Steel Diver is an original but frankly odd choice for a launch title for the 3DS, and unfortunately it continues the trend of not inspiring confidence in Nintendo's latest handheld. Its not terrible but its not far off and its certainly the least substantial title current released for the system.
Steel Diver's primary mode tasks you with controlling one of three submarines, each with different characteristics, through a 2D underwater maze dodging mines, bedrock and battling enemies. Rather than direct control, however, you control your sub via multiple touch screen sliders, adjusting speed, angle, and depth accordingly. Its a fitting control scheme that feels far more simulation than arcade and gives you a better perspective and appreciation for the properties of water and their effect on inertial and momentum; eventually at least. Initially youre going to slam into rocks and mines as you fiddle around with each slider and dial with your stylus until the controls gradually sink in.
Once the intricacies of controlling your sub are mastered, the experience takes on a Lunar Lander style of play with subtle movements resulting in rewarding situations where you narrowly and elegantly miss an enemy torpedo, but by this time the experience is mostly over. Steel Divers Mission mode consists of an appallingly limited amount of levels, totalling seven. Moreover each level will take no longer than 15 minutes to complete on your first run through, and despite a slight addictive novelty to the challenge of getting your sub through each level, replay is severely limited.
Collectable badges try to increase replayability by challenging you to collect them in the periscope mini games between missions for the reward of properties to you sub to aid you. But the system is almost broken by how many of the badges you need to collect in order to use them. Their drop is random and the rewards ultimately have little effect on the ease of each mission, and with how many times you need to replay them to unlock the badges youll already be a master and have no need for them. The final two levels are unlocked by playing through the previous ones as the three sub types, and an expert mode is unlocked on completion of all of them but its still the same old levels, over and over again.
Two additional modes aim to flesh out the package but fail to be anything more than throw-away. Periscope Strike allows you to play the only 3D element of Steel Diver where, through a periscope, you fire torpedoes at ships whizzing past. But with only three variants and with this mini game already popping up in the Mission mode, what could have been a fun aside becomes repetitive and short lived. The final mode, Steel Commander, offers two-player or you verse the AI, in a game of battleships, with the same periscope combat from the previous modes. Its a light package to say the least and although initially you can find some enjoyment, it simply doesnt last.
Steel Diver fails to offer a lasting and enjoyable experience. The premise is interesting and you certainly feel a need to push on through the levels due to a great sense of satisfaction for beating each, but within a matter of hours you would have seen all there is to see and be cursing the asking price. One enemy encounter is likely to cause a smile but otherwise Steel Diver has little redeeming features to warrant a recommendation.