Game: SMIB: Mission Cure (Early Access)
Developers | Publishers: Virtual Arts Studio | Mens Sana Interactive
Controller Support: No
Price: US $1.99 | UK £1.69 | EU € 1,59
Release Date: November 20th, 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to Virtual Arts Studio
SMIB: Mission Cure reminds me of a cool board game my brother gifted me 24 years ago, called Robo Rally. In both games, you program a robot to travel from one checkpoint to another. As mundane as that sounds, the concept appeals to the planner in me.
Every Move Matters
Like my old board game, SMIB: Mission Cure is a slow, methodical experience. Plan a sequence of moves, turn right, turn left, shoot laser, jump, then punch “start” and watch your robot go!
The challenge is to use no more than 8 commands per turn. You must also end your turn in either a recharge station or at the final goal. There’s a certain satisfaction in getting it right and navigating safely to the finish line. This feeling was a real throwback to my Robo Rally days.
SMIB is easy to jump into. The tutorial is good, and the difficulty increases gradually. The opening levels of Planet Aztek are easy-peasy. I was lulled into thinking, “This would be a great game for kids.”
But I’ve gotten stuck on level 9, and after 2 hours of not progressing, I’m pretty demotivated. It’s not that the puzzle design is bad; not at all! I really do like it as a puzzle game. On top of the interesting challenges, I enjoy SMIB‘s voxel art style.
Slow and Steady Doesn’t Win
What’s not fun is when programming takes longer than it should. This, too, was a throwback to my old board game!
I wish my robot, the SMIB, could zip from A to B instead of trundling ever so slowly. In real-life space missions, slow and steady may win the safety race, but I’m used to a faster pace in video games. So this leisurely speed becomes an irritant when I’m figuring out a hard level and reprogramming many, many times.
I also spend an annoying amount of time just getting the camera angle right and repositioning commands. While it’s nice that the camera view can be rotated and tilted precisely (a la Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker), I still find my view obstructed sometimes by ceilings that are too low. With obstacles in the way, I often misplace commands on the map as it’s easy to click on the wrong tile.
But I could live with all that. My real gripe is being unable to save at checkpoints. Now, there are checkpoints and you can rewind to these earlier moments, but you lose them if the game closes. With longer levels, this is a problem. I wish I could exit the game and still return to these checkpoints later, instead of restarting a level.
SMIB does some things right, though. For example, when re-programming a “failed” sequence, you don’t have to start from scratch. The commands you placed previously remain onscreen, which makes it easy to review and tweak them.
It’s a promising puzzle game. Small aesthetic touches, like swimming fish and warrior statues, make each level feel lovingly designed. The full version of SMIB: Mission Cure will offer at least 3 planets and 36 levels. I’d like to play more, but a handful of frustrations have made it hard to persist now that I’m stuck on a level.
For an Early Access version, it’s just okay. I can still recommend the game to patient players who love planning. The current price is worth the 12 levels which are now available.
But if the full release doesn’t address at least one of the issues mentioned, I’d rate it lower (“Not Sure”). For the full version to earn an “I Like It,” it would need at least one of these improvements: faster animations, slightly higher ceilings, an option to skip levels, or a hint system.
Final Verdict: I Like It