Smart As… – The PS3 Attitude Review
Developed by Climax and Sony’s XDev studio, Smart As is a brand new puzzle game, most easily described as the Vita’s answer to Nintendo’s Brain Age series. Don’t hold that against it though, because Smart As is far more than a lazy clone of a six year old game. The title uses all the console’s features to create an experience that is only possible on Vita; but is it worth buying?
After creating a brief profile, the first thing you do in Smart As is complete your first Daily Training session, which is split into four minigames that test your skills (or lack thereof) in Arithmetic, Language, Logic and Observation. The games cover a wide range of activities, from spelling and maths, to more original puzzles; for the most part, they all work extremely well.
At the end of the session, the game calculates your Brain Power, displayed as a percentage; in other words, the closer to 100% you get, the cleverer you are. In subsequent sittings of Daily Training (which, as you may have guessed, can only be played once per day), your task is to improve your Brain Power score, giving you a reason to return every day.
While Daily Training is clearly the main focus of Smart As, in fact this will only take up a few minutes a day, so most of your time with the game will actually be spent in the Free Play area. This is where you can play any of the 20 minigames for as long as you want; four are available by default, and more are unlocked by completing Daily Training sessions.
Think of the Free Play area as a bit like the Vita’s Welcome Park tutorial, only much more substantial. It’s all about high scores here; each of the minigames has its own local and online leaderboard, so you can see your own improvement as well as how you stack up against the rest of the world. The modes are split up into the same four categories as Daily Training.
Achieving a high score in any game will earn you three stars and unlock the next difficulty level for that specific activity. In general, Easy and Medium are fairly simple, Hard offers a decent challenge, and Genius could likely make even Stephen Hawking weep. If you’re brave enough to try for three stars in all 20 minigames on all four difficulties, then you have our respect!
The vast majority of the minigames are genuinely fun to play too, and the touch screen and rear touch work brilliantly. However, a couple of activities require the use of the more unusual Vita features, such as the cameras or augmented reality. To be frank, these don’t really add anything to the overall experience of the game, and consequently feel a little tacked on.
However, one area that Smart As absolutely excels in is its social interactivity. As well as online leaderboards, the game constantly streams all kind of data, comparing your scores and stats to your friends as well as the wider gaming community. The Near app is also used in a number of ways, such as special challenges that are only available to players in your local area.
The presentation of Smart As is purposefully minimalist, with white as the game’s predominant colour; this is presumably to give you as few distractions on the screen as possible at any one time. Injecting some much needed life into the game is the ever hilarious John Cleese, who acts as your guide and talks you through each of the various modes and features.
His delivery strikes the perfect balance between encouragement, chastisement and humour, so it’s clear to see why he was brought onboard. The amount of variety in his lines is also impressive, so the dialogue shouldn’t get too repetitive. In truth, LittleBigPlanet wouldn’t be LittleBigPlanet without Stephen Fry, and Smart As really wouldn’t be Smart As without John Cleese.
At £19.99, Smart As offers a fun and rewarding experience that puzzle game fans are sure to enjoy. If it was slightly cheaper it would be even easier to recommend, but the current price does seem fair considering the amount of time you could invest in it. The demo should definitely be tried first, but if Smart As grabs you, it’ll potentially grant you with months of entertaining content.