To be honest, I preordered Codename: S.T.E.A.M. to make sure that I got the nifty Majora’s Mask pin that came with it, but when I sat down to play it I was both pleasantly surprised and a little bewildered by this comic book inspired turn-based strategy game for the Nintendo 3DS. Codename: S.T.E.A.M. boasts some impressive accessibility features, as well as some unusual barriers for this type of game.
To begin with players with visual disabilities should have very little problem accessing this game. During my multi-hour playthrough, I did not notice anything that solely relied on color. The art style is big and bold and does not rely on fine-detail to communicate information. The text is easy enough to read and the interface does a good job of making elements visually distinctive. However, due to other barriers I was not able to progress far enough in the game to say for certain that it was barrier free for those with visual impairments.
For players with fine motor disabilities this game is a bit of a puzzle. It’s been touted as a handheld version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, DAGERS first ever Game of the Year, and in essence, that is what it is. However, there are some unique design choices that mean that Codename: S.T.E.A.M. is not nearly as accessible as XCOM: Enemy Unknown. To begin with, the combat is turn-based. Players have the ability to move in a predetermined grid pattern that is dependent on the amount of ‘steam’ each player has, but different from XCOM is the moving and aiming system, which require players to manually turn a joystick that is positioned on the 3DS’ touch screen to lock on and fire at enemies within each level. As a result, Codename: S.T.E.A.M. requires a certain degree of precision, that players who are expecting a handheld XCOM experience will find frustrating. Furthermore, the fact that Codename: S.T.E.A.M. locks the player into a third person perspective in a genre that is normally top-down means that it will be impossible to get the same kind of whole-battlefield perspective that makes turn-based strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics and XCOM so fun. I usually try to devote 5-10 hours of game play to every handheld review that I do, yet looking at my save file it only shows that I played 1 hour. This is because I spent the rest of my time stuck on one of the prologue missions, because without the top-down perspective, my units kept getting ambushed by aliens that were just around the corner or behind an obstacle. As a result, I spent a lot of time retreading the same ground trying to figure out exactly where the enemies were. This highlights Codename: S.T.E.A.M.’s biggest accessibility barrier for those with all kinds of disabilities. It’s very unforgiving, punishing players for mistakes they wouldn’t have made if they had been able to get a proper perspective on the battlefield.
The real good news about Codename: S.T.E.A.M. comes for gamers with auditory disabilities. Codename S.T.E.A.M. is one of the most accessible handheld games I have ever seen. Nothing seems to rely on sound or the ability to hear, and the subtitles are communicated using a comic book style, which means that they are short, easy to read, and communicate not only everything that the player is hearing, but all relevant sound cue’s as well. But, again, because of barriers, I cannot say that this game is barrier free, but I expect that players with hearing disabilities will have no problem enjoying this game.
Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Partially Accessible
Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Released For: 3DS
ESRB Rating: T
GameInformer Score: 8.0