For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Archiact. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
There’s sometimes games that are released that make it difficult to review, because there’s not a great deal to what the games attempts to do. I feel that this is an area that Smashbox Arena falls into. But, why do I feel this way?
The simple reason for this is, Smashbox Arena know what it wants to offer, and that is all the game does. You will find the following modes in the game training, campaign and multiplayer. The game throws you straight into a tutorial that introduces everything available in the game, you are then put into a basic train/tram station type setting where you can choose one of the three aforementioned game modes.
As mentioned there is a campaign mode on the game, this tells the very vague story about becoming the best Smashbox Arena player, but it’s not thrown together in a very entertaining way. You are just given small lines of dialogues between taking on different teams in the next round (I’ll discuss this later in the review). But, there is nothing gripping to give you any interest in the story.
The game can be played in single player or multiplayer, but the gameplay is exactly the same across both the modes. It’s 3v3 arena battles, that seems to be an odd mix of Unreal Tournament and Dodge Ball. You have two guns. At the beginning of each round balls drop from the sky and you have to pick the ball up with your gun. Once you have the ball in gun you have to fire the ball at your enemy. Hitting them eliminates them from the round. Pick up a ball; rinse and repeat.
However, the rounds include power-up drops, which can range from boulders to Sniper Rifles. These power-up drops add a little bit extra to the gameplay because, although you two guns, one needs to be free to allow for you the teleport your character (movement control). So at times you need to decided to move or be more weaponised. If you do decided to be more weaponised, you can try to defend yourself knocking the balls away with the ball on your other gun (but I found this more of a fluke than a skill learned).
The rounds are short in length, and of you are taking too long, a missile launcher will appear on the map to try to get to in order to gain the advantage on overtime. The balls in the games are also physics based, meaning when you pull off a sweet shot it can feel quite rewarding. Taking into account the base gameplay elements and the choices you have to make, it can make for frantic/fast games. But, it needs this as if they dragged on longer you would become bored.
The single player element of the game does become quite boring quickly and at times frustrating. This is because it will place you and two bots against three bots. It offers three difficulty modes; easy, medium and hard but there does not seem to be a difference in how your two AI bots performs – hence the frustration. On easy mode and after sometime with medium, you will soon find your performance is enough to carry the team, but on hard if you get eliminated you might as well just give in. Once you have been eliminated it soon becomes frustrating seeing you AI teleporting behind enemies and not shooting, instead letting them rotate and take them out. The worse part is this is on all difficulties levels, so that’s why carrying you team on single player is essential, and maybe with more time on hard you learn to – but it’s too irritating to give it time.
Now the multiplayer can be good, but you will find due to barren lobbies your teams will be filled with bots. There has been times over my review I have entered full multiplayer lobbies, but these were not often enough to stick out long online sessions in. However, with the other players being in the lobby and not just bots it becomes twice as frantic and fast paced; plus taking out other real players with good shots is twice as satisfying.
Visually the game is really lack lustre in places, and it lacks that visual flair we are starting to expect in our VR titles. Very basic character models and some bland textures in places, don’t really help the game. As mentioned we are starting to expect more visually from out VR games, and Smashbox Arena looks just above the standard of the low-budget titles from the early entries on the Playstation VR.
The controls on the game are really easy to use, and seem very responsive. Firstly to play Smashbox Arena you will be required to have two Playstation Move Controller (one per weapon). You will pick up your ball(s) or power-ups with the triggers on both controllers and then fire them the same way. Your teleport movement is done by the Move button in the centre of control. You can then turn at 45 degrees using the X button on the corresponding controller depending which way you want to turn. You can also aim by turning yourself and looking about, but, I found with the teleporting a quick turning it cause a little motion sickness – so the 45 degrees turn is the better option for me personally.
I feel that Smashbox Arena is a pick up and play every now and then sort of game. The single player will not grip you, and the often quiet servers makes the online mode not always an option. Meaning the longevity of the game really all depends on finding the more populated times on the servers, which is all down to luck more than anything. But, as the game has been around longer these may pick up, and if they do the game could be one you would spend a lot of time on.
If you have any questions about the review, or want to let me know what you think – feel free to tweet me @TattasticGamer
Smashbox Arena is a game that shows some promise at times, but unfortunately is let down by a lack lustre campaign and quiet lobbies. If the lobbies were populated and you could find groups of other players, the games strong points like the psychics and frantic/fast paced gameplay could shine through. Just at the moment it’s hard to throw this game in the hat as an essential VR purchase.