Deep in the bowels of my local Wal-Mart, past frozen foods and sporting goods and electronics, a heated Bop It! tournament takes place. The competitors: me, and the last sticky-fingered kid who pulled one of the boxed electronic toys off the shelf and pulled, twisted, and bopped his way to a high score.
We don't play for credit, these anonymous athletes and I. We play because we revel in the quick thinking and quicker response time needed to keep up with commands as the game fires them off, and because we rise to the challenge wrapped in the insults the game hurls our way when we inevitably react a moment too late, rather than wilt and blubber and sulk.
Luckily, times have changed. Now these toy store athletes and I can trade bulky toys and unsung glory for iPhones, Game Center leader boards, and a new game--Bop It! Smash [Free], a virtual rendition of Hasbro's newest Bop It! contraption.
The goal of Bop It! Smash is to wait for the fireball darting around the screen to wander into the circular trap in the center of the screen, or, for a higher score, the much smaller bull's-eye set within the trap. Once the fireball enters a trap, players ensnare it by tapping anywhere on their screen or bopping the side of their device. With each level, fireballs increase in speed and erratic behavior: one second they're zipping right up to the trap, and the next they're plunging off in another direction. Tap or bop too soon, and you lose.
It's a fun concept and an interesting take on the original formula, but like the electronic toy that bears its name, Bop It! Smash fails to offer the challenge of the original game. Until around level 10, the ball's flitting movements are slow and easy to predict. The bigger problem is you don't need to predict them at all. There's no time limit in which you must trap the ball. This is somewhat understandable, since the ball meanders about for long stretches of time on later levels before drifting toward the traps.
But without the sense of urgency that tempts you to jump the gun and betray your finely honed reaction skills, there's no challenge, no risk to the reward of a successful Bop It! response. Why not just set the phone down and wait for the ball to drift into a trap? Why not indeed. You score more points for trapping the ball faster, but you score plenty regardless of how long it takes, and it can take as long as you please.
Bop It! Smash also prevents you from swimming beyond the shallow end of the interactivity pool. Bop It!, [$0.99 / $2.99 (HD)] conveniently available in virtual form on the App Store, is challenging because you quickly work your way up to snapping off half a dozen actions in a matter of seconds. In Bop It! Smash, you just tap your screen or bop your phone. And there's no reason to bop the phone aside from the novelty of the action. Tapping nets you just as many points and poses considerably less risk of accidentally knocking your phone out of your hands.
Bop It! Smash isn't a bad game. It's a different take on a popular formula, albeit one that holds less appeal and staying power than the original. The price tag works in its favor, but that makes it another free time-waster in an App Store boiling over with free time-wasters. If it's Bop It! action you crave, shell out a buck and treat yourself to the more engaging original.
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