Steam Engine Review (PS4) – Nothing But Hot Air
An idle clicker about building an odd contraption, Steam Engine is another RandomSpin trophy bait title. The Finger Guns Review.
Somebody very smart – not Einstein – once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. If that’s true, I feel like I need to check myself into a padded cell. Steam Engine is the 7th game from developer RandomSpin that I’ve reviewed here at Finger Guns. Each time I’ve start a new title, I hope that this will finally be the game they’ve made that I enjoy. I’m begging for those ‘different results’. They even came close with Phlegethon. A few moments later though and I’ve always been left disappointed. This time is no different.
At least with Steam Engine, there is more than 2 minutes of content. That’s more than can be said about a number of other RandomSpin games. That’s probably due to the genre that this game is in – an idle incremental clicker. These games are all about clicking to earn resource with which to reinvest in increase efficiencies and improve the return on each click or second.
In this instance, you’re building a literal Steam Engine. It begins with just a base and a few random pipes sticking out of the ground. With each press of the square button, you’ll earn a little cash. This cash can then be reinvested in additional parts of the machine or improvements to what’s already installed. These new investments initially grant a chunk of change for every second that goes by. Further investment massively increases this return and can reduce the time between each phase from 1 second to 0.1 second.
These upgrades and new parts cost exponentially more money with each version. To give Steam Engine its dues, the upgrade spacing is gradual, working as a bell curve with the middle of the game more congested. Like some of the most successful clicking games, the actual clicking becomes less effective after the initial hump. Like a symbol of the hard work you have to put in to get some machines running, the effort to click becomes redundant after you’ve purchased a number of upgrades.
Unfortunately, this does mean that Steam Engine loses all of its impetus. In the better incremental clicker games that remove the need to actually click on something, there’s some other motivating factor, like a story or impressive visuals. That’s not the case here. Here you’ve got a weird contraption that doesn’t appear to have any practical use and you’re adding bits too it for reasons that are left unexplained. If there’s no reason to click, you’re kind of just sitting there and waiting until you can afford something.
Irregularly, the Steam Engine will need a repair. This is the only prompt for interactivity in the latter 90% of the game. An alarm sound will signal and you’ll have to pay a small cost to repair the machine. Not doing so mildly reduces the effectiveness of the apparatus. The penalty for not repairing the machine is small in the grand scheme of things however, especially after 10 minuets of play. When you’re earning $10,000+ every 0.2 seconds, a penalty of $300 every second is chump change.
Steam Engine does get one aspect of the incremental genre correct – the music. While you sit back and wait your your fortune to build, the tune that chatters away in the background is chilled and calming with just enough of a tune to tap your foot along too.
It’s a shame that there’s little else in terms of personality in Steam Engine. The games that sit atop the apex in the Idle clicker/incremental genre make simply clicking something into an art form, lending power to the most basic of interactions. That’s not something that’s present in Steam Engine. This is a bunch of Unity assets that you put together in 20 minutes by waiting for a box to light up, indicating you have enough money to afford it, and then clicking on it. There’s no explicit purpose beyond the trophy descriptions.
And that’s likely the purpose of Steam Engine. RandomSpin have a history of putting out PlayStation trophy bait games that prey on trophy hunters looking a quick and cheap Platinum. While this game is better than say Funny Truck or Tokyo Run, benefiting from a defined structure and goals, it still feels like a hollow cash grab of £0.79 with a cheaply earned ‘Plat’ 20 minutes later. Amazingly, Steam Engine isn’t the worst idle clicker I’ve played in the past year on PlayStation consoles – Ketchup Story and Santa’s Workshop can fight it out for that particular crown – but this comes a close third.
A short clicker cum incremental game that’s desperately short on personality and purpose, Steam Engine is 20 minutes of waiting for a platinum trophy to unlock. It’s surprisingly among the better titles that RandomSpin have released on PlayStation consoles but it still feels like cynical trophy bait that very few people will get any enjoyment out of.
Steam Engine is available now on PlayStation 4.
Developer: Random Spin
Publisher: Random Spin
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, a copy of the game was purchased. For our full review policy, please go here.
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