There’s something inherently likeable about the SteamWorld series. Its hand-drawn sprites, or sheer commitment to cheeriness or unerring focus on a single, tight, mechanical design stretched to game length – one or all of these will tug a smile from players’ cold hearts eventually, no matter the game. The side-effect is that the whole SteamWorld brand has given developer Image & Form the enviable opportunity to consistently try new things, while still attracting a captive audience.
2013’s breakout Steamworld Dig, don’t forget, was the second game to bear the moniker, swapping the DSiWare original’s Tower Defence for procedurally generated platforming. Then we got Heist, which somehow wrestled the XCOM model into two dimensions, and added a weird fascination with collectible hats. Even Dig 2, the series’ first full sequel, made major changes, swapping those procedural maps for a meticulously designed experience, now prizing skilled play over the original’s material grinding.
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