Steambot Chronicles PS2 Review

Ever since GTAIII granted players a vast playground to do what the hell they wanted in, the relatively new sandbox genre has grown in popularity with both developers and consumers. The genre in comparison to linear games is utterly liberating and certainly one of the best innovations to have happened to games in recent years.

Steambot Chronicles is unusual as it’s a Japanese game, which is too a part of the now bulging genre. It’s a game with a western mentality of games development, but with an unmistakeable Eastern style of spiky hair, large eyes and an offbeat sense of humour.

The hilariously named and spiky of hair Vanilla Beans is the lead character, who wakes up on a beach with amnesia (now, where have we heard that before?) and must piece his past together to regain his memories.

The nice thing is, you’ll decide of what sort of character you want Vanilla to be. Whenever he gets asked questions, more often than not, you’ll be the one choosing his response. If you wish, you can be a goody two shoes, who is polite to even the nastiest of bad guys, or if you’re so inclined you can be a rude type and do such evil deeds as request stacks of money for doing even the most menial of errands.

This non linear approach extends further than this. There are countless methods of making money, such as playing pool, mining fossils, performing as a Trotmobile (think of it as a robot, because that’s what it is!) arena fighter and even performing music for passer-by’s, which basically functions like a rhythm action game.

Outside of these diversions, you’ll largely be stomping around in the aforementioned Trotmobile. Unwieldy controls, make these sections initially difficult to love, particularly when partaking in combat, where turning is a necessity and far more of a task than it should be. With time, your handling of your Trotmobile will become significantly easier, though it never does get to the point that it feels totally natural to be in control of.

Your Trotmobile is fully customisable, allowing you to have a say in such things as the type of legs your machine has fitted, which affects both speed and movement over certain terrain, and the types of weapons fitted. More artistic types can even design the logo emblazoned on their vehicle from scratch if they so desire.

Whilst charming, the visuals however signify a low budget game. The framerate chugs, buildings pop up and everything just looks so simplistic. Steambot Chronicles is begging for and deserves a bigger budget, which would eradicate its technical deficiencies and perhaps allow for the ambitious Irem to realise its ideas better still. A more challenging game wouldn’t go amiss either, neither would a more compelling yarn.

In spite of its problems, Steambot Chronicles is a gem of a game, that offers something very different to the usual Japanese RPG, and we applaud 505 GameStreet for bringing to Europe yet another great Japanese curio that most publishers simply wouldn’t look twice at.