Third time lucky?
We've had mixed feelings about the Smash series on Modojo over the last year or so of reviewing the games. In Smash Cops, we were blown away by the visuals, but found the controls a little unresponsive and the missions a little limited. In Smash Cops Heat it was largely more of the same, albeit with some fresh control niggles. So what can Smash Bandits do to break the mold?
As before, you only need one finger to control your vehicle of choice in Smash Bandits, and overall the system feels much more responsive and accurate than in previous games. You simply hold your finger behind the vehicle to have it speed up, move that held-down finger left or right to steer the car, and release and tap on an adjacent police vehicle to ram it. It's simple, but it really works now.
This being racing's equivalent of an endless runner, your job is simply to survive as long as possible, and cause as much carnage as possible while you're at it. Smashing and crashing into objects and vehicles increases the press attention bestowed upon you, and the more press attention you have, the more money you get to spend on upgrades.
The problem is, even after a short amount of time with the game, the whole thing feels incredibly bland and lacking in any kind of excitement. Even the commentator in the sky, reporting on your exploits to the eager audience at home, sounds incredibly, spectacularly bored with the whole thing. This doesn't exactly help lift the game up from its rather repetitive core mechanics.
There are different routes to be taken through the game's environments, and you can switch between vehicles as you play, but upgrades aside there's an overwhelming feeling that once you've spent ten minutes with the game you've probably sucked dry whatever enjoyment there is to be had from it. It's a pity really, when you consider how slick the game looks and controls, how much carnage you can cause, and how solid that control system feels.
As a free-to-play title, there are gameplay restrictions to deal with too. Each time you're busted by the cops after taking too much damage, your Wanted level increases. Once you've been busted five times, you have to wait for a timer to expire before you can play again - unless you pony up some real cash, of course. If you're not prepared to suffer a mountain of ads, even the average cars will cost you money as well.
Like earlier games in the series, Smash Bandits is a funny old thing all things considered. It controls like a dream, it looks wonderful, and yet there's no meat to the gameplay, and nothing that makes you feel compelled to do better the next time around. No doubt it's fun for a time, but there wasn't enough to keep us engaged for the long run.
What's Hot:Fantastic visuals, great controls, and a decent selection of upgrades and new vehicles to work towards.
What's Not:Unexciting gameplay in the long run, and a rather grim IAP-driven wait between gaming sessions.