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How long can you evade the heat?

Smash Cops is a fast-paced police-chase driving game with innovative controls, a helicopter's-eye-view interface, slick and satisfying sound and graphics, and some frustratingly imperfect design choices.

Smash Cops is a fast-paced police-chase driving game with innovative controls, a helicopter's-eye-view interface, slick and satisfying sound and graphics, and some frustratingly imperfect design choices.

At its core, Smash Cops is great fun: You direct a cop car through a series of quick missions -- 22 in all, from simple pursuit to prisoner transport to skill challenges like navigating traffic cones or collecting items. You race around a detailed cityscape, navigating with either a traditional virtual joystick or a neat (if at times less accurate) system of dragging your finger behind where you want to go, almost as if you were directing your nimble vehicle with a thruster. With either control scheme, you can tap anywhere for a rechargeable "ram" boost to smash a suspect, or just to close the distance. The constant collisions and sound effects are gratifyingly cinematic, and you're encouraged to perfect your performance on previous levels (you earn between one and five stars, based on your speed, final health, and the number of bad guys and cops smashed) to unlock additional levels. You can also unlock levels (and "Super Cop" power-ups) as an in-app purchase.

Despite the game's fun premise and overall execution, Smash Cops makes multiple missteps: Your goal is to arrest (in other words, smash) suspects, but if you do too good a job of smashing and a suspect car gets too hemmed in by vehicles or terrain, it will disappear and respawn a safe distance away--so as you're trying to block a car in, you'll often also have to hold back just enough to keep from triggering this respawning (which gives the suspect a big advantage and will likely cost you stars).

There's also a disconnect between the stated purpose of some levels and how you are awarded stars, forcing you to do some metagaming as you figure out how you're being evaluated. That leads to some counterintuitive behavior, such as having to avoid seemingly suicidal fellow cops (you're penalized if they get smashed) and making sure you don't go too fast on prisoner-transport and emergency-response missions (you're penalized if you dexterously give your pursuers the slip rather than smashing them). Other missteps the game makes seem to be just missed opportunities, like the fact that you keep unlocking new vehicles with varying stats for speed, health, and attack -- but you should always just pick your most recent unlock (ultimately, the armored "Brutus") regardless of whether your mission seems to require speed or brawn.

Overall, Smash Cops is a fun, visually polished vehicle-combat game, but it will likely leave you wanting more, especially given the game's price and in-app hawking. Hopefully the developers will address some of these shortcomings in future updates.

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