Game Reviews

Smash Champs

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Smash Champs
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| Smash Champs

Is it fair to go into a game with certain expectations, and find yourself disappointed when they're not met?

Or is it only fair to approach each and every game as a clean slate, and work on the merits it reveals as you play?

If we're talking about fair and unfair, the latter is probably the more reasonable approach. But you don't buy games without looking for certain aspects that you believe - or expect - will be fulfilled.

And Smash Champs is a fine example of how a gaming experience can easily be ruined by promising something and not delivering.

This, you see, is a fighting game without any fighting in it.

The art of fighting without fighting

Getting into the game's strongest features first, it deserves a standing ovation for its visuals. The character designs of the anthropomorphic animal fighters put Kung Fu Panda to shame, and their excellence spills over fully into the animation and the sheer quality of the 3D rendering.

Everything about them is lucid and smooth, which makes it all the worse when it turns out you're never really in control of them.

All the Street Fighter-esque fighting is automated. This isn't part of the gameplay, regardless of how the developer makes it appear in the sales pitch, videos, and screenshots.

Smash Champs is actually a mediocre Fruit Ninja clone. Your only input into the combat is in training your pugilist by swiping at green balls between bouts.

This shores up your fighter's experience level so they can take on tougher challengers while you sit at the side of the ring and watch.

It'd be one thing if this was a great swipe-'em-up-style game, and was positioned that way in its description, but it's not. The gesture mechanics are tepid at best, with little progression in the actual ball chopping gameplay. You swipe, you watch a bout, you lament not being able to join in, and you repeat.

"Watch them fight!"

It’s almost insulting when control is taken away from you just as Smash Champs gets interesting, and the game even lauds it in front of you, saying, "Watch them fight!" before the good stuff begins.

Okay, so looking at Smash Champs' iTunes description, nowhere does it technically say that you'll be in control of these amazing-looking animal combatants, or that you'll be taking them into a grand rumble.

But you probably feel the same way we do about being caught out on a technicality. Save that for the lawyers and used car salesmen.

Being a statistics-based fight, it's hard to feel that your work is paying off when the game goes online to grab another player's stats to generate the bout.

For all you know, the other guy just bought a bunch of power-ups via an in-app purchase, so you're actually fighting his wallet, and not his gaming skills.

Everything about Smash Champs suggests you'll be getting your digital knuckles good and bloodied in an insanely creative and beautiful beat-'em-up.

When all you get to do is watch the fight, and take no part in it, it's impossible to avoid a terminal disappointment.

This is a passive viewing experience. A cartoon with no story, and a game with almost no participation.

Smash Champs

What could have been the iPhone's best looking beat-'em-up turns out to be an empty firework show with little for you to actually do
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