Bootleg Steamer – PC Review

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From the horror specialists comes something completely different. Bootleg Steamer, a game about prohibition, moonshine and coastguards. Released today April 25th it is available on Steam. What makes this game stand apart and bring you to spend your hard earned money? Boats. Lots of Boats!

Good Morning Moonshine!

If you’ve not heard of the team over at Junkfish before, they are synonymous with Monstrum and Monstrum 2, among a couple of other games. The idea behind Bootleg Steamer came out of an internal Game Jam! So does bringing a rogue-lite style game to the water work? Or does it just become a complete shipwreck? Let’s find out


What do you get if you cross Moonshine, Rum, Vodka, Whisky and grain? That’s right! Prohibition! Bootleg Steamer is based in the 1920’s prohibition era, where smuggling alcohol was the money making scheme of the day.

the game screen has a selection of three different maps, each with a different selection of alcohol that you can smuggle.
What’s your poison?

In essence the game is quite simplistic, you travel around buying and selling prohibited goods. What makes the game a challenge is everything else that comes between.

Starting from the beginning you get to choose your initial captain, make sure you check out the pros and cons for each captain. My favourite being Morris Evans, giving you an extra 20% of cargo size, but at the cost of 15% slower ship. Once your captain is selected it’s time to pick that boat! The boat selection is great, and throughout the game your boat will be the most important choice that you are going to make.

Each ship that you chose will look different and will have different statistics. The important stats are the cargo size, obviously the more cargo you can carry the more potential for making big money. Also the top speed of the ship, obviously giving you the best chance of getting around the map and eluding the coastguard.

Elusive Manoeuvres

When you finally get out on the water you are greeted with a great challenge. The longer you play through the years, and to complete a prohibition era it will cover 14 years. Each year covers a number of days and they steadily count down in the top left of the screen. Once you reach zero you move on to the next year with whatever goods you still have on the ship. Be careful though as specific locations will only accept specific prohibited goods. Plan well otherwise you will be left with goods that you can’t get rid of.

game screen where you have reached game over. this gives you an overview on whats happened to your crew as well as having a large image of hands behind bars
This is not the screen you want to see!

Sounds all straight forward right? Well not exactly. You see Bootleg Steamer dispatch the coastguard to ruin your party. The further you get into the game the more coastguard boats you will come across, and they will hunt you down on sight. So you have two ways to elude arrest, firstly you can just race away from them. Secondly and this is more of a tactical option, you can fill your boat with legitimate goods like grain or timber and these will ‘hide’ the prohibited goods. It doesn’t always work, and the coastguard will still arrest you, but there is a lower percentage that they will send you straight to jail.


As you go through your prohibition era you will have the opportunity to upgrade your ship. From Tier 1 that you start with all the way up to Tier 5. This is no easy task though, you have to earn enough money to be able to afford it first. Then you have to once again decide on a ship design before carrying on up the tiers.

You can also upgrade specific parts on your ship. Each ship design comes with a specific number of upgrade slots for you to make use of. Upgrades can be found as you travel around the map and salvage shipwrecks. Just access the Shipyard on the map and you can install upgrades right there. You can also sell unused ones for a few extra bucks.

this game screen shows the ship upgrades, showing which tier of ship this is as well as which upgrade slots there. our ship is at the bottom and is a pretty green colour.
Woah Sweet Ride!

Another upgrade that you can get is pets, yes pets. These pets will give you small passive bonusses to help you on your smuggling journey. Leonardo Da Pinchi is a favourite of many, but that little crab isn’t the only pet you can pick up.


Now if wouldn’t be the 1920’s without the Mafia, and in Bootleg Steamer they can both help and hinder. Usually at the same time! If you go and speak to the Mafia they will have a selection of favours that you can purchase. Be careful though because each favour will either raise or lower your mafia debt, once it reaches 100 they released a giant Dreadnaught to hunt you down. Not to mention that if you buy all of these it will eat into your profits.


The maps on Bootleg Steamer are beautiful. A vast mixture of colour pallet to determine a rough area, with the clear waters of the Caribbean to the night lights of the New York Approaches. Each map is lovingly crafted.

You will come across other boats roaming the waters as well. Don’t worry they cant take your ship down, they are purely there to get in your way. And they do!

To successfully sail around the maps you can check out the full map of the level. Just hit the map button next to the compass in the bottom left and you are taken to a full view of the current level. This map will be your friend as it shows where you can sell specific prohibited goods as well as showing you where the land masses are.

a game screen showing the whale under the water. there are two ships as well, one the user controller ship and the other an AI ship. land masses are either side of the ships
Whale Hello There!

Keep an eye out for the little water currents, allowing you to traverse and even get you away from the coastguard quickly.


Now that we have handled the majority of the elements it’s time to comment on the controls. Either using WASD or just purely a mouse, yes sorry there is no controller support for Bootleg Steamer. Using a control that has come straight out of the top down racing market, you use W to move forward and then A and D to turn the boat left and right. The turning is relative to the direction the boat is pointing, so remember that left is not always to go towards the left side of the screen.

Using the mouse is slightly more complicating, it turns the game into more of a point and click style game. Where the boat just wants to follow the mouse pointer.

your ship is salvaging a shipwreck that will hold any number of mysteries. There is a land mass next to you with a transport link and a bridge to the right side
Shipwreck Salvaging

Even if you chose to use the WASD method you will still be required to use the mouse to click on the different locations to access their menus as well as click on the pause button in the bottom right.


During my play through I didn’t really come across anything that effected the overall gameplay of Bootleg Steamer. There was the odd spelling mistake in some of the lore that you are given on the loading screens. Aside from that there was nothing significant that I found. Aside from a boat that was just haemorrhaging prohibited goods into the water.

Graphics & Audio

As mentioned above the maps are beautiful. The water effects are top notch and it makes me excited to see what else Junkfish are going to use that talent on next. The boats are all crafted using a kit system, with three kits of different types equating to over 100 different boats available to see in the game.

My favourite part of the environmental design, and it might seem trivial. Is the whale that can be found on each level. I don’t believe the whale has a name, but perhaps that should be the next social media push.

this screen shows the map, with all the locations and what goods there are to buy or where you can sell them. It shows the land masses to allow you to travel around easy enough.
The Map In All It’s Glory

The cinematic trailer gives us a taste of the music within Bootleg Steamer, and if you haven’t checked it out before, then I will link it at the bottom of the article. As for sound effects, there are plenty of sounds going on, from the train that sometimes travels around the map. Through to the sound of the sirens of the coastguard, well more bell ringing than nee naws.


With each full game lasting for 14 in game years, and each year being one level. If you play through from start to finish it will likely take you around 2 hours. The job with Bootleg Steamer is the challenge of getting there. I definitely found this one one of those “just one more level” type games where I just wanted to keep going and play more and more.

You can even set yourself your own challenges, just try doing a run through by just smuggling whiskey, or moonshine. The difficulty will soon ramp up.

Final Thoughts

So all this sounds great right? Well for the most part it is a great game. The difficulty of the game steadily ramps up so as to introduce you to the game elements before unleashing the full operational coastguard on you. Does it keep it’s fun factor the more you play. Actually yes. The game is a souls-like on water. It’s punishing but rewarding.

Regardless of how you play the game, you will have hours of fun gameplay to be had with Bootleg Steamer.

It’s for that reason that Bootleg Steamer gets the Thumb Culture Gold Award.

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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