In the realms of turn based board and miniature gaming there are lots of air combat type games such as AeroDrome or Wings of War. These games can either pit you against an opposing plane or be team based. A turn typically consists of evaluating where the enemy is, predicting where your enemy will go, and then 'programming' your plane for the next turn so as to outmaneuver and eventually shoot down the opposition. SteamBirds takes this turn based battle and converts it into an Android game.
Upon loading SteamBirds there are a few menu choices that allowing you to select a set of levels to play. I always start with the basics. A timeline of levels is then displayed. I clicked on the first one and got some information, but I could not figure out how to get things going. I tried clicking on the next bubble on the time line and a similar thing happened, but instead this time there was a 'Play' option. I don't know why the apparent inconsistency exists, but I was fooled. Ok, so moving into the game....
SteamBirds features a nice tutorial system to get you started. It explains that the game is turn based and shows how to turn and speed up your plane. It provide the typical confidence builder mission where you start on your enemy's tail and pretty much just have to breath to get past the level (and that's the way it's supposed to be). I really like it when games have an active tutorial system instead of expecting me to passively read pages of text. As you play through missions racking up 4 star achievements and new rankings eventually you'll get to a level in which the game becomes challenging. No longer do you start in the cat bird seat, but instead you enter the scenario facing the opposition head to head in a level that features 2 planes vs. 2 planes. I tried to outmaneuver and get into a flanking position. I really didn't want to play chicken and hope that more of my shells reached their target than their based on simple luck so I twisted around. One successfully followed me and did some damage, but not enough for the kill. My other plane made it around. Now it was my turn and I easily pumped a plane full of enough lead to send it spinning down to earth. Now I had the two on one advantage and could more easily ensure a flanking position. Victory was indeed mine, but only a 2 star victory.
SteamBirds adds some interesting variety as you progress. For example, soon after the above encounter there were planes that had poison gas. They would spew out a noxious, green trail of the stuff and my pilot would take damage when flying through it and my guns would jam. The game offers a nice progression to keep it fresh.
SteamBirds does its job very well. I really don't have much in the way or criticism for this game. The only thing I can think of is that the bubbles I had to click on for movement are a little small on my 3.7" screen and thus it took 2-3 touches at times to connect and be able to enter my orders. This can really become aggravation when you are trying to make that perfect, precision move.
SteamBirds isn't going to be for everyone. If the idea of taking turns and seeing your orders (and your opponent's orders) resolve piecemeal doesn't sound like it has enough arcade action for you then you are probably right. If the idea of a plane combat game that involves some thinking is right up your alley then you'll be in seventh heaven with this game. This game is more of a tactical game and, personally, I love it! 4.5/5 stars.