Smash Hit is a gaze-based shooter from Mediocre Games that has you breaking glass barriers in a futuristic, but deceptively simple environment. Use your glass-smashing metal orbs wisely, because when you run out, that’s the end of your forward journey through the bowels of the Technicolor 5th dimension.
To be upfront, I used to dislike gaze shooters on principle. I still think most of them are gimmicky and tend to overuse the neck as a fine pointing device, which inevitably leads to an uncomfortable tightness in the neck muscles—but Smash Hit has proven to be neither gimmicky nor neck ache-inducing, making me think I may have been playing the wrong gaze shooters all along.
Smash Hit feels like the sort of game that exists only in dystopian Sci-fi movies, something an ancillary character would play while huffing a dirty sock filled with the spice Melange. Whether that was the Sweden-based Mediocre Games’ intention or not, I can’t say, but this gaze-based shooter combines the mindless excitement of Tetris (1984) and the primal need to break things in a world that makes you completely forget the Gear VR’s lack of positional tracking.
In fact, several times I found myself physically ducking for cover from errant metal orbs or shards of glass coming right for me, which if anything is a testament to the game’s realistic destruction physics.
Gameplay is very fluid, and makes it easy to anticipate how and where glass will break—a necessity when you’re crashing through the multiple panes of spinning glass pinwheels. A number of obstacle styles make the experience exciting, some of which you can scrape by without needing to expend any of your precious metal orb that you collect along the way.
Playing through all 11 levels on Gear VR (taking about 40 minutes for me) unlocks an infinite mode that lets you hone your skill even further, setting you on an infinite loop of smashable laser beam emitters, and beefy tempered panes suspended from guide ropes. The latter are the worst of the bunch, because depending on how the large glass is hung in front of you determines how it will fall, sometimes smashing into you and taking a good chunk of your ammo and any multi-ball upgrades you snagged.
A problem I did encounter playing the game however was the ludicrous amounts of time you have to hold your hand up to the temple-mounted touchpad on the Gear VR, which caused my arm to get sore after a few minutes and causing me to prop up my arm in an unnatural way while I played. My particular gamepad (an ipega black wireless controller) wasn’t recognized as an input device by the game, which would have given my arm some much needed rest. Others however have reported success with similar aftermarket gamepads, so you’ll have to double check that your works or not before solely going with the integrated touchpad during extended play.
A majority of levels take you at a comfortable pace, and make sure not to shift you abruptly as you focus on targeting the next obstacle, but that said, some levels are pretty twisty turny, like a corkscrew turn in a roller coaster. The forced vection (the illusion of self motion that can cause nausea) is only really welcome when you’re brushed along in a forward direction and at a constant pace, but these spinning levels are few and far between. Easily nauseous players might well prepare themselves for an uncomfortable ride though.
Smash Hit is downloadable right now for free on the Gear VR store, and is easily more engaging then some of the priced content currently on the store. Although also available on non-VR Android and iOS devices, Smash Hit truly shines in virtual reality, and I’ve personally played it two times through already just because I liked it so much. The devs have said openly that support for an Oculus Rift release is not planned at this time, but we seriously hope they reconsider.