The music? Funky. The battlefield? Your everyday household settings, but wetter. The boats? Ready to smash.
My first impression of Smash Boats when I saw the trailer was “Damn that game looks like stupid goofy fun.” And I am happy to report that my initial and totally professional assessment was correct. Your goal is to take control of a toy boat and fight off waves of opposing toys in water-based life-sized environments. Designed as a lighthearted arcade action experience, Smash Boats offers up sixty levels worth of easy-to-pick-up but hard-to-master gameplay that pulls you right into the fun with no preamble.
The way it breaks down is that there are six different “pools”, each assigned a difficulty. The only one available to you at first is the beginner difficulty pool: the Bathtub. Each pool has ten levels in which you can earn the stars needed to unlock the next pool on the difficulty list. To earn stars you will need to hunt down the optional purple star-carrying boats that appear during each wave before they vanish. Most levels contain five stars to collect, but each pool contains two special Mayday levels that reward you with ten if you can complete them but we’ll touch more on those levels in a bit.
Your very first boat is Geeky; a yellow floaty school bus toy with a bright red pencil strapped to its roof with a rubber band. Truly a machine made for war. Geeky specializes in long-range ramming, which makes it a handy starter. The boat selection menu contains a total of sixteen boats and displays their specialties and unlock conditions. They’re simple enough to unlock; you only need to sink the required number of boats. I had half of them by the time I reached the Kiddie Pool, which is the fourth area. The roster is a fun and varied bunch, though some are more useful than others. Every boat has a basic moveset of ramming forward, ramming backward, and the ability to submerge temporarily to avoid a charging enemy or attack another submerged boat. Each of these actions has a small cooldown, so you have to be smart and attack methodically or else you’ll be at a disadvantage.
What really sets the boats apart from one another is that each one has a unique special skill that changes the type of tactics you use and encourages different playstyles. Jawsy is a shark-boat whose special lets you mash the button to keep chomping on boats that are unlucky enough to cross his path. Sounds familiar? This special makes it a great option for people who like getting up close and wreaking havoc. My personal favorite is Boxy, who looks something like a buff tractor with a boxing glove attached to the front. Boxy’s special launches a mid-range punch in his front-facing direction. What makes Boxy a great choice is that since its special attack has decent range and a quick cooldown, I can use it to effectively block an enemy's charge and deal damage at the same time while also knocking him off course and opening him up to a ram attack. Some are just fun to use for purely comical reasons. Irony is a racing boat with a giant frying pan attached that it uses without prejudice. Hitting an enemy boat with its frying pan makes a bonk sound so satisfying it would make Flynn Rider cream his pants. The enemy boats you come across are just as varied, with each pool having their own lot of zany and unique boats with different attack styles that will force you to adapt on the fly.
There are more things to take into consideration when in battle than simply smashing everything in sight. There are usually obstacles floating around the water that can serve as cover in a pinch. Powerups will occasionally appear and can give you temporary advantages, such as dealing double ram damage or granting a shield. Sunken boats drop batteries to restore your boat’s health a tiny bit but occasionally there will be a glowing blue marker that restores a larger amount when you sail through it. Some pools have dangerous hazards that can damage you if you come in contact with them. Vanity has a press dividing the level that can kill you outright if you get caught in between them when they slam together. My favorite mechanic is the bubble wand. When you see a glowing bubble wand, you can sail into it and be launched into the air, giving you the chance to dish out a massively damaging divebomb onto someone! Another way to gain a huge advantage is to be on the lookout for tugboats carrying block letters. Destroy enough of them to spell the word SMASH and you will get a nuke that wipes out every single boat in the wave.
As I mentioned earlier, there are two special levels in each pool. When you select them, MAYDAY appears across the screen and you are lifted out of the pool and transported to a special arena located somewhere else in the room. One of the first MAYDAYS you’ll come across is in the Bathtub pool and goes by the name Feces Pieces and it takes place, as you may have guessed, in a dirty toilet bowl. The MAYDAYS give you 60 seconds to collect all the stars in the level while dealing with obstacles and hazards that get increasingly harder as the challenge goes on. In this case, catching the stars is made harder by being in a toilet bowl full of corn-speckled poop and other objects while the water spins like a whirlpool. Oddly enough, this is one of the reasons I wanted to pick up the game for review. Don’t judge me: I had to see this in action for myself haha. This is the great thing about Smash Boats. It constantly keeps you on your toes by changing things up and offering new challenges in the weirdest way possible.
What developer Smash House Games has done here is create a wonderful arcade experience that is simple enough to pick up and play while offering an increasingly harder challenge. It draws players in with a unique concept and smooth visuals and then gives them the incentive to play via the star system and cool, unlockable boats and levels. More importantly, the game gives off a powerful “one more level” energy because of its satisfying gameplay loop that does its best to keep you playing without interruption. Smash Boats is exactly what a videogame should be: stupid goofy fun.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
Player2Reviews aims to be a reputable second opinion on the gaming industry covering news, reviews, and commentary on all things pop-culture!
All 3DS Batman #BreakdownsAndBrews DLC Giveaways Google Play Hardware IOS/Android Late Night Netflix Let's Play Movies News Nintendo Nintendo Switch Original PC Player2Plays Preview PS4 PS5 PS Vita Review Reviews Steam Submissions #TBTReview Trailers Twitch Unboxing Video Games Xbox Xbox One Xbox Series X/S Youtube