Smash it, and smash it again: This simple game-play mechanism underpins the addictively fun Smash Hit

March 18, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 18, 2014

This past weekend, I found myself in need of another mindless distraction. I found Smash Hit at the top of the free software list in the Apps Store.

The name winkingly refers not just to the app’s current No. 1 status but to its key game-play mechanism: The player automatically advances through a geometrical landscape, lobbing chrome balls to destroy obstacles and acquire resources. The balls, which are dead ringers for pinballs, shatter triangular power-up crystals as well as a variety of glass bars and panes.

Hit one of the triangular crystals and you’ll be rewarded with three additional balls. Smash 10 consecutive triangular crystals without letting one pass by unmolested and you’ll be able to fire two balls at once. Smashing 10 more crystals without a miss empowers the player to shoot three balls simultaneously; extend the streak and your ammunition will grow more potent, to a point.

Let a power-up crystal pass untouched, however, and you’re back to shooting just one ball at a pop. Running into an obstacle does the same thing and also penalizes the player 10 balls. The game ends when the player’s ammunition reserve is empty.

Both visually and sonically, Smash Hit is beautiful. A variety of landscapes smoothly unspool on the horizontally-oriented screen. Some are reminiscent of corridors, others of caverns; still others suggest factories or mountain ranges. Distance and, occasionally, fog obscure features that are farther away. As the game progresses, more of the obstacles (and some of the crystals) move, making them harder to hit. 

Smash nearby crystal or glass and the noise will be loud; hit distant obstacles and the report will be faint. The balls also make sounds as they bounce off of parts of the landscape or roll randomly along level surfaces.

The game’s soundtrack is fitted to each segment, going up-tempo when the player’s velocity is high or when the landscape springs a number of obstacles in the player’s way. The music scales back in areas where the player moves at a slower rate or faces fewer hazards. 

Smash Hit works on a freemium model; the game can be downloaded at no cost, but in this mode, the player always must begin at the very start of the game. Pay $1.99 and the user can begin play from various checkpoints in the game’s landscape; the premium version also displays statistics (balls thrown, objects broken, hit rate), although this strikes me as a much weaker incentive.

What this review so far fails to convey is the sheer appeal of Smash Hit. It’s a fun and addictive entertainment, with all its elements coming together beautifully.

Smash Hit has provided me with hours of entertainment. Too many hours, in fact; it’s too good, too addictive. I fully intend to delete it before the week is done! 

The game was developed by Dennis Gustafsson and Henrik Johansson, with Douglas Holmquist providing music and sound effects. It’s distributed by an outfit called Mediocre AB.

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