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Mobile Game of the Week: Smash Bandits (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: <i>Smash Bandits</i> (iOS)

Smash Bandits is the follow-up to the 2009 “smash” iOS hit Smash Cops. Both games have you drive a car from a top down helicopter perspective as if it was the action shot from a local news report, which is as cool an idea today as it was in 2009. After all, who doesn’t want to play a driving game where you are encouraged to crash into stuff?

In Smash Bandits, the roles are flipped—you play as the bad guys who are trying to dodge cops and get away as far as possible. But it’s not just the characters that are swapped—the game actually plays out quite differently. While Smash Cops took an objective-based three-star approach, Smash Bandits is a free-to-play, “see how far you can get”, high score chaser. With that switch comes a lot of the things we’ve grown to expect from these types of games: achievements, leveling up, an in-game store and a lot of grinding.

But when you actually get into the game itself, the experience is enjoyable—again, who doesn’t want to get points for crashing into stuff and making a mess? As you start the game driving down the road, there are a number of different routes you can take, each leading down a different path of destruction and piled up police cars. In fact, there are so many different paths that you can take that each time you play, you’ll find yourself taking a different road or veering off course into new areas. Marked vehicles and objects along the side of the road give you extra money if you run into them and there are plenty of surprises along the way as well (one may or may not include playing as a boat…) It’s fun to explore this surprisingly large sandbox area that Hutch has created—especially now that you’re not limited by the three star objective mode of the original game.

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I wish that was where this review could end, but unfortunately I have to bring up the fact that a lot of the FTP elements of the game are poorly handled. In Smash Cops, you play as the cops and start off with a car that is fun to drive around in because of how well it handles right off the bat. That’s why I was a little surprised to notice that the responsiveness of the controls was a little awkward and clunky upon my first play of Smash Bandits. The kicker came when I realized that the developers made them that way on purpose. Once you play enough and upgrade your car’s “handling”, then you’ll get an experience that feels smooth—but that’s not a good first impression to make.

The most heinous part of Smash Cops is that each time you play, the “warning level” increases. Once you’ve played five times in a row and your warning level peaks, you are “in jail” and you must spend your hard earned (or purchased) smash chips to get out. That’s right—a penalty just for playing.

Everything else in Smash Bandits is top notch. The menus are entirely swipe based, so even just moving through them is a joy. Most apps could learn a thing or two from this user interface. The frame rate doesn’t take a hit as multiple cop cars run you down and make a mess of the streets. It’s a shame that a few tacky free-to-play elements keep Smash Bandits from being the surefire follow-up it could have been.

Smash Bandits
Developer: Hutch
Platform: iOS
Release Date: 07/12/13
Price: Free (with In App Purchases)

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