There’s niche-targeted games, and then there’s Steampunk Racing 3D. Steampunk has, pardon the pun, definitely picked up steam as a genre over the past few years and has occasionally permeated pop culture but it still mostly relies on niche appeal. Meanwhile, racing games have been around for quite some time but haven’t had mass relevance since arcades were popular. So why not combine the two? It’s probably not a question you’d ask if you were trying to make a populous game, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be the basis for a halfway decent mobile offering.
Stylized Street Racing
Steampunk Racing 3D is, much like the genre that it draws its inspiration from, all about style. Steampunk is a unique blend of modern tools with an olden-days look to it, as in inventors during the industrial era were able to put together creations that were way ahead of their time. Obviously there wasn’t a whole lot of racing incredibly advanced steam powered motor vehicles equipped with rocket launchers going on in the early 1800’s, but if there was, this game is exactly what it would be like.
Players take to the track in customizable buckets of bolts and try to outpace their competitors, be they computer controlled or other humans syncing up to race. Complete a couple laps as quickly as possible while keeping others off your tail by laying traps and using attacks. It’s sure to trigger some synapses in the part of your brain that holds nostalgia, as the game is very reminiscent of the classic arcade style racing games like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing.
The problem with a game like Steampunk Racing 3D, a game that does a great job creating the esthetic it’s aiming for, is that gameplay sometimes appears to be an afterthought. With the theme of steam captured in almost every aspect of the game, it’s easy to kind of forget that there’s a game to play, not just a world to experience. While Steampunk Racing 3D is definitely playable, it’s also a bit of a clunky ride along the way.
You control your car by tilting your device, which is effective about 98% of the time. The 2% it’s just a little off, though, usually comes at the worst possible time. This probably is no fault of the game and is more a stray observation than anything, but I fell off a cliff too many when I swear I was turning. Acceleration is done by simply touching and holding anywhere on the screen, which if you’re playing on a smaller screen can obscure a little too much of your viewing space. You’ll also need one other finger free to tap your items and bonuses as they come up.
Those weapons don’t always seem to work, though. There were a couple rockets I launched that hit an opponent at an odd moment and had no effect on them. The physics of Steampunk Racing 3D are a little glitchy as a whole, really. Slamming into a wall will sometimes send you flying backwards and sometimes do absolutely nothing but lave you accelerating forward without going anywhere. The game will reset you if you get stuck or fall off a ledge, but the timing of it is odd. There were occasions where I could easily right myself and the game sent me back a few extra yards and killed any momentum I may have been carrying, but then others where I could use a reset and the game let me linger long enough to lose a couple positions. It’s more just mildly frustrating than anything, but it can cost you a race if it happens at the wrong time.
Be a grease–or steam–monkey
What Steampunk Racing 3D might lack in game mechanics, it does its best to make up for for the virtual mechanic in us. There are tons of customization options in this game. There are 10 different vehicles for you to choose from and thirty different weapons to equip them with. Add to this the ability to add boosts for any vehicle and an upgrade tree that will improve almost every aspect of your racing experience and there are tons of ways to make your steam-powered racer your own.
You’ll want to keep your car in tip top shape, not just to show off what it can do but to take it to the opponents you will be going up against. You can take to the circuits in single player mode, which will pit you against AI enemies that hold their own fairly well. But the real fun is had over an internet connection. Realtime multiplayer can take place between six different drivers at the same time, allowing you to race others around the world. You can even take on the global leaderboards in full blown, massive online tournaments. In the couple races I participated in, there were a few very apt drivers and a couple who clearly had no idea what they were doing. That’s the risk you take when playing online, of course. It’s all up to your opponents to make it a close race.
Not a Clunker, But No Classic
While the game absolutely nails the thematic effects that it puts in place for the steampunk universe, it does fall short in the gameplay aspect. It’s playable, without question. You’ll probably even have fun playing it. But it’s not without some leaks in the pipes that it’s built from. Controls leave a little to be desired and require some tinkering to fit your preferences and the physics engine isn’t quite up to speed with where we’d want it to be. If you fit into the odd overlap on the Venn diagram that shows fans of racing and steampunk, Steampunk Racing 3D is a must. If you’re just into one or the other and are looking for a unique take on whichever genre you’re a fan of, this game is still worth checking out.