Smash Up

App review by
Erin Brereton, Common Sense Media
Smash Up App Poster Image
Card strategy mashes zombies, ninjas, math into fun game.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids use addition and subtraction when tallying their score and when determining how many points they need to eliminate bases. Offers a chance to work toward a goal. They'll get strategic thinking experience as they decide best cards to use; they'll also get practice reading and following directions if they use the app's advice prompts. If kids play against live opponents, they can work on time management. No explicit educational lessons, but playing, even learning basic rules -- involves a fair amount of math, so it should at least help them hone some basic skills.

Ease of Play

Kids can revisit a detailed tutorial on playing anytime they want, and can get step-by-step guidance in each round; written instructions also available.

Violence

Although some cards have somewhat creepy themes, aside from a menacing zombie image or two, there's no live-action footage or anything that would expose kids to graphic gore.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Smash Up is a card-based strategy game. Players frequently will face off against computerized opponents, providing a generally safe numeric- and strategy-based experience. To play live, they'll need to sign up for an account with the game's developer -- and wait in a virtual lobby to find other people to play against. While some cards have creepy themes, there's no violence or gore to be seen during matches. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content.

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What's it about?

SMASH UP is a strategy card game. After choosing two decks with themes like zombies and wizards, kids face off against other players or an AI opponent. With guidance from the app (or not), players try to reach a numeric total to take over various Bases. When they play a Minion card, its attack power number is added to a Base's running total. When that's reached, the Base is destroyed, and players receive different amounts of Victory Points listed on the Base card. The first player to reach 15 Victory Points wins.

Is it any good?

This game is surprisingly deep with its strategy and its gameplay, which should keep players involved for a long time. In the first few minutes, the gameplay may feel a little overwhelming -- you're presented with a ton of cards and a lot of steps. But playing isn't impossible, since the app includes an extremely detailed set of instructions. This includes a tutorial that features thorough directions, guided gameplay, and a lengthy written manual. The app also provides explanations and advice as you play actual games, if you'd like.

That's not to say, though, that Smash Up can't be challenging. Settings can be changed to play at a faster speed or to forgo the ongoing help. The process of playing cards from your hand is a bit cumbersome: You can't directly drag and drop cards to Bases; you need to pull them over to a launch area and tap the destination you want them to end up in. It may also take younger players a turn or two to get a sense of what capabilities -- ranging from destroying minions to drawing additional cards -- various cards offer. But once they get it, trying to identify the best one to use during your turn, plotting your next move, and figuring out your opponent's strategy can be an engrossing experience. Smash Up doesn't have a lot of visual bells and whistles -- cards zooming around is the only motion or action shown, but it's a card game, after all. But some elements, such as the deck themes, which range from ninjas to dinosaurs, will likely appeal to young players. And with frequent card choices to make and an opponent's moves to pay attention to, it doesn't feel like the game necessarily needs more dynamic visuals to hold a player's interest. Plus, players can get critical thinking experience when considering which card to use -- a nice way for kids to practice that skill without feeling like they're being forced to learn something. Thanks to the hints players can receive, kids are unlikely to get confused or frustrated when playing -- another positive aspect -- and parents can be happy their child's screen time is being spent on something that should offer more of an educational impact than a number of shooting, action, or other games.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. It's easy to get sucked into playing games like Smash Up, but what's the maximum amount of time you should spend on websites or apps a day?

  • Talk about competition. The goal in Smash Up, as in many games, is to win, but how do you stay a good sport and keep matches positive? Can you identify some things to do and say -- or not do and say -- to prevent opponents' feelings from getting hurt?

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For kids who love strategy

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