Steel Strider is a follow up to Gigantic Army and is an homage to legendary titles like Super Contra and Turrican. It plays like them with the addition of the mouse or stick operated weapons. Playing through Steel Strider I remembered Abuse, a game that not many may have played, which I remember fondly from the DOS era. It was a kickass run and gun platformer with an Alien feel and a similar mouse control setup. Not to mention that you sorta look like a Predator. But I digress.
Steel Strider takes a lot from Gigantic Army, but also builds upon it. While the pacing of the game seems a bit quicker, there is no dash button. Your mech can walk relatively fast, but in turn stages are longer than in Gigantic Army.
The story in Steel Strider is about special ARGO Express forces, where you as a badass MCR (Manned Combat Robot) pilot has to make things right by infiltrating dangerous planets and showing those alien scum their place.
Unlike its predecessor, Steel Strider makes full use of mouse controls so instead of pile bunker, you have a cool laser sword which you can activate with the press of the right mouse button. Left mouse is used for targeting and firing the selected main weapon.
There is an array of weapons at your disposal and after acquiring them you can use each and everyone of them throughout the whole game. Your arsenal is composed of your trusty handgun with unlimited ammo, assault rifle, shotgun, grenades, rocket launcher, missile launcher, lightning gun and a mighty railgun.
Assault rifle has a faster firing rate than the handgun, while shotgun gives you more spread, effective when going against many enemies on the screen. Using grenades takes a bit of precision, but along with the rocket launcher they are indispensable at taking out bigger enemies. The Missile launcher is a bit weaker, but useful when swarmed with smaller, airborne enemies. The Lighting gun is an immensely satisfying weapon that can take out a lot of enemies at once. And finally, Railgun can be used to effectively destroy pretty much everything in sight.
All other weapons except handgun have limited ammo which you find in a form of power-ups on the ground. You can upgrade your weapons 3 times each, but the power-ups feel a bit tacked on as you can just pick them up multiple times in various stages and that’s it. It would have been more satisfying if you could buy the upgrades you need in the shop between levels with your hard earned points.
While there is a controller support, the game is best played with the mouse and keyboard setup, as I found that using the analogue stick for firing harder to get used to.
While there is a time limit, like in Gigantic Army, it’s almost never an issue as you are much more likely to get killed off by numerous enemies throughout the levels or to simply fall off a platform. It is a challenging game and depending on the difficulty selected you will be dying a lot. To counteract that there are unlimited continues with the autosave option. But like with other games in this genre, timing and dodging are the key in keeping the upper hand.
Between the missions all your health and ammo will transfer to the next stage. This adds additional layer of challenge to the game, as you won’t get a health pack before each mission. But if you get stuck there is always an option of restarting the whole area if you think you can do better. On the other hand, those that seek additional challenge can try to play through the game with just the handgun or on the Insane setting.
Gameplay varies from stage to stage, as there will be some non-obligatory stealth sections where you can try your hand at playing stealthily. If you succeed you will get a trophy, but otherwise if you get frustrated with sections like these you can just play them Rambo-style. For some added variety there are stages that play out like a shump where you make use of your jet pack, shooting at numerous flying enemies.
The bosses are quite tough and require coming up with your own strategy to defeat them, especially on normal and higher difficulties. For instance, one of the bosses has a powerful shield that can deflect most of your attacks. One way to defeat it is to destroy his shield. But if you get too close he will unleash his powerful pile bunker. On the other hand you can just keep dodging his attacks and try to hit him when he is most vulnerable.
If you like being challenged and find some quick frenetic action with tough bosses rewarding, don’t miss out on Steel Strider. The game can be beat in an hour, but I’m sure it will take you two or three times longer and after that you can replay it on higher difficulties. For those on the fence there is an easy mode which can also be a satisfying experience.