Puzzle games have always made up a significant portion of a handheld's library, and the PSP looks like it will be no different. Hot on the heels of the stellar Lumines, and average Archer Maclean's Mercury, comes Smart Bomb, a game from Eidos where you must defuse a variety of bombs as quickly as possible. The concept behind Smart Bomb is fine, but the execution is so poor that even the most die-hard puzzle fans will agree that Smart Bomb is a dud.
Smart Bomb tries to implement a story about a rookie in the Bomb Disposal Unit, and her missing mentor, but it's not interesting, and frankly, people don't play puzzle games for engrossing storylines. I'd have settled for no storyline, and some tighter gameplay. There are several different types of "bombs" to diffuse, each represented by a different type of puzzle. One puzzle involves turning tiles to connect different colored wires, another requires balls to be rolled around, a la Archer Maclean's Mercury, and then there are the infuriating puzzles where you must refract lasers by positioning mirrors. The concept for each puzzle is fine, but the execution is where the game falls short.
When a game can't get the training mode right, you know you're in for a long day. There's very little instruction, and there's a timer in the menu that counts down and kills you if you don't pick fast enough. That's right; you can die in the menu screen. Brilliant. After picking a training mission, you're thrown right into the mix, complete with the game's all too short timers. Even the first training puzzles can be difficult, and the allotted time is simply not long enough, especially when you're trying to learn the controls. To make matters worse, as the timer runs out, the screen begins to shake, making it near impossible to accomplish anything on screen. If you've got a few things left to do, and less than ten seconds to go, you'd might as well give up, because you're not getting anything done with the screen shaking like mad. To say it's frustrating is an understatement. You can grab powerups, some of which will extend your time, but it's often counterproductive to do so, because getting powerups usually involves you not focusing on your goal of diffusing the bomb.
Once you've beaten a few puzzles, the game continues to frustrate as one failure results in you having to do every single puzzle in that section over again. To make matters worse, you can't even try the puzzle you failed first – you have to beat all the others leading up to it. The load times aren't long, but they are frequent, which can be just as bad. The multiplayer modes aren't anything to write home about, since they are so clearly skewed towards the experienced Smart Bomb player. It's not competitive, and it's not fun. The controls are unresponsive, and are unable to keep up with quick multiple button presses. Since the game requires quick decisions and precise movement, this is a huge flaw.
The graphics are unremarkable, and don't show any signs of creativity. The framerate is occasionally poor, which shouldn't happen with such a simple game. The sound is equally bland, though it doesn't do anything to make you crazy – perhaps the only part of the game that can make that claim.
Smart Bomb is a terrible game. It's not fun, it's infuriating, and it feels like a budget title that was rushed out the door. Unless you have an incredibly high tolerance for dying and repeating tasks, there's no reason to spend another second thinking about this game. I read the reviews and ignored them, hoping that I would find a few hours of enjoyment. I was a fool. Don't make the same mistake, avoid Smart Bomb at all costs.