Review: Heron Steam Machine by Edward Abarilla
Triangle Studios has been developing games for both Nintendo DS and recently WiiWare, and now has dived into the app-store bandwagon by releasing Heron: Steam Machine to the iPhone and the iPod Touch alongside the WiiWare version. Heron: Steam Machine is a 2D pick-up-and-play puzzle game that will tease your brain with its challenging arcade-action gameplay.
The game starts with an animation that tells a story of an old man retiring from his Rubber Duckies Factory business, passing on the responsibility to his evil son. You play as a maintenance crew member working on the factory’s steam machine (which helps produce the rubber duckies). The evil son forces our little fellow to work twice as hard, and he gets stuck with an excessive amount of overtime hours to cope with. Frightened, our fellow needs to obey orders and keep the steam machine working properly.
The steam machine has four gauges that must be maintained by making sure the pressure on each gauge remains at a normal rate in order to prevent an overload. The gauges represent steam (green), electricity (yellow), water (blue), and oil (red). Because the machine has been overworked, pressure starts to fill up quickly, which is really where the fun begins.
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When a gauge starts to rise, you must connect a pipe to its entry point, and create a route to the exit point, releasing pressure enough to keep the production of rubber duckies moving. If a gauge reaches its maximum pressure limit, the machine will explode. Not only does the factory go bankrupt, but our sad little maintenance man is fired for his unsatisfactory performance.
The controls are relatively simple. Tapping a pipe causes it to spin clockwise. Keep on tapping until it connects to another, and continue until you make your way through to the exit point. The games do get hectic after some time as you have to deal with multiple gauges at once, and can only connect one route at a time. Heron does feature various power-ups to help, such as one that will allow you to release the pressure of two gauges at the same time when used correctly. If you want to score big points you will want to use as many pipe pieces as possible, and by utilizing the multiplier system you can increase your score further. Combos and multipliers are very important in Heron.
The music in the game is quite funny and is well-suited to the game’s comical presentation. Sound effects are also really well done. While playing you will hear the hissing sounds of the steam machine and explosions when things start to go awry. Graphics are 2D and very crisp. The particle effects when pipes explode are a nice touch but can be improved. The background animation is superb as well as the animation in the gauges’. Overall, Heron looks gorgeous on the smaller iPhone screen and is on par with the WiiWare version.
The WiiWare version features a local co-op multiplayer, which the iPhone version lacks. Let’s hope it will be implemented on an update. Currently, there are no online leaderboards and no achievements. The developers have promised it will come along with future updates of the game, but we will have to wait and see if that does happen. The game also currently needs a save feature when exiting the game so that you can come back later, exactly where you left off. I also would have liked to see other game modes.
Heron: Steam Machine has a clever theme and gameplay mechanic along with a humorous back story, which is a rarity in iPhone games. This is a game that will appeal to everyone, providing casual yet challenging fun on the go. Although it lacks some important features as of this writing, this is a game that will stay on my iPod forever and probably the only pipe-themed game I will ever own.