An ‘Indie’ game with a controversial concept, Smuggle Truck, is a fun casual racing game. In Smuggle Truck, it’s your job to smuggle illegal immigrants accross the US border in the back of your pickup truck. The race is on as you try to get there with as many immigrants as possible in the quickest time you can. The game has a very cartoon-like feel and focuses heavily on its built in level editor and over 20,000 community levels. Read on to find out if its good enough to smuggle its way onto your phone or tablet.
Author’s note: The developer of Smuggle Truck, Owlchemy Labs, originally created Smuggle Truck, but when it was banned from several digital market places for depicting the smuggling of immigrants accross the United States border, he replaced the immigrants with stuffed animals and the US border with a zoo, calling his new game Snuggle Truck. All sounds are recreated appropriately and all gameplay/graphics comments remain the same for both games. The version used for screenshots in this review will be Smuggle Truck.
As mentioned, the graphics in Smuggle Truck have a distinct cartoon-like feel to them which suits the feel of the rest of the game. The textures themselves are very detailed and sharp with no pixelation visible. The only glaring flaw with the game’s graphics is that they get rather boring and repetitive after a few levels. Due to the ‘build your own levels’ nature of the game, there are only three possible backgrounds for each level and only a few different decorations that can be used to build the scenery. In fact, the levels included with the game are all built with the in game editor (although presumably on a PC) and are bound by the restrictions posed by it.
This issue is not evident when you first start the game, but arises after you have completed a few courses. Despite the game developer’s attempts to conceal this by avoiding putting two levels using the same basic setting in a row, if you play many levels at once, you begin to realize that none of the levels are unique enough to leave a lasting impression on you. Because the gameplay is very fun and enjoyable, I believe this is due to the repetitive environments used in the game.
However, the 3 environments used to make the levels are all incredibly sharp and look great, so while you may get tired of seeing the same setting, the game itself is never a bore to look at. The developer has even taken some extra time to include little surprises in the backgrounds for the levels, such as a miner waving to the truck or a buried car or dinosaur skeleton in the underground levels. Gameplay is so fast paced that you never really get the time to ponder about it, but occasionally you do get a little chuckle from the more ambitions ones.
The game gets 7 out of 10 points for graphics, with all points being deducted for repetition and lack of a lasting effect on the player.
The game’s soundtrack continue with the cartoon-like feel of the graphics with upbeat rhythms and sound effects. This is even more pronounced in the alternate version of the game, Snuggle Truck, where the stuffed toys often squeak while driving or when the ‘fuzzy’ falls to the ground. In a causal game like this, a game’s audio is often overlooked, but it actually significantly contributes to the overall impression left by the game. Unlike the graphics, however, the game’s background music does leave an impression on the user, but once again, the variation is too minimal to keep that impression for a longer play session. For a quick game on your commute or other short periods, the game’s upbeat music will definitely stay with you, but this effect quickly fades as your session increases.
Overall, the game’s audio significantly contributes to the game’s impression on the player and while it may not be front and center, it does a good job of keeping the player interested. At the same time, its ability to captivate the player wanes during longer sessions and may even become annoying if you play too often or you are not into upbeat music. Audio is given 9 points out of 10.
The most essential part of any game is how well it plays. Despite being a PC/Mac port, Smuggle Truck adapts very well to touch based Android devices. The controls are incredibly simple. Touching on either side of the screen accelerates the truck in that direction, and tilting the device also causing the truck to be tilted. Even though the controls fit perfectly, alternate control options would have been appreciated to ensure they offer control configurations that fit everyone, rather than the one method fits all approach used by Owlchemy Labs. This shouldn’t be a problem for most gamers and for those who purchase the game and find that the controls are not working for them, it should still be within their 15 minute refund window from Google.
The main thing this game has going for it is how short its levels are. Most levels average around 35 seconds in length. While you may feel this means you’re getting less for your money, with over 20000 community uploaded levels, I’m sure you’ll have enough to last you quite a while. Each level has 5 objectives which depend on how many immigrants/stuffed animals remain in your truck at the end of the level, how long you take to complete it, or both. Because the levels are so short, you are encouraged to replay the same level many times in order to get all the objectives, but this never feels boring since the time taken is so short. Some levels are notoriously difficult and it may be better just to leave them and forget them, but most levels can be done with all 5 objectives completed in 3 or 4 plays, with some levels taking as few as 1. The short level length also increases this game’s pick up and play ability and allows you to play even in very short periods (this also helps to keep the game fresh and not repetitive with regard to the audio and graphics).
