Review: Smash Hit

Let’s start this off by saying I’m not an “endless runner” fan.  I tend to prefer games where I can better control my destiny than with a single button click.  Mediocre’s Smash Hit er .. smashes the mold of endless runners by making it gorgeous, enveloping and occasionally frighteningly difficult.

Smash Hit comes to you free from the Google Play store – clocking in at just under 40MB with no subsequent downloads required.   The game was reviewed on my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition).  I made it most of the way through “Checkpoint 3” prior to review.  The plays well on Shield Tablet and while it is compatible with Shield Portable, it may not be comfortable to play.

The Basics

Takin' down the glass....

Takin’ down the glass….

There isn’t much more to the game than the basics.  Some will find this refreshing, some will find this too simple – but this is obviously by design.  The game takes its cue from simplicity; working well on the target devices – requiring only simple touches on the screen to play.

The bare essence of the game is technically an endless runner.  You do not control your direction, speed or viewing; this is all automatic.  Unlike a rail shooter, this view stays fixed through the duration of the game.  I did say it was simple in design, yes?

Your interaction of the game is limited to touching the screen to toss steel-looking balls out in front of you.  No, you don’t control the velocity, rotation or anything else.  You touch, the balls fly out.  Did I mention the design is simple?

You are offered a fixed set of balls to start out with.  Each time you touch the screen, a ball is ejected and a ball is deducted from your ball count.  It is possible to have more than one ball being tossed at a time (more about that later).

What are you throwing balls at?  Great question.  You have two primary targets; triangular prisms which net you extra balls (3 and 5, depending on the target) and … well … anything that you might run into on your run.  The best part?  The latter obstacles are made of gloriously shattering glass.

Survival is the name of the game.  Collisions with ANYTHING will deduct 10 balls from your cache of steel spheres – and when you’re out of balls?  The game is over.

Simple doesn’t mean easy …

Advanced Play

approaching_doorOnce you get past the seemingly simplistic game design, you quickly learn there is a lot more here than meets the eye.  Once you get the “Hulk Smash” out of your system, you realize the game is about ball conservation and pure survival – it isn’t a traditional score attack game.  You don’t get rewarded for decimating a sheet of glass instead of just punching a simple hole to fly through.  You’ll burn balls a lot during the early rounds, only to find yourself strapped later on when you restart from your checkpoint.

After each area, you are awarded a checkpoint – which you can restart from (this requires you purchase the one time unlock IAP for $1.99).  The amount of balls you had when you passed the checkpoint will be the same number you have when you respawn.  You may have to jump back a checkpoint or two and figure out better ways to use your balls.

Your max distance is always recorded – so you know exactly what you have to beat the next go around.

As you fly through the gorgeous, simply world – you’ll run into a multitude of objects that will get in your path.  At first, it will be simple sheets of glass.  Progressing further, you’ll encounter hanging sheets, spinning blade-like sheets of glass and much more.  You’ll have to open doors by hitting switches with your balls (go ahead and chuckle, I know I did when I wrote this) or suffer the penalty of lost balls.  Timing quickly becomes everything while you fight to keep your balls in your hands (what am I?  12?  I’m still snickering).

Extra balls are frequently available to collect, but you’ll often have to decide if you can throw balls fast enough to hit them while still protecting yourself.

Fortunately, there are some powerups to help you along the way.  You get multi-ball from hitting a certain number of ball prisms consecutively, letting you throw two balls at once each time you touch the screen.  Early on you will encounter a neat “unlimited balls” powerup (Ball Frenzy) that let’s you shoot willy-nilly for a short period of time without consuming balls.  Imagine a machine gun with steel marbles and you’ll get the idea.  It is a great temptation to use this right away and go bananas, but you’ll learn to conserve these as you can use them to save your bacon when you run out of balls.

The game also tracks your stats and stores your game progress in the cloud so you can pick up your checkpoints on all your devices.  Both of these features (along with checkpoint restarts) are premium unlocks.  See The Smurfberry Factor below.

Leaderboards and Achievements

Both of these features can really make or break a game like this.  Leaderboards offer three areas to compete; best distance (the real “score” of the game), peak ball count and longest streak (throwing balls without missing).  A simple login to Google Play Services gets you in.

There are 16 achievements to be earned – and some are really damn clever.  Things like “developer love” when you buy the premium version, “Close Call” when you hit a ball prism with your LAST ball and “Living Dead” (getting three Close Calls in one game), reaching certain peak ball counts, consecutive hits and many more.

The Smurfberry Factor

iapThis game features a single, one-time $1.99 (at the time of writing) purchase to unlock the “premium” version.  You can then “restore purchases” on any other device signed into your Google account and get all your information synced up.  This is the way it should be; pay once and it’s yours.  Nothing more to buy.  No means to “buy your way” up the leaderboards.  It makes me proud to see more developers embracing the old “shareware” model of charging; play for free – if you want more, pay a small fee.

As previously mentioned, $1.99 buys you the ability to restart from any checkpoint, store your game save in the cloud and track your stats throughout the life of the game.  Extremely reasonable.

I give this game the lowest possible Smurfberry Factor score a paid app can get; 1 out of 5.

The Dark Side

No app is perfect.  In this section, we’ll look at what might be wrong with the title.

I pondered long and hard to find SOMETHING negative to say about this game.  I can’t complain about the graphics, the audio, the controls – not even the IAP is bad.  A rare day indeed.

While the difficulty does ramp up pretty fast (and that is very off-putting to the casual gamer), you literally do get better with practice and experience.  The casual player will find this possibly too challenging to make a long term commitment to, but die hard score-chasers will love the addictive quality of it all.

“Hard core” or “dudebro” gamers will be turned off by the simple premise and will likely uninstall the game before it even gets fun.  That’s ok; this isn’t a game for them – they have Dead Trigger 2 to play.

Final Words

This might be as close to the “perfect mobile game” ever.  Looks great, plays great and is totally approachable – plus it’s reasonably priced with no hidden fees to jack up your place on the Leaderboards.

Even if you don’t pay (and you better, or I might have to hunt you down and peg you with a steel ball) – you can’t afford not to have this game on every mobile phone and tablet you own.  Perfect distraction game for the waiting room at the doctor – or shooting for that big distance while cuddled up on your couch at home.  Easily one of the top games of the year.

Get It Google Play
Developer Mediocre
Price Free or $1.99 for Premium Version
Smurfberry Annoyance Factor 1 (of 5)

 

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