Smart As Einstein?
It’s safe to say that Smart As is a totally new experience for Sony’s handheld marvel, the PlayStation Vita. Smart As has been compared to another similar experience that appears on the Nintendo DS but in a different kind of way which will be explained later on. Brain training style titles are always welcome as they tend to offer the user something a bit different from the norm of blowing up aliens or racing through city streets like Michael Schumacher on a gallon of Red Bull but does Smart As live up to expectations? Read on to find out.
Game: Smart As
Developer: XDev Studio Europe
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Smart As is a simplistic offering with a plain and clean look throughout taking center stage. With its cartoony look accompanied by bright and vibrant colours, the game is presented very nicely indeed and for what is needed for the style of game that is put in front of you, it works very well. If you’re expecting ultra realistic cut-scenes to feature on this, then you will be very disappointed. What the team has done from a visual aspect, it sits perfectly well within the confines of the genre and what is shown in front of you.
Again, just like the graphical side of the title, Smart As features simplistic tones and sound effects to keep the experience engaging and setting the right tone for what lays ahead. With very simple audio that includes the main music and a few ‘bops and bings’ here and there isn’t much more to say on the audio front. Beside from the main effects and music, Smart As is narrated by none other than British comedic genius, John Cleese who adds a fresh and witty presence to the surroundings. Just like Stephen Fry did with the LittleBigPlanet series, Cleese’s presence adds a fun and engaging tone that fits perfectly well to bring the game away from its more serious ‘brain training’ feel at the perfect moments.
The main focus within the whole Smart As experience is to improve your ability across four main categories by competing in games across these four categories. These are observation, language, logic and arithmetic. Each day you have the chance to improve each category by trying out ‘Daily Training.’ Inside the daily training mode, you are presented with new game across each focus area that is trying to be improved and each day, these daily routine games change to try to keep the experience fresh and engaging. One day you might be attempting a logic game called, Roller Blocks and a observation game called ‘Same Different’ to the next day, you might be tackling a language game called ‘Spell It’ and an observation game called ‘Where Is It.’ It all varies and changes on a daily basis. The biggest problem that I see with the daily training routine is the fact that you can only play it once daily (which makes sense as its called ‘Daily Training’) but the fact that sometimes, it offers you a game that you had previously played and tried out, days before and unfortunately, this does become a bit of a grind at times as it would of been nicer to have all new games to check out on a daily basis, not just them thrown in randomly from time to time.
The Free Play mode offers an alternative to the main daily training in which you can play mini-games throughout each category. The games that feature inside the free play area are different to the main games that pop up during the daily training mode and although they are fun, once you have played them over and over for long periods of time, they become repetitive and samey which is a shame. They work well for what they are meant to be doing but it would have been so much better for the overall experience, to offer us more. This is down to you only being able to play the daily routing mode once a day (where you unlock new ‘free play’ games) so in turn, you are limited to what you can do until you have the chance to unlock some more the following day.
All the controls that feature in Smart As are done through the Vita’s touchscreen and they work very well indeed. During my time with preview code, I had a slight issues with the game not responding to what I wrote during a writing task but thankfully, this issue seems to of been resolved as this time around, I didn’t come across any issues with the game responding to my input. Smart As uses the front and back touchscreen/pads brilliantly well and its great that the full focus of the game is on touch controls only as that is one of the Vita’s strong points and something more games developers that are producing Vita titles, should focus on. Apart from the main daily training mode and free play sections, there is an online mode called ‘Smart As World’ which gives you a ton of options from finding and playing games on the move using the Vita’s near capabilities, checking out who and which city and country is the smartest in the world to game leaderboards. As much as the daily training mode can disappoint due to its limitation, thankfully, Smart As World offers a great alternative to what can become an annoying single-player experience.
While there seems to be quite a substantial number of options at first glance, unfortunately, once you sit down and play, you realise just how limited you are in the way that the game is laid out for you. Because of the way the ‘Daily Training’ mode is implemented, it gives the whole experience and the other modes a lonely feel at times and your playing experience with Smart As, will come in short bursts because of this. Thankfully for those that want a bit more to their overall package, the ‘Smart As World’ offers more variety and options but at the same time, if you strip back the layers, its still essentially the same modes you are playing. While Smart As does offer enough if you’re an pacient gamer, for those of us that want the ability to try out new games on a frequent basis rather than in short spouts, its a bit of a letdown and some gamers may feel detached from the experience after a while.
Smart As is a title like no other on the PS Vita so far, and while it does have some issues in regards to its implementation of modes, the way the experience is presented makes it an enticing proposition to say the least. If you can look past the issues, then Smart As is a title worthy of your time, even if the overall package is somewhat hollow.