App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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I’m a sucker for slo-mo in video games, which is exactly why I’m drawn to SMASH PUCK. This simple puzzle game feels like a mix between air hockey and pool where you can activate slow motion to re-tool your shots while they’re still in motion. This great concept is matched with a minimal presentation that has great attention-to-detail, but SMASH PUCK doesn’t quite nail its concept as well as it could.
Pull and puck
Every level of SMASH PUCK is an abstract puzzle course that contains at least two pucks. One of these pucks you control by dragging and releasing to send it sliding in the opposite direction, and your goal is to use this puck to get the other puck into a hole. Simple enough, right?
At the outset of the game, things are definitely pretty easy, but quickly enough, strange geometry, puzzling obstacles, and gravitational forces start entering stages to make things pretty tricky. To make things more difficult, each level of SMASH PUCK limits the number of times you can shoot your puck, so you have to be careful and precise to pass each and every stage.
Sliding in slo-mo
In a lot of ways SMASH PUCK doesn’t sound that different from loads of other puzzle games on the App Store, but the game’s striking presentation is a huge differentiating factor. SMASH PUCK has a minimalistic art style and mesmerizing soundtrack that really draws you into its action.
The key to making this overall aesthetic work is SMASH PUCK’s slo-mo mechanics. Whenever you re-aim a shot, the game starts moving at a fraction of the pace, but makes this transition extremely smoothly. To help make it ever-more-satisfying, entering slow motion also slow’s down SMASH PUCK’s music, which is a really nice touch.
Slowly going mad
SMASH PUCK is a really satisfying puzzle game, but only when you know how to beat its puzzles. Through the first few worlds, this should be easy enough, but as things get increasingly difficult, there are times where you see what you need to do to pass a level, but can’t quite execute on the plan.
This partly has to do with the fact that SMASH PUCK is physics-based, but certain puzzles can prove frustrating because you just feel like you don’t have enough shots to do what the game is asking you to do. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if you could skip around between the game’s puzzles and revisit them later, but you can’t really do that. You have to complete a full set of 12 stages on a world to progress to the next one in SMASH PUCK, and if you can’t do that, too bad. You just have to keep trying until you do.
The bottom line
I appreciate SMASH PUCK’s dedication to making a really slick and straightforward puzzler, but I also wish it would grant me a little room to explore and experiment with it. Late-game stages can get so exacting that you may have to practice nailing extremely specific shots just to pass them, even though the solution is as plain as day. I get having to learn how to manage and aim your shots is all part of SMASH PUCK’s puzzles, but it can also take you out of what is otherwise a mesmerizing and relaxing experience.