Game

Another minimal action puzzler comes to the App Store – it’s familiar in concept, but is it worth your time?

Smove is one of those games so simple in concept it makes you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. The minimal, straightforward design will be familiar to anyone who dabbles in mobile gaming, but though it doesn’t do anything massively new, it’s a solid, smartly presented challenge. More importantly – its good fun.

We’ve recorded a quick gameplay trailer to show off what you can expect from the game. Check it out below and read on for further thoughts.

Here’s the lowdown: swipe up, down, left or right to move your ‘character’ – a plain white circle – around a 3×3 grid. Avoid the incoming black circles while collecting blue gems to increase your score. Every ten points engages the next ‘level’, with more black circles to dodge and a quicker pace to contend with.

Smove challenges your physical reflexes as well as your ability to think quickly. Much of the game is about judging which of the nine squares is ‘safe’ to bunker down in for a few moments as those pesky circles pass by.

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Avoid colliding with the other circles, collect the blue squares. Easy, right?

The ‘look before you leap’ cycle of think-wait-move is reminiscent of arcade classic Frogger, or the more recent Crossy Road. Unlike those games though, no space ever stays safe for too long so you have limited time to react.

There are ten set levels, and once you pass the first few the onrushing enemies start to throw themselves at you from new angles – the eventual diagonal onslaught is surprisingly hard to wrap your head around when you can only move in four directions.

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It doesn’t take long before Smove becomes pretty overwhelming

As is the current trend, the graphics are crisp, clean and unembellished. This is the kind of game that looks like it was made by an interface designer rather than an illustrator – and it works.

Smove strikes a good balance between feeling peaceful and stressful. It keeps you on your toes, and the later levels will have you making heart-in-mouth quick-fire dodges if you want to stay alive. All that without ever becoming too frustrating, unlike a lot of other high score based games (naming no names).

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Every tenth gem is yellow and will launch a new level when collected

Smove generally accomplishes its goals very competently – but we do have a couple of concerns. The controls are generally pretty responsive but sometimes can’t keep up with rapid successive swipes, which can result in an early game over. And although its simplicity is charming, it could benefit from another game mode or two to mix things up and keep players interested for longer. It would also be nice to have an option play in landscape mode.

The in-game ads are a minor annoyance – an accidental tap takes you straight to the App Store at the expense of your current run. However, the ads can be banished forever for a reasonable $1.99 and refreshingly the game never asks for other types of in-app purchases. No coins, no extra lives, no custom hats.

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Agh! Diagonal movement is so much harder to keep track of

It sometimes feels like the aim of casual mobile games is to be addictive rather than good. Smove, though addictive at first, doesn’t do enough to hook the player long term. Luckily it makes up for that in the short term with a well paced challenge that’s actually fun to play. And ultimately, isn’t that what gaming’s all about?

Price: Free or $1.99 / £1.49 without ads
Version: 1.2
Size: 10.7 MB
Developer: Simple Machine, LLC

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Review: Smove – action puzzler moves in familiar circles
A fun and frantic evasion game that's perfect entertainment for bite-size play sessions
For
  • Lovely minimal design
  • Tough but not frustrating
  • Good clean fun
Against
  • Just the one mode
  • Short shelf life
3.9Overall Score