Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Core Design
Release Date : 2005
Smart Bomb, a puzzle game for the PSP developed by Core Design and being published by Eidos, is lackluster, even in a genre where the competition is not particularly fierce. I think you'd have to be a tremendous fan of puzzle games in general to get this game, because you obviously should already have purchased the suberb Lumines, and how many puzzle games does a person really need?
Puzzle games rarely have a fantastic plot, because... well... they're puzzle games. I mean, we aren't exactly talking about The Godfather here. On that note, at least, Smart Bomb doesn't (or maybe I should say 'does') disappoint. The pretense of why you're doing all these puzzles is that there are a slew of new, highly-advanced, artificially intelligent (“smart” if you will) bombs out there that are a bit more complicated than “cut the red wire” to disarm. Why they built these bombs with contrived puzzles inside which could lead to their disarming is certainly a good question. The best answer I think is that without the puzzles there would be even less to this game than there already isn't.
Disarming a bomb is broken down into beating a bunch of timed minigames in a particular order. Each bomb is made of a variety of compartments, the completion of each allows access to other compartments. Each compartment contains its own puzzle, so you solve them one puzzle at a time until you've disarmed the bomb. There are a wide variety of puzzles. For example, one of the puzzle-types involves moving gearwheels around in order connect a crank with a cooling fan, while another forces you to move and rotate mirrors in order to direct a laser beam from one wall to another. My favorite mini-game is one where you control a bunch of small balls (marbles really) and roll them around trying to get them all placed on these indentations, while dodging traps and hitting switches to disable arch-nemesis like the dreaded 'forcefield', or the equally horrifying 'fan blade.' Mostly I like it because it has nostalgic value in that it loosely reminds me of one of my favorite NES classics, Marble Madness. Actually, I probably ought to go dig up my old copy of Marble Madness and play that instead.
Seriously though, these puzzles really aren't all that bad, but any of them by themselves wouldn't really make up a game that'd entertain you for more than a few minutes. The question really is whether or not you can make a sandwich when all you're given are a bunch of breadcrumbs instead of whole slices of bread. To me, at least, the answer is no.
Graphically the PSP is not being challenged at all. This could have been a PS1 game, or maybe even SNES. Considering this is a puzzle game where the puzzles are all pretty simple, a gamer could hope for a bit more eye candy. Load times are horrendous given how little there seems to be in this game, which says to me that not a lot of time was spent optimizing before they shipped this one out. Moving from one puzzle to another can cause the game to stutter or lurch a bit, which while not detracting from the gameplay per se, certainly is harmful to the overall aesthetic appeal. The music is wholy unmemorable (unlike Lumines) and the sound effects could have come off of my Aunt's Yamaha keyboard.
The game exists as a way to take a bunch of little games which could have easily been momentary distractions at work or the like (think Flash game level of complexity, only not nearly good as some of the better Flash games you've played), tied together by a lame premise and sold as a retail package. Smart Bomb may not entirely bomb, but it certainly is neither “the bomb” nor is it all that smart.
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