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Smarter Than You

For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

Slower than you

Product: Smarter Than You | Publisher: EightyEightGames | Format: iPhone | Genre: Multiplayer | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.1469
Smarter Than You iPhone, thumbnail 1
Uniqueness is damn hard to come by these days. Not because game makers have run out of ideas, or because they keep making the same game over and over again (well, the latter one is certainly part of the problem, but less so among indies), but because there are simply so many games out there.

This isn't something that Smarter Than You has to worry about. We can say, without ego or agenda, that Smarter Than You is incredibly unique in every aspect of its design.

What's interesting is the game also proves that you can't get by on uniqueness alone - something we're actually a little surprised to discover.

Rock, paper, scissors

Smarter Than You isn't just a brand new idea. It's also a triumph of minimalist design. The starkness of the visual style is in perfect accord with the simplicity of its gameplay, so there's a very solid feel to what's going on.

The game never leaves you wondering if there are different things you could have done. There are no matches you could have won if you'd applied your XP in other ways, or gathered an alternative inventory. It wears its gameplay right there on its sleeve.

At its nucleus is a game of rock, paper, scissors. only it swaps them out for attack, counter and arrow. In this instance, attack defeats arrow, arrow defeats counter, and counter defeats attack.

You and an opponent take it in turns to pick one of these options in secret, before they're tested head-to-head after a countdown of three.

Your move isn't entirely an uninformed guess, however. At the beginning of each round the three aspects of play are given a random point value. So the attack option might be nine, counter might be four, and arrow might be 11.

It's this score allocation that helps you to ponder what your opponent might choose, given that certain options are going to award a higher score. Assuming, that is, they're successful.

So you're also playing a game of chicken, or ultra-basic poker - bluffing, and pretending to bluff, while second-guessing the most likely move your opponent will make.

The social bluff

Smarter Than You is an online game only, with no single player option. It's not a particularly big deal, as opponents are selected at random via Game Center. You can invite someone specific to play as well.

It can take time before your opponent comes back with their move. You're able to play multiple bouts simultaneously to counter this sudden loss of momentum, but it makes it quite easy to lose interest in a game that stopped an hour or more ago.

This glacial pace is noticeable elsewhere in Smarter Than You, too. Making a move first means selecting from a choice of words that build up a short, often nonsensical line of smack talk that's delivered prior to the opponent making their decision.

This can be employed as a way to try and bluff or double bluff, but after a while you tend to tap anything just to try and keep things moving.

Developer EightyEight Games also promised an unusual monetisation method, and it's undeniably delivered on this. At the end of a match you can 'tip' your opponent, which awards them with additional experience points to upgrade their level, and costs you the price of an in-app purchase.

Devilishly clever, though it's hard to say at this point if it'll catch on, and pay off.

And that's how we feel about the game in general. On the one hand it's not hard to envisage Smarter Than You going viral, and becoming a meme or in-joke among the cool gaming fraternity.

Or it might just as easily fizzle out before really making an impact.

If it was a little quicker, and threw in a surprise or two, the former would be more likely, but as it is we soon found ourselves tiring of the one-dimensional mind games.
Smarter Than You
Reviewer photo
Spanner Spencer | 26 September 2014
Brilliant in every aspect of its uniqueness, yet suffering from its almost deliberate lack of depth, Smarter Than You feel like more of a novelty than a revolution
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