Smiles is a surprisingly good puzzle game. In fact, I’m having a hard time finding anything wrong with it! It’s so hard to find fault with a game that’s just so damn happy – and so damn good.
Smiles is a match-up puzzle game. You will hear that kind of intro for a lot of reviews that we write here at iPGN. There are SO MANY puzze games out there. So when a random game like Smiles comes along, and drops my jaw with the quality, you know it’s something special.
One of the first things Smiles has going for it is it’s unique swapping game play mechanic. Basically, to make changes to the game board, you have to swap one unit on the board with whatever unit you have in your “hand” currently. This style applies to all three modes of play in the game, and works very well to get your brain thinking, especially in Zen mode.
Zen mode gives you a board of jumbled pieces. The number of different types of pieces changes based on your difficulty level. Your goal is to connect 3 or more of the same piece to light them up. The game ends when, from switching pieces back and forth, the entire board is lit up. This can really be a challenge. I was able to beat it on all four difficulties in one sitting, but it definitely took some planning, and plenty of misses!
“Drop” takes Smiles into the classic match-3 gameplay of most puzzle games out there. As you swap out pieces to make matches, new ones drop from the top of the screen. In “Aurora Feintesque” style, you can tilt your phone to control which direction the pieces fall. There are frozen pieces that cannot be swapped, but can be used in matches, and rocks that are useless other than to get in your way. Both of these types of pieces will break after being dropped a certain total height. This mode is less of a thinking game, but tends to be more fun since it’s enjoyable to watch your combos pile up.
The final gametype is Avalanche. It is definitely the quickest of the three. It consists of the Drop style of play, but every new piece that falls is frozen. As the avalanche slowely creeps down the screen, your job is to match up regular pieces with the frozes ones to clear them out.
Despite the nice variety of gametypes, I’m sure things sound pretty standard so far. However, smiles really shines in both it’s extremely polished graphical presentation, and it’s pleseant, high-quality sound. It seems to draw from the cartoony Japanese art style of Loco Roco. You can even switch between three different styles of pieces for the different modes. Everything is happy, and all the pieces are smiling (as expected!). The game is colorful, and the menus are extremely easy to navigate. The game gives off a very happy vibe, which really makes it all that more entertaining. More importantly, the game is extremely polished, and easily feels like something you could see on the DS.
As stated in the intro, it’s really hard to find anything not to like about this game.The only thing it really needs is online leaderboards, because although playing to beat your own score is nice, it does get old, and thus decreases the replay value of the game. Fortunately, there is a HUGE list of achievements that can be reached in the game. 140 to be exact. Although, with nothing to unlock from getting the achievements, there isn’t a ton of insentive to play for them. There is also a mysterious Drop “+” game mode, but there is no explaination as to how it’s different than the original, which is odd.
This game is a ton of fun to play! It’s a descent challenge on later modes, but still a lot of fun. There are zero control issues. Each gameplay mode is just enough different from the next to procide a unique experience for each.
As much as I would like to see online leaderboards, with 3 entertaining modes of play (technically 4 if you count the mysterious “+” mode), 140 achievements, and simply enjoyeable gameplay, Smiles is a game that definitely has the opportunity to engage your attention for quite some time.
Smiles does pretty much everything right. Great visuals, good sound, plenty of gameplay modes, and a light and happy atmosphere that works perfectly with the overall feel of the game. Smiles is truly a shining example of how to do an iPhone puzzle game right, and although it may be a bit expensive at $5, it certainly won’t dissappoint you if you pick it up!