Physics Games and Physics-Based Game Downloads

Steam Brigade: Physics in a Side-Scrolling RTS

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006 by Matthew in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 72 votes, average: 3.51 out of 5)

Steam Brigade is Pedestrian Entertainment’s debut game, and it’s certainly a great first product for a studio. They concisely describe Steam Brigade as a side-scrolling, real-time strategy game set in an alternate history where airships and steam-powered tanks rule the battlefield. Principally, the game is one of strategy–choosing which units to spawn for which situations. The only way to interact with units once they are spawned, though, is to physically interact with them.

Real-Time Strategy Redefined

Typically a “real-time strategy game” brings to mind doling out orders to units: move here, attack that, defend this. Steam Brigade does away with unit management in the abstract. Once you spawn a tank or foot soldier they’re completely autonomous.

Your units aren’t totally helpless, though. You, the player, pilot an airship. It’s a fragile thing–you can’t shoot, or bomb, or really do much damage at all. You can, however, pick up units with a rather large magnet hanging off the ship. This is how you interact with your troops after they’ve spawned. You can whisk a unit to the front lines, dangle a still-firing tank from your underbelly, and even pick up enemy units to drop them to splattering results.

Steam Brigade Strategies

Steam Brigade’s strategy reminds me of Gearheads, an old PC game. Units are set up in a roshambo arrangement: soldiers kill engineers, tanks kill soldiers, turrets kill tanks (an engineer is required to operate a turret), and so on. Successfully conquering an enemy position requires planning and some personal intervention with the airship. You need to send over the right combination of troops, but also ensure their survival.


Unlike most real-time strategy games, Steam Brigade does away with finite resources. It takes money to purchase units, but unlimited money flows in for free at a steady rate. You can even purchase a new airship for yourself if you manage to get shot down. The game can be hard, though, and certainly requires concentration. If you carelessly spawn units as your money trickles it’s very easy to become deadlocked in your advances. It’s usually better to think a bit, wait for your money pile to max out, and go for one big push.

AI and Frustration

The AI in Steam Brigade is pretty crafty. This is both good and bad. It’s bad because it quickly becomes frustrating to have your efforts constantly thwarted by the opposing airship. It’s good in a way, though, because the AI demonstrates a lot of the advanced physics techniques. Of course, it demonstrates these techniques by crushing you ever so gently.

Where’s the Physics?

Now, Steam Brigade doesn’t perfectly fit into my rough definition of a physics game. I like to call something a physics game when the primary means by which you interact with the game is through manipulation of a complex physics system. Steam Brigade’s physics, although they are driven by Newton Game Dynamics, aren’t exactly complex. And the primary gameplay interaction is actually deciding which units to spawn (although physics interaction is definitely where most of your actual time).

So why am I talking about it? Well, for one, the game is neat. I think it deserves some attention. But more importantly, I’d love to see a concept like this with more emphasis on physics. I think there’s huge potential for an updated Gearheads concept where opposing forts spit out physics contraptions at each other to do battle. Steam Brigade hints at this with physics-based tricks and techniques, but it would be great to have something conceptualized from the ground up as a physics-based game with a similar premise.

Steam Brigade Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Steam Brigade Game Screenshots)

Try it Out!

Steam Brigade’s pacing is a little slow, but it’s a unique game with solid production. If you’re looking for some physics fun in a 2D environment, and aren’t afraid of a little thinking, definitely give it a try today.

Download the game demo over at Pedestrian Entertainment’s Steam Brigade page (21.5 MB). The full version is $19.95. Well worth it!

Related Posts:

3 Responses to 'Steam Brigade: Physics in a Side-Scrolling RTS'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Steam Brigade: Physics in a Side-Scrolling RTS'.

  1. Digg said,

    on March 3rd, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    excellent! very fun game, clever idea as well.

  2. Krakle said,

    on March 4th, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    Fun game, just wish I could be botherd to check out the full version.

  3. Bubicus said,

    on March 7th, 2006 at 11:03 am

    Sounds similar to the classic Apple II game “Rescue Raiders” and the more recent GBA game “Super Army War”. I love these types of games!

Leave a Reply