A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a steampunk-themed turn-based strategy game with moderate violence. Players control recognizable fictional characters such as Tom Sawyer and Tiger Lily as they use various weapons -- rifles, grenade launchers, shotguns -- to ward off invading aliens and protect the humans they're attacking. Combat includes screams and brief splashes of blood but nothing grisly. Allies don't die when defeated but instead are knocked unconscious and revived after each battle. Parents also should note that this game supports four specific amiibo figures that unlock content, and kids might become interested in purchasing these toys in addition to the game. This game includes online play and supports the Nintendo 3DS StreetPass feature, which means kids could be exposed to unmoderated user-generated text, potentially from strangers.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
A mix of famous historical and fictional characters band together to fight aliens in an alternate-history steampunk version of 19th-century England and the United States in CODE NAME S.T.E.A.M., a turn-based strategy game from the same studio that makes Advance Wars and Fire Emblem games. Under the command of Abraham Lincoln and with the help of Nikola Tesla, players move a cast of characters including Tom Sawyer, Queequeg, the Cowardly Lion, Tiger Lily, and John Henry around gridded maps to attack aliens. Gameplay takes place from a third-person perspective, with expended energy shown in the form of puffs of steam with each action. Once all steam has been expended, the aliens take their turn, advancing on your heroes' positions. If you collect coins and gears scattered around the environment en route to each map's goal, they will unlock additional sub-weapons and new boiler backpacks that can increase the amount and regeneration of each character's steam supply. Beyond the lengthy campaign, kids can engage in local or online competitive multiplayer play, pitting their team of heroes against other gamers. It also supports Nintendo's four Fire Emblem amiibo figurines, which can be transferred into the game, where they become playable characters.
Is it any good?
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. takes a fresh approach to turn-based strategy games and not just because of its strange assortment of familiar characters and their often bizarre weapons, such as a scissors-extension boxing glove, a banana peel launcher, and exploding pumpkins. It melds the notion of gridded, turn-based movement with 3-D shooter action in unconventional ways: Players can precisely aim each shot (Hint: Target glowing spots on enemy bodies) for additional damage or creep around stealthily to avoid detection. They can even explore the boundaries of a character's current square to see if they can find a better shot without expending an additional unit of steam. But you need to be careful of your enemies' real-time reactions to your movements. Tread into their field of vision and they'll take a shot at you -- unless you can quickly aim and tap the fire button first.
There's still some room for improvement, though. You have to wait -- sometimes as long as a couple of minutes -- as enemies take their turns. That's a drag. Plus, enemies can sometimes react to player interactions as subtle as a shift of camera, potentially carrying out as many or more attacks than your character during his or her turn. That just feels unfair. Still, it’s an unusual blend of considered tactics and real-time action that ought to prove plenty of fun for people looking for something other than games that reward reflexes over strategy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about classic book characters used in video games. Do you think they remain true to the characters they're based upon? Would you like to read the books that help make the source material for the game?
Families also can discuss online safety. How do you conduct yourself when chatting with others online? What are some key differences between communicating with people online versus in person?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
- Subjects: Language & Reading: reading
Social Studies: historical figures
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, logic, strategy
- Price: $39.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: March 15, 2015
- Genre: Strategy
- Topics: Book Characters, History, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes
- Last updated: April 2, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.