Smash Hit iPad & iPhone game review

Isn't that just typical: you get a nice little sideline publishing twice-monthly articles about how freemium games are killing good software design, then two iPad games come along and prove you wrong. First Only One, and now Smash Hit.

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You may well end up paying the makers of Smash Hit some money through in-app purchases, which is ultimately the aim of a freemium game. But unlike the thinly veiled extortionist scams that people like me vilify, Smash Hit (and Only One) achieve this through persuasion, not annoyance. It's merely an option that's there, promising to make a fun game more fun. But if you don't pay up, it’s not like the game's going to turn into a massive chore.

But before we delve too deeply into the embarrassing topic of money, let's cover Smash Hit's basics. It's an 'on rails' first-person shooter: you don't choose where you go, with your viewpoint instead carried along at the game's whim - onwards, ever onwards, slowly at first but faster and faster as you progress.

Smash Hit iPad and iPhone game review

Where this differs from the average rail shoot-em-up is the lack of enemies in the usual sense. Your only enemies are physical obstacles: big hanging blocks, suspended helices, falling pillars, panes of glass that lift up out of nowhere and bar your path. (In that regard, in fact, the game has more than a hint of the classic endless runner.) Since you can't dodge them, you have to shoot them; with great oversized marbles, rather than conventional bullets. Fail to shoot them in time and you'll just bash through bodily - the screen is rimmed with red, suggesting awful physical trauma - losing 10 points from your life total in the process.

In a neat twist, your life total is also your ammunition count, and when you bash into things your damage is shown by the 10 marbles you just lost spilling onto the floor. Run out of marbles and you judder to a halt and the game is over. Thus you have to husband your ammo while simultaneously trying not to bash into things. (You can replenish your ammo, and pick up power ups, by shooting designated objects.)

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Smash Hit iPad and iPhone game review

Each of these pyramids is worth three balls if you hit it

It's an enjoyable and neat concept, and one that works well with the iPad’s touchscreen interface. Tapping the screen bunts a marble off in that direction, creating a satisfying trajectory through the air that makes long-distance shots tricky to judge (but fun). Of course, if you wait until obstacles are closer they're easier to hit, but you risk a collision.

Smash Hit's trump card, however, is its graphics - the cold, eerie abstract landscapes you travel through, and the delightfully messy and convincing way the obstacles shatter and collapse when you hit them. It's gaming design 101, really: present something attractive and let the player smash it to pieces.

All of this is available for free, then, which is rather impressive. The only catch is that each time you have to restart from the very beginning if you're playing in free mode; shelling out £1.49 for an in-app purchase lets you use checkpoints. This is a perfectly reasonable price, we'd say, but the game is entirely playable without coughing up.

Smash Hit iPad and iPhone game review

Smash Hit iPad & iPhone game review

OUR VERDICT

A neat little shooter/endless runner with personality. Smash Hit is fun and gets quite tense in later stages, and the graphics and satisfying physics effects are extremely satisfying. We do have our doubts about its replay value, even with checkpoints enabled; it’s not the deepest of concepts. But at £1.49 - or nothing, if you can live with going back to the start each time - the limited delights it offers are more than sufficient.

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