Content Test 3

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Smart Bomb
Graphics: 4
Gameplay: 2
Sound: 4
Control: 3.5
Replay Value: 1
Rating: 3
Puzzle games have always made up a significant portion of a handheldís library, and the PSP looks like it will be no different. Hot on the heels of the stellar Lumines, and average Archer Macleanís Mercury, comes Smart Bomb, a game from Eidos where you must defuse a variety of bombs as quickly as possible. The concept behind Smart Bomb is fine, but the execution is so poor that even the most die-hard puzzle fans will agree that Smart Bomb is a dud.

Smart Bomb tries to implement a story about a rookie in the Bomb Disposal Unit, and her missing mentor, but itís not interesting, and frankly, people donít play puzzle games for engrossing storylines. Iíd have settled for no storyline, and some tighter gameplay. There are several different types of ďbombsĒ to diffuse, each represented by a different type of puzzle. One puzzle involves turning tiles to connect different colored wires, another requires balls to be rolled around, a la Archer Macleanís Mercury, and then there are the infuriating puzzles where you must refract lasers by positioning mirrors. The concept for each puzzle is fine, but the execution is where the game falls short.

When a game canít get the training mode right, you know youíre in for a long day. Thereís very little instruction, and thereís a timer in the menu that counts down and kills you if you donít pick fast enough. Thatís right; you can die in the menu screen. Brilliant. After picking a training mission, youíre thrown right into the mix, complete with the gameís all too short timers. Even the first training puzzles can be difficult, and the allotted time is simply not long enough, especially when youíre trying to learn the controls. To make matters worse, as the timer runs out, the screen begins to shake, making it near impossible to accomplish anything on screen. If youíve got a few things left to do, and less than ten seconds to go, youíd might as well give up, because youíre not getting anything done with the screen shaking like mad. To say itís frustrating is an understatement. You can grab powerups, some of which will extend your time, but itís often counterproductive to do so, because getting powerups usually involves you not focusing on your goal of diffusing the bomb.

Once youíve beaten a few puzzles, the game continues to frustrate as one failure results in you having to do every single puzzle in that section over again. To make matters worse, you canít even try the puzzle you failed first Ė you have to beat all the others leading up to it. The load times arenít long, but they are frequent, which can be just as bad. The multiplayer modes arenít anything to write home about, since they are so clearly skewed towards the experienced Smart Bomb player. Itís not competitive, and itís not fun. The controls are unresponsive, and are unable to keep up with quick multiple button presses. Since the game requires quick decisions and precise movement, this is a huge flaw.

The graphics are unremarkable, and donít show any signs of creativity. The framerate is occasionally poor, which shouldnít happen with such a simple game. The sound is equally bland, though it doesnít do anything to make you crazy Ė perhaps the only part of the game that can make that claim.

Smart Bomb is a terrible game. Itís not fun, itís infuriating, and it feels like a budget title that was rushed out the door. Unless you have an incredibly high tolerance for dying and repeating tasks, thereís no reason to spend another second thinking about this game. I read the reviews and ignored them, hoping that I would find a few hours of enjoyment. I was a fool. Donít make the same mistake, avoid Smart Bomb at all costs.

6/14/2005   Aaron Thomas