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Flipping the script from Hutch Games' earlier Smash Cops entries, Smash Bandits spotlights the raucous fun of the getaway, tasking you with creating as much chaos as possible for the TV cameras while evading destruction via aggressive police cruisers. What begins with knocking over orange cones and slamming into cop cars soon turns into commanding a speedboat or briefly manning a tank as this free-to-play affair shows more of its open-city offering. And while the freemium design does limit the action a bit, it thankfully doesn't ruin the fun.
Smash Bandits plays much like a behind-the-wheel endless runner, as you'll attempt to stay alive across the slickly rendered city by avoiding spike strips and bash-happy police, all while boosting the TV ratings (and your cash reward) by creating ample destruction and locating checkpoints. The solid touch-centric control scheme concocted for Smash Cops is put to much better use here by swapping to portrait orientation, making it an ideal one-handed game for filling the free moments in your day. You'll hold your thumb under the car, shifting it left and right to steer and slide around turns, and while simple, it's also a nicely nuanced approach. The only exception is when you're close to a game-ending cliff edge or body of water and there's no great way to make a very compact escape.
Like most runners, Smash Bandits livens up the action with a constant array of bite-sized missions to complete, from wrecking a certain number of cops in a run to putting unlocked gadgets to use. While the core action can feel a little routine and repetitive in moments, the missions keep things from turning dull, and the game rewards skilled play with a solid amount of in-game currency for purchasing upgrades and new vehicles alike.
The free-to-play design limits you to five games in a short span, and once your "wanted level" maxes out as a result, you'll either need to wait upwards of 30 minutes for another go-round or spend a couple of in-game chips (earned by leveling up via completed missions or purchased outright) to bribe the cops. Either way, we didn't find it a terribly punitive approach. That'll give you a good 20 minutes of free play time in each chunk, and the chips are handed out steadily enough that you should have enough to shell out for the occasional longer play session when you need it. Considering the quality of this free game, that hardly feels like an unfair approach for most players, though it can turn very expensive very quickly for die-hards who don't want to ease off of the gas.
The bottom line. With a smart runner-like design and plenty of free fun within, Smash Bandits captures the rush of the getaway in bite-sized bursts.
iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
One-handed control scheme is really smart and mostly well executed. Missions and gadgets spice up the gameplay. Great visuals and look to the city.
Limits on play sessions are never a plus, even if they're fairly reasonable here. Simplified controls will occasionally hinder your escape. Can't play for regular long stretches without serious cash.