Sminis Delivers Simple Yet Complex 3D Reflex-based World

Posted: March 11, 2012 in Puzzle

Simplicity is a trait that many strive for, but most struggle to achieve.  This mantra is one that game developers should take heed when developing titles for the iTunes store.  To be precise, the reality is about balancing the notion of pick and play with the complexities of an engaging experience for the mass audience.  Fortunately, Sminis by Angry Rock Studios does a relatively fantastic job combining a surreal world based on the Unreal 3 Engine with a simple in concept, yet intense “test of your will” puzzler.  With an original storyline to spice up the fun if not unoriginal game, Sminis will have you saying “let me try that again” over and over.

The Sminis are robot beings who while not the smartest tools in the shed, have developed some free will.  Of course, the free will of these little mechanical creatures gives them the desire to escape the clutches of an evil scientist.  The objective is to help them navigate through various chambers of automated horrors, while preventing them from getting smashed (and I don’t mean drunk) to pieces.

Sminis comes with 30 levels broken into three zones each with three levels of difficulty.  In each level, players must save a minimum number of Sminis while allowing only pre-determined number of casualties.  In other words, too many mashed up Sminis means that the evil scientist will have a good day at your expense.  Depending skill level, you can choose to play at the one-, two-, or three-star level with three stars being the most difficult.  The higher three-star difficulty typically means you’re given less leeway in terms of Sminis destroyed, while the easier one- and two-star difficulty provides a greater number of Smini smashups.  Of course, the more stars earned will open up the other zones much sooner.

Regardless of whether you like enjoy reflex-based games, the artwork in Sminis is one to behold.  The cool, retro-industrial look built on the Unreal 3 Engine looks amazing, and doesn’t have that run-of-the-mill animation you’d expect.  Running the game on the iPad, the 3D animation is as good as you’d expect with a game of this kind.  The equally industrial soundtrack more than adequately complements the gameplay, although it can become somewhat annoying after playing and failing a few levels.

The game is all about reflex, skill and most importantly patience.  Sminis appear at timed intervals denoted by a timer that countdowns until the emergence of the next batch.  The complexities of the levels are what make Sminis a treat.  From rotating saws and chomping robots to moving platforms and speeding crates, Sminis face some death defying obstacles.

The one-button control is simple enough that it may deceive you into some complacency.  The button controls movement, but what will trip up most of you is the speed and frequency that the Sminis appear.  The aspect which adds a nice layer of complexity is that not all Sminis stop or move at the same time.  In fact, stopping one Smini will likely cause another to move which if not timed correctly mean pureed Smini.  And, Sminis running into each other is also a big no-no.

The creative level designs are one of the strong points and almost reminiscent of something you’d see in a James Bond movie.  There is a good feeling of depth and texturing within the levels which really add to the game and the obstacles featured.  For example, saws and razors come in a variety of forms from stationary and swinging to up and down among others, while crates and boxes speed along with abandon.  Later levels even offer electrical currents that not only short circuit but fry the little guys.

As for the degree of difficulty, even the early levels can be a bit trying until you get into a good pace of stopping and moving Sminis.  It’s easy to throw the entire level into oblivion with one wrong move.  A nice side attraction is collecting different helmets that can be used to outfit your Sminis.  For all the game’s simplicity, it would’ve been nice to include some power ups or other incentives that add to the gameplay.

Each zone culminates with a boss fight which is probably the weakest part of the game because they feel like they were simply added as an afterthought.  For example, the intimidating sounding Disposer simply controls parts of the platform tiles so that buzzsaws appear.  Mech Guard, on the other hand, is a ground shaking boss who’s more bark than bite.  They just weren’t as satisfying as the rest of the game, and hopefully, the devs experiment a bit more on this front.

Sminis has GameCenter support with a number of achievements which along with the star system adds to the replay value.

Sminis is a fun and challenging puzzler presented in an amazing 3D environment.  The different degrees of difficulty cater to players’ skill levels, and overall, there’s a solid addictive nature.  Aside from the lackluster boss fights, Sminis’ attraction is in its simplicity as much as its complexity.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (fantastic 3D industrial world with equally challenging gameplay; simple one-button control offset by its complex test of rhythm, skill and patience; level design is creative and varied; boss fights can be lacking and menus are minimal; GameCenter support)


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