Mobile gaming

Game review: Smashy Duo – mobile squash against monsters’ faces is minimalistic fun

Smashy Duo’s simple Pong-like arcade dynamic plays out beautifully – especially as the rallies get longer – and with so much fun pop-culture content to unlock, players will keep coming back for more

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 8:00pm

Smashy Duo

Big Frost Games

4 stars

You have got to hand it to the unsung heroes behind old arcade games – the ones who broke new ground in the early days of the medium, stumbling around in the proverbial dark, working with limited technology and yet somehow still creating addictively enjoyable games.

Many modern developers have tried to recreate the vibe of old arcade games, but not always with the same success. Smashy Duo (available for Android and iOS), however, is one of the best – it manages to strike a balance between classic and contemporary with enough to keep the player coming back.

The set-up is simple: you control two bat-wielding characters and your only goal is to hit a ball back and forth against a pit full of monsters. Think squash, except you control the swings with your thumbs, and the court is a hell of the living dead.

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The minimalistic gameplay is really what makes it work. It has a Pong-like arcade dynamic that often plays out beautifully, especially as the rallies get longer, while hitting certain monsters sets off a firework-like chain reaction.

Another thing that will keep you coming back is the unlockables. You can gain access to a huge number of stages and unlock several special skills – though the goal for most players will be collecting as many characters as they can from the boundless cast.

You might recognise some faces, even if their names have been cheekily renamed: Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter, Autobots and Decepticons – even the heated Agassi-Sampras ’90s tennis rivalry is given its due. Each pair of players is a pop-culture favourite, and working out which duo is hidden behind each lock is a large part of the appeal.

Smashy Duo doesn’t do much, but it is impressive how a little can go a long way. The game takes many gaming clichés – ping-pong vibes, pop-culture players, streams of enemies – and puts them all together into a simple, small game that just works.

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You’ll have to contend with ads, and you’ll probably miss a few appointments in real life, but it’s a small price to pay for smacking a ball against hordes of monsters’ faces.