The Year is 2218 and humanity has reached the point where it needs to expand its existence beyond Earth. As we explore deep into outer space looking for other planets that we could call home, we come into contact with a hostile machine intelligence that does not appreciate our presence and draws us into a war against its vast offensive fleet. The United Military patrol ship UMS Scourge, is on its way to investigate a mysterious signal in the shape of an Omega symbol coming from a barren planet. Is this the key to defeating our much powerful foe?
Steel Ranger, developed by Lasse Oorni and released by Psytronik Software, is a 2D platform shooter for the Commodore 64 that takes inspiration from classic games from its genre such as Turrican and Metroid. The game kicks off with a semi-interactive introduction cut scene depicting the UMS Scourge coming under a barrage of attack before crashing down on the planet surface. Equipped with a Ranger self-charging armour suit, it is up to you to find the Omega symbol and possibly turn the tide in favour of humanity.
The game world within Steel Ranger is massive and consists of about 17 different environment locations. As you make your way out onto the planet surface and into the initial Security Tower, you come across a vast number of native creatures, enemy soldiers and automated arsenal, all intent on stopping you getting anywhere near the Omega symbol.
The whole game world complex is made up of a number of security zones, which can only be by-passed by acquiring require pass cards that are cleverly hidden or locked away throughout the complex. This adds an additional layer of depth and enjoyment to the overall game play as you search for hidden passages and switch off computer systems in order to access the passes.
To help the Ranger with their task, currency and temporary weapon upgrades may be collected when some eliminating some of the enemies. As the Ranger explores deeper into the world, you will come across opportunities to upgrade the armour suit and weapons, helping to even up the odds against the machine intelligence. In saying this, I found the action within Steel Ranger to be well paced. I never felt overwhelmed with the number of enemies that need to be dealt with at any one time and as the Ranger’s armour suit is self-charging, I would take a bit of a rest after clearing a busy screen, letting the power meter creep back up to full before I moved on to take on the next lot of enemies.
Steel Ranger strikes the right balance between shooting and exploration, it never gets dull. The game moves around smoothly at a very good pace thanks to its high quality scrolling and your Ranger character is very well animated and defined. Each of the different sections within the game world are quite distinct in their aesthetic and enemy types, providing plenty of variety to keep the gamer engaged as they progress through to the deeper sections. As the game world is quite large, the inclusion of a save/checkpoint system is a godsend allowing us to play through the game across multiple gaming sessions.
The game’s soundtrack is nothing short of great and pushes out pumping tunes that further enhances the experience of playing the game. The music changes from one location to another and it does a great job of giving an epic vibe and further immerses you within the game. Enthusiasts will appreciate the inclusion of the CD Soundtrack in the collector’s edition of Steel Ranger.
Steel Ranger is a showcase game for the C64. I don’t know how Lasse Oorni was able to get the vast world, great looking graphics and superb soundtrack all one single sided floppy. It’s a shame that a majority of the C64 community prefers to focus back on the game from the 1980s when we masterpieces like Steel Ranger on offer these days.
You can see a video review of the game plus the collector’s edition at the link below.
Steel Ranger is a highly enjoyable experience that reminds us how good 2D shooter platformer can be. High production values, large game world, absorbing game play, and steady pacing make it a must play game.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Runs the Retro Gamer Nation YouTube channel and is a contributor to RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Komoda & Amiga Plus magazine and various other publications.