Here at Dealspwn we're all about getting the best games for the least amount of financial effort, and we often tend to forget that some of the most addictive offerings out there are completely free. With that in mind, welcome to Click To Play, a new weekly feature where we'll be hunting down the best browser-based games each week so you don't have to. Check in with us every Monday to spice up your coffee breaks for the week!
This week: SteamBirds
Far from being a cooking technique for poultry, SteamBirds is a turn-based strategy game that sees you dogfighting over the maps of Europe in an alternative, fictionalised history where the airborner battle of WWII were fought between planes that had harnessed the power of low-temperature fusion and were powered on super-heated steam. Hence the name. That concept probably doesn't sound hugely thrilling, but SteamBirds proves not only to be a fantastically engrossing little game, but also offers a suprising level of tactical gameplay in a seemingly simple package.
Everything here is mouse-driven and, peering over the combat maps from a top-down view, you set about organising flight paths for your small squadrons of aircraft, attempting to line up the perfect line of attack and obviously avoiding enemy fire. For added strategic fun, each plane comes equipped with a couple of special features, often taking a turn or two to recharge, and ranging from being able to pull a useful 180 degree turn, to speed boosts, poison gas and damage shields.
You'll progress through the levels, facing increasingly more challenging numbers and types of enemy aircraft as you go, only able to open fire when you come within a certain range, so you won't just be able to go ploughing through the game expecting to tailgun with ease. What does occur is an excellently implemented game of cat-and-mouse; you'll find no base building here, and no way to simply accumulate units until you can crush your enemies trough brute force. This is a patient tactician's dream, with the later levels really requiring some serious forethought.
The visual design matches the gameplay as simple, yet elegant, the militaristic topographical relief maps perfectly bringing the themes of aviation and strategic plotting together, and the atmospheric soundtrack is a nice touch indeed. It is utterly refreshing to see a flash-based strategy game that isn't just another take on the boring and stale defence model, and with a development team with some cracking games to their name (including Fantastic Contraption, Canabalt, Super Meat Boy and Bunni) it's no surprise that this is an absolute firecracker of a game.