Smash Hit Plunder
When I was in elementary school, we would have annual “Fall Festivals.” These events were giant parties at the school where we could exchange tickets for chances to play games and enjoy rides. Hayrides and haunted houses were popular, but the greatest of all experiences was the one based entirely on catharsis—the “Car Bash.” While hindsight tells me that it is horribly misguided to arm young boys with a sledgehammer and carte blanche to smash a car, the event was wildly successful and everyone had a good time. The “Car Bash” was cathartic, and even the little stress my young body had accumulated was quickly alleviated with a quick thwack on the roof of the car.
Developer: Triangular Pixels Ltd.
Publisher: Triangular Pixels Ltd. / Perp Games
Game Length: 4 hours
Controller: Moves (preferred), Dual Shock
PlayPSVR Score: 6.5
I think that’s the feeling Triangular Pixels had in mind when developing “Smash Hit Plunder.” As the game’s title gives away, “Smash Hit Plunder” lets you play the role of a metaphorical bull in a china shop, with the singular aim of destroying everything that’s destructible. The premise is simple: your grandmother has passed away, leaving you as sole heir of the family fortune. Only the family fortune is actually a family debt, and the only remaining inheritance is your grandmother’s giant castle. Except there’s a catch: you can only inherit the castle if you’re able to pay off your grandmother’s debt. Luckily, for some reason, in this game’s universe, the best way to make money is to annihilate valuables scattered around your home.
The gameplay loop of “Smash Hit Plunder” is equally simple. Locked in a room, or series of rooms, you’re tasked with destroying as much property as possible in a limited amount of time. From vases and chairs, to human skulls and ears of corn, there’s lots to pick up and throw around here. Using the Move controllers (or Dual Shock, but please, use the Moves), you can grab almost any item in the environment and begin throwing, smashing, juggling and crashing them. Every moved item yields a gold coin, and every destroyed item yields multiple. To your benefit, you can suck up the coins at a distance by using a vacuum, greatly speeding up the process of paying off your grandmother’s debt. But to get the most buck for your bang, you have to be creative.
The gameplay quickly becomes puzzle-ish in nature, as environments are full of Easter eggs of sort that yield more valuable riches. In one level, I sped past all the rooms until I got to the last one, where I found a plump ghost sleeping on a bed. After hurtling pots, pans, and a sword at the ghost, it finally exploded in a shower of jewels and coins. And like any good slumberer, the most valuable riches were hidden under the bed, only to be collected by sticking my vacuum wand underneath.
While the basic gameplay mode gets the point across, there are also other modes to enjoy. One I particularly enjoyed was the scavenger hunt, wherein a particular item would appear in my book and I would turn the rooms inside out searching for it. Finding an time extended my level time and randomly added another to the list. The hunt gets more frantic, as the rooms get messier and messier during your hunt.
Within these handful of enjoyable gameplay modes, Smash Hit Plunder nails most of its design. The graphics, while technically minimal and retro, are full of colorful personality. Nothing will blow you away, but a bit of charm keeps a game full of ghosts, skulls, and spiders delightfully lighthearted.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the controls. “Smash Hit Plunder” is yet another Move-controlled PSVR title that would benefit immensely from a redesigned control scheme. While options for smooth turning and smooth-ish locomotion are welcome, the input method is cumbersome. Turning requires holding down a button, and physically turning the environment around you with your hand. Locomotion consists of pointing to a desired location, and either “teleporting” or slowly gliding toward the destination. With a bevy of comfort options, there’s room to customize the controls to make them feel better, but ever since Skyrim VR, any scheme eschewing its simple and intuitive Move locomotion will feel frustrating and hindered.
And whether by limitation of the Move controllers, or PSVR tracking in general, Smash Hit Plunder unfortunately misses the mark on one crucial element of the destructive design. I couldn’t quite “feel” the hits. It was hard to get a sense of objects colliding. Sometimes I’d bash a vase against a wall with all my might, only for it to effortlessly bounce off the wall without a crack. Other times I’d pick up hard skull and accidentally drop it, and it would shatter to pieces as if I’d thrown it like Tom Brady (the super bowl happened yesterday). The loss of tactility would be further felt whenever I’d pick up items like hammers and swords. While it’d be extremely fun to bring the house down with a furious slashing of my bastard sword, it felt unintuitive to even hold the item, much less wield it.
But while the control scheme was limited, and the carnage was caged, I couldn’t help but enjoy the game when I finally got mostly used to the controls. They never quite became second nature, but they became natural enough for me to focus on the dual task of sucking up cash while having a bash. And once I got good enough to do that, the game’s design shined. Perhaps two of the most primal natures within me began to seize control: innate human greed and desire for destruction. “Smash Hit Plunder,” despite its cute façade, is a testament to gluttony and havoc.