Game Review

Heron: Steam Machine Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sean Aaron

WiiWare: the home of arcade puzzling goodness

Many people ask "don't we have enough puzzle games on the Wii already?" Triangle Studios answers "no!" and it's hard to disagree with them - especially given the quality of recent releases including their own Heron: Steam Machine. A little animated introduction tells the game's back story of a rubber duck factory taken over by the wicked scion of the company founder who orders output increased to dangerous levels, forcing you to help out the old maintenance man in keeping things going lest the machine blow up.

Taking inspiration from an old Amiga game called Pipe Mania (ported to every 8- and 16-bit platform in existence - including the arcade - by LucasArts under the name "PipeDream") Heron has its own spin on the idea of laying out pipe to connect two points before time runs out.

In Pipe Mania players would move a cursor on a grid and connect pipe to a source from which water (or some weird green goo) would start to flow, with the goal being to hook up pipe sections to an outlet, stopping said liquid flowing all of the floor and ending the game. Heron: Steam Machine presents a grid already populated with pipe fittings that you can rotate to create a route between entry and exit, thereby relieving pressure in the titular engine. There are four different colour-coded systems: steam (green), electricity (yellow), water (blue) and oil (red); each of which has their own gauge in a corner of the screen.

When any of these systems is in danger of overloading, entry and exit points will appear at the left and right of the screen. Unlike Pipe Mania there is no actual flow of anything: instead the affected system gauges gradually increase until the machine explodes in a cacophonous orgy of violence and destruction. To stave off the inevitable you simply rotate pipe bits to link up the two ends: once your link is complete the line explodes in another riotous eruption of points, followed by pipe sections dropping from above Tetris-style to fill the newly-created gaps. Rinse and repeat until the steam machine explodes - and it will, as sure as entropy - and you get to enter your high score if you're good enough. Over time you'll have multiple systems in jeopardy at once, but thankfully the game helps you keep it sorted by staggering the rate of failure and changing the colour of linked-up pipes to match that of the relevant system.

Two control methods are on offer: NES-style with the (DPAD) moving the cursor and (1) and (2) rotating the pipes clockwise or anti-clockwise, or one-handed with the pointer moving the cursor, pressing (A) to grab a pipe, using a Remote twist to rotate it and pressing (A) again to fix the pipe in place. The developers recommend the former method and really unless you've only got one hand that's the way to go as the twisting mechanic coupled with having to manually grab and fix the pipe is too slow for what will become an increasingly manic affair as you play on. There is no option to set for the controller position, the game simply detects the shift in controller orientation automatically. Pretty flash for a Wii game of any kind, much less WiiWare!

There are some extra items that will appear on the playfield in the form of pipe junctions that delay destruction if a matching system pipe is connected to them, or add multipliers to your score for completing a link through them. Later on you'll also have the benefit of bomb junctions which can help change things up in the event the existing array fails to inspire you. The other game mode is multiplayer which is a co-op affair for 2-4 players that sees the screen divided into sections, with each player having access to only their part of the screen, meaning everyone must work together to match up their pipe links to stop everything from going kablooey. A nice competitive element is brought to the game by the fact that though scores are still tracked separately.

There are high score tables showing the top 10 players, with separate leaderboards for 1, 2, 3 or 4-player games, though all are local. The top score is 1,000,000 at level 30 and it will probably be quite some time before players can exceed that as the game offers a decent level of challenge. Trying to find the right path amongst the pipes can get pretty fraught when everything starts falling apart! The only complaint to be had is the lack of online leaderboards or any additional game modes, but what's been presented is pretty good.


Heron: Steam Machine isn't going to win any awards, but it has a clean cartoony look and offers a great 5-minute pick-up game that will have broad appeal. The game has a solid play mechanic with a great arcade feel to it backed by bouncy music - for 500 points that's not half bad, and if you like puzzlers it's definitely worth a look.

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User Comments (37)



primeris said:

I don't have enough puzzle games. I might not be getting Gravitronix, maybe I'll get this instead.



Sean_Aaron said:

I was able to download and play this last night, so it's definitely unusual to have the review available this quickly (it also helps that the game is quite basic).

