Preview: Smash Hit Plunder
The more you think about it, the harder it is to pin down Smash Hit Plunder. Its riotous gameplay doesn’t quite fall under ‘action’ when there are no enemies to slay and the grin-inducing mess that comes from carelessly tossing objects across a room won’t qualify for a ‘party game’ while it remains single-player. This is a videogame that brushes against a number of genre conventions while never completely engulfing itself in any. The result is one of Gear VR and indeed VR in general’s most curious and, much more importantly, fun upcoming videogames.
Smash Hit Plunder’s objective is to do exactly that. Players are dropped into an environment, in this case an archaic keep, and must frantically throw just about anything they find into walls and across floors, gathering the precious loot that spills out in the process. In the mode VRFocus sampled, players had to act fast against a countdown timer, trying to gather as much loot as possible in the allotted time.
Intriguingly, the entire videogame is played with just the Gear VR and its mounted touchpad; no Bluetooth Gamepad can be used here. Instead, players look at where they want to travel to and tap the pad to walk to that location. The real fun starts when you first catch sight of an item to smash. Smash Hit Plunder cleverly starts off in a spacious environment that allows players to acclimatise to its controls before setting the clock running, meaning you can get used to looking at an item and pressing the touchpad to pick it up via a levitation spell. Swiping the pad will then launch that object forwards, in most cases causing it to smash into pieces.
These mechanics boil down into one very simple and deeply satisfying mission: smash everything. Moving out of the practise room by intuitively swiping a door open, players are treated to the sight of a room literally littered with items to break. It’s a true kid in a candy store moment as you rush towards the nearest desk and gleefully start to hurl glasses, logs, shields and more across the area. The combination of using Gear VR’s head-tracking and swiping forwards on the touchpad provides a sensation far more natural and immediately gratifying than what could be achieved with a controller.
That said, the relatively restricted movement in this timed mode causes some frustration. It’s an unfortunate side effect of having to rely on Gear VR’s touchpad, but the process of having to look at where you want to travel, tap the screen and then watch the journey feels methodical, contradicting the title’s rule-breaking appeal somewhat. Fortunately players don’t have to stand next to objects in order to pick them up, eliminating the need for precise movement and allowing you to forget about this minor annoying for most of the ticking time. That said, one can’t help but think of PlayStation 4’s DualShock controller, which features its own touchpad, and the Project Morpheus HMD as a perfect solution to this issue, though developer Triangular Pixels is yet to confirm any support beyond Gear VR.
There’s no denying that a round of Smash Hit Plunder is two minutes of pure videogame-fuelled release; something to slip away into, forget the rules of everyday life and trash everything in sight. But that’s just one round and how Triangular Pixels intends to stave off repetition remains to be seen. This seems like a title that will live and die by its motivations. Should the developer incentivise the fun with a steady stream of unlocks and a variety of different modes then there shouldn’t be much reason to worry about longevity.
A preview of the videogame can’t go without mentioning its joyful retro art style. Triangular Pixels reasoned to VRFocus that this was partly to do with its resources, but the blocky world is a joy to ruin and the cherry on the top of such a surreal experience.
Smash Hit Plunder is more of a unique, personal sandbox, then. It still has a way to go to prove itself as a valid, full videogame, but in the slices that Triangular Pixels has offered so far, signs are pointing towards that being the case.