The last time I cast my eyes upon Smart As was back in 2011 following Sony's press gamescom conference. It was a different beast back then of course, however it still stuck in my mind thanks to its clever use of the PlayStation Vita's near service. Step forward a year and a half and once more I'm staring down at Smart As on my PS Vita and it seems like many of the features which impressed me back then have made the cut.
Chances are not many people have heard of Smart As, so before continuing along the path of past memories, perhaps I should explain. Anyone who has ever played Brain Training on 3DS should get the idea, you're met with a series of daily challenges to test your brain power in four key areas; Arithmetic, Language, Logic and Observation. When you turn on the system and load up the game you'll be met with the mini-games which consists of challenges such as adding and subtracting numbers; completing words by finding the missing letter and joining up two circuits, without them crossing each others path.
Most of these mini-games use the front touchscreen or rear touchpanel in some way, for instance in Turbo Tap, a panel will come up saying front or rear, at this point you tap the relevant screen as fast as you can, with any wrong answer hitting you with a 5 second penalty, then, at the end of the game you are met with your overall time. Once you have completed the four mini-games you'll then be presented with a percentage rating for each area of your brain, giving you an idea as to which area you'll need to work on most.
In order to improve your brain power, Smart As also includes a Freeplay Mode. Here you are met with around 20 mini-games in total, although many are locked to begin with. These games take the same form as those in the daily challenge, so are once again split into Arithmetic, Language, Logic and Observation. The mini-games here are actually a lot of fun, Rapid Recall, for example, has you viewing a set of items rapidly shown on the screen, with the game zooming in on each item, before prompting you to remember which items you saw, although not necessarily in the order you saw them. Another game I quite enjoyed was Less Equals More, which presents you with a large tower and has you choose whether the number is less, equal to or more than the number on the right. The quicker you are, the higher you score, although being quick is bound to result in some form of error. As you gain three stars on each game, you'll then more onto the next difficulty level.
As I mentioned previously one of the main areas of Smart As which appealed to me when I first cast eyes on it was the near functionality, but alas I was unable to test that out in this version as the servers do not seem to be live at this time. Fortunately I do have an idea of how it'll work. As mentioned at the end of your daily challenge you are met with the time taken to complete that particular game, as well as an overall percentage. This is also the case in the free play mode. Any score you accumulate is then uploaded to the Smart As servers, which allows you to compare your score using near to those in the surrounding area; the same city, same country and even the world. From what I remember this worked seamlessly and was quite cleverly implemented, although I'll be unable to say for sure until the servers are live. I'm also of the understanding that players will be met with special challenges based on scores from those in the surrounding area, although again that's probably something we'll have to cover in the review.
Given that its been a while since I last cast eyes on Smart As, it does seems to be shaping up quite nicely. The game is well presented, the touch controls work well and the addition of John Cleese as narrator certainly gives the game a quirky feel. It'll be nice to see something a little different on the Vita when Smart As releases in the near future, and if the near functionality works as well as I think it will, then this could very well be one that you'll keep coming back to time and again.