Bureau of Steam Engineering
Fighting robots plus brain-taxing logic-style puzzles? Sounds like a winner! Bureau of Steam Engineering, from the author of The Codex of Alchemical Engineering, is a visually stark game of planning, building, testing, tweaking, and building some more. You are an engineer outfitting robots who are about to go into battle with deadly weapons. Using pipes and valves you must connect each mechanical part to an engine and ensure it functions properly before unleashing the machine.
Bureau of Steam Engineering shares a lot with its Alchemical Engineering cousin. Both are difficult to learn and even tougher to master, but the rewards for doing so are so enormous you'll want to invest the time. The contraption filling most of the screen is a top-down view of your robot's innards. Two steam boilers sit at the bottom corners — each one provides power to whatever mechanisms you attach them to. At the top of the screen you'll notice an array of pipes, valves, weapons and more. Simply drag and drop parts, holding the [ctrl] key and clicking to rotate them when necessary. If you want your robot to move or crouch, you also have to connect the mechanisms at the top of the screen to a boiler. Finally, valves that switch when a certain amount of pressure has built up can be tweaked by clicking the wrench icon at the bottom of the screen.
Now comes the first big decision: what do you want your robot to do? The goal is to build a machine that can defeat a specific opponent, so read the hint printed under the "intelligence" tab first. Robots have two basic kinds of attacks: long- and short-range. Your machine has space for two weapons, but attaching them and supplying them with the power they need are two entirely different matters.
To start, try clicking on the "melee weapon" tab and placing a flamethrower on the left side of the robot. Next, attach a series of pipes leading from the left steam engine to the valve on the side of the flamethrower. Assuming you have all open pipes sealed, if you clicked "fight" your robot would face off against its foe with flamethrower a'blazin'. This doesn't do us a lot of good, however, as the enemy is too far away to receive any damage. Now we need to get the robot to walk. Run a series of pipes from the right-side steam engine to both valves under the walking mechanism. On the left side, place a fuse valve so the pressure feeding into the gear will alternate, allowing the robot to move. Now click "fight" and see what happens!
Making everything function in Bureau of Steam Engineering is often a complex engineering feat that can only be arrived at through trial and error coupled with precise planning. Make liberal use of the "help" screen (the ? icon on the left side of the screen) to familiarize yourself with all the parts of the machine.
Analysis: Another deep, heady game, Bureau of Steam Engineering takes some time to get into, but once you do, you're thoroughly hooked. It's rightly called a "game for engineers", as it's all about solving problems and building a machine to your specifications. I'm no engineer, however, so the game does have appeal to the rest of us gamers out there. It doesn't have the near-infinite solution set as The Codex of Alchemical Engineering, allowing you to slide into a more comfortable routine of building pipe configurations to accomplish common tasks.
A keyboard shortcut for removing pieces would be superb, as sometimes you'll find yourself halfway down a failed engineering road and must manually drag every component off the screen to rebuild from scratch. Right now there are only four robots to defeat, making the game last just one (long) afternoon, most of which you'll spend learning how to play. The "ending" hints at further episodes, however, which would be more than grand!
Complex at first, but after you mount the steep learning curve, more rewarding than most puzzle games around. Bureau of Steam Engineering is a true challenge that's worth every minute of head-scratching and valve tweaking.