Now if Empire Interactive would be so kind as to favour us with a Wii version of Pipe Mania (since they seem to hold the rights), we'd have the pipe-game genre covered!

Oh, trivia note, a Heron Steam Engine is apparently a real kind of steam engine. Presumably the developers are also trainspotters?



Toobbs said:

Just bought it on the iPod Touch and it works like a charm! And to be honest, it's quite addictive also..
Really nice review Sean!



Omega said:

Is there only the Tetris-style of gameplay with an endless flow of random new tiles coming from the top?

Or is there a certain number of predefined levels which can be "solved" by completely clearing them, and which are getting harder and bringing new elements into the game from round to round?

And if it's the latter case, how many levels are there? And can you save your game progress during the game (respectively after each level)?



Sean_Aaron said:

No game saves. Levels increment after lines get cleared; there's no pause or anything, it just blows away the squares composing your pipeline and then the ones above drop and more fall in to fill the top up again and new openings and exits appear.

So, it's old-school arcade in terms of a pro player needing to drink a lot of coffee to keep going, although there's the benefit of being able to pause to pee! If you can play this game for more than 30min. in one sitting then you'll have my respect!



cornishlee said:

@ Sean Aaron:

"suppose I would be if trains were prehistoric invertebrates..."

Nice to know I'm not the only one around here.



Sean_Aaron said:

@conishlee: all my network equipment, wii's, ipod and phone are named for burgess shale organisms. What can I say, I like ancient arthropods!



Gavin_Rozee said:

I don't get it. Are you saying you like dinosaurs?

Sorry, I'm I'll and can't think properly.



Omega said:

@Sean (#9): Ha ha. Thank you. I already drink so much coffee, I don`t know if it`s possible to drink more. And I'm still not getting better at these old-school arcade games.



Sean_Aaron said:

@Gavin: I do like dinosaurs; I also like prehistoric invertebrates ^_~.

@Omega: Well, if you're crap then your games will be like mine: 5-10min. -- no save required! I managed level 10 or 12 with like 110,000 points -- needless to say 1,000,000 is like reaching the summitt of K2! Still, it's all in good fun.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Wow, big shock. I expected this would be a cheap Pipe Dream knockoff...glad to hear it's actually worth its own existence!



Djungelurban said:

I'm so puzzle fatigued by now that if you so gave a game 12/10 I still would never even consider buying it. We so have enough puzzle games...



Omega said:

^ Yes, I can understand that. But it seems that there are still people who can't get enough of them.

So, c'mon Triangle Studios. When do we get Sokoban DX and Minesweeper ReBirth?




I'm a Pipe Mania fan myself and I can see me liking this whole "pipe based" gameplay. I've also recently e-bayed my Pipemania ds after palying it to death. Conclusion: I'm in.



Sean_Aaron said:

@origamidennis: yo I didn't say what kind of engine did I? I was using "trainspotter" as another way of saying "anorak." ^_~ But thanks for tha' edukashonal materials!



Pastry said:

Doesn't look too bad, I might pick it up if it comes to NA.

Edit: Oh wait, LostWinds 2 is coming out.



Golgo said:

thanks for trivia sean, i was wondering what herons had to do with it.



Caliko said:

So what came first?
The chiken or the egg?

The Bioshock hacking mini game or this??



XCWarrior said:

Good enough review for me. The only drawback I see is no online leaderboards. That really bites, but for as fun as it looks and for 500 points, I think I'll buy it anwyay whenever it comes to the US.



thebigM said:

I think a 7 is the appropriate score for this. I also can't come past minute 8 or so, but will try again soon. Good review of a decent game



edofthe209 said:

Wow! For 500 this looks really good. I've been craving a good pipe puzzler ever since I finished Bioshock for my 360 (may it rest in peace). I may just have to get this!




Played this over the weekend. Decentish game to have in your wiiware locker on your wii console. Decent pick up[ and play value. No where near an 8, but a fair enough 6 or 7.



Caliko said:


Sorry for late reply. I just read the review now. Wow didn't know it was based on a game that old.

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