bejeweled, then you could probably do worse than picking up this game. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done hundreds of times before with minor tweaks, but it delivers a solid Bejeweled game, integrates a real-time fighting element and offers some online competition, as well.

  • GameCola Rates This Game: 5 - Average
4 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 104 votes, average: 7.50 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)

About the Contributor

From 2007 to 2013


  1. I apologise for breaking your flow chart. *grins*

    I shall have a look at the ‘Draw’ bug – I’ve actually never had that happen.

    Also, the goal with the pretty graphics wasn’t to obscure the playing area; the goal was to try and inject as much ‘next gen’ as possible into the game, as well as not removing the feeling that the characters are fighting eachother. Believe me, the gameboard used to entirely disappear under particle effects at some points during development.

    Just one other thing – if you’re happy that the game isn’t broken, and this is a suprise, how can it be given an ‘Average’ rating? 😉

  2. I figured that victory/defeat bug was probably just a weird fluke, not something that happened often. I just happened to beat Von Smog right at the second he beat me. In fact I had even yelled “DAMN IT!” until I realized the victory dialog was playing.

    As far as the graphics go, the comments on the colorful graphics and the comments on the effects obscuring the gameboard were separate ideas.
    I thought the primary-colored heroes were a bit out of place in a copper-and-brass steampunk setting. I get that they matched the controller’s buttons, and it did help me remember which person corresponded to which button, but if they were going to be red, yellow and blue it might have fit the theme a bit better if they were a bit more dingy versions of those colors. Admittedly this was totally nitpicky and didn’t factor into the score much, if at all.

    My complaint regarding the effects in the way of the game board was mainly aimed at the enemies whose attacks obscured the player’s vision. I forget his name but I know one enemy covered the board with a black cloud you had to clear out and Von Smog had a lot of attacks that caused the board to become obscured as well. Covering my eyes just seems like a cheap way to add a challenge to the game. On the positive side the pirate enemy who turned your bombs against you if you didn’t use them in time was very well executed. It encouraged the player to find matches in specific areas in the board as quickly as possible.

    Now for the reason the game still got an average 5 despite me mentioning that it did what it set out to do and it wasn’t broken. First, not being broken doesn’t automatically qualify a game to get a >5 score. Fully functional games can still suck. Though, I wouldn’t say that Steam Heroes sucks – it doesn’t. Also, I’ll mention that Steam Heroes and Puzzle Quest are the two best Bejeweled-based games I’ve played – better even than the original Bejeweled itself (I’d probably score Bejeweled a 3) – but at the end of the day it’s still a Bejeweled game and, frankly, I can’t think of much that a game that draws so heavily from Bejeweled could do to get anything over a 5. I just don’t think Bejeweled is a very good game.

    And also, I didn’t rank in Steam Heroes Mode at all because, despite an embarrassing amount of attempts, I couldn’t beat even the lowest level enemies because I am ultra-super awful at the game, I’m sad to say. 🙁

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