These are the 5 medals which can be obtained for all levels.
There’s no story nor is there an explanation of what’s going on, but just from the name you can understand what the intended objective of Smuggle Truck is: to smuggle illegal immigrants over the US border. Because of the touchy political and racial nature of this, the game was not allowed to be hosted on services such as Steam for Windows and Mac based devices. The developer thus created an alternate version of the game which is much less controversial. In both cases, any form of story is non-existent and it really isn’t needed. It all breaks down to: drive the truck to the end of the level; do it fast and don’t let things fall off the back of your truck. The concept is extremely easy to grasp, and while common, still manages to feel unique and exciting in this game.
One of the highlights of Smuggle/Snuggle Truck is its in-game level editor and pool of community made levels. The level editor is easy to use and rather intuitive. It’s easily apparent that the same editor was used to build all of the included levels and that all the same tools are available to you. You can easily add pieces of the track, picking from a vast variety of different types. You’re also able to add specialty pieces such as a baby or ‘fuzzy’ point (more on these later) or blocks of explosives. As noted in the graphics section above, the extra items you can use to decorate your level, as well as the available scenes are all very limited, but still manage to be just enough to prevent you from feeling too limited. Added variety would be much appreciated, but the multi-platform nature means updates of this variety are unlikely. Also, the incredibly vast wealth of community designed maps adds a large amount of replay value to the game. It is given that some of them were created just to try out the feature or get the achievement for submitting a level (Steam), but there are some really unique levels that are surprisingly fun and engaging. The level browser is a little clunky, but it is easy to navigate and use and included a quick way to find the most popular levels, I suggest that you check these out first since they’re really fun to play.
The ‘My Levels’ section lets you edit and create new levels of your own.
The in game level editor is intuitive and easy to use.
The Top Rated Levels allow you to easily find and pkay the best community designed levels.
The game adds a new gameplay mechanic by occasionally throwing another character (a baby in Smuggle Truck and a ‘fuzzy’ in Snuggle Truck) up in the air for you to catch. You get another passenger in your truck and there are many achievements regarding these catches. As a final point, the developer continues with this ‘easter egg’ by including an actual alien as one of the passengers in the Smuggle Truck version. This is a reference to the derogatory term used to refer to immigrants, ‘Aliens’.
Gameplay gets a 10 out of 10 with no flaws that I can think of.
One thing that bothers me is that the developer charges $4 for each version of the game, Snuggle Truck and Smuggle Truck. For that price, the developer could have found a way to include them both for one price. I don’t know what the reason was on his part, since I don’t believe anyone would buy the game twice anyway, but I’m hoping there was a technical issue or something.
As for the price of the game itself, $4 does seem a little pricey for a casual game, but the vast amount of community levels seems to be the main justification for this. The Steam version of the game sells for $5 and is identical to the Android version in every way that I can tell.
This game was also featured in the Humble Indie Bundle for Android in March, and was included in a group of games where you pay any amount for the group and can even donate some of your payment to worthwhile charities such as the EFF and Child Play. I’ll admit that being my first bundle, I was apprehensive and paid less than the retail price of this game for all 5 games, which included their Steam and Android versions. For those of you who may have picked up the bundle as well and haven’t played the game, you should really do so as it’s a great game.
For those of you looking to purchase the game on Google Play now, my advice is a little less enthusiastic. For $4, I’d advise the following groups of people purchase the game: those who have already enjoyed games of this nature; those who often find themselves playing games on their commute or during other short time spaces; or those who love playing games on their Android phone or tablet and want to add another to their collection. If you are unsure of your purchase, my best advice would be to try out the game and get a refund if needed, since no lite version is provided. The game is incredibly fun and offers a lot of replay, so even at the steep price of $4, you should get your money’s worth of gameplay.
This game, while ‘compatible’ with the Fling Gaming Controller (review coming soon), does not benefit in any way from using the controller and thus it is not recommended to be used with Smuggle/Snuggle Truck.
Cross Platform Nature:
Despite being available on 5 Operating systems, the only cross platform syncing available in the game is that the community levels are the same on all devices, regardless of what device the level was made on. So if you already own the Steam version or are converting from an iOS device, you’ll have to replay the game from the beginning. This is a major oversight on the developer’s part, but does not affect Android gameplay. It is noted here only to advise those who expect to pick up and continue where they left off on another platform. I really hope this functionality is added in a future update to all platforms.
Note: on other platforms, only Snuggle Truck is available.
This is a great game, that despite being repetitive in some areas, offers a large amount of replay value, while still retaining a ‘pick up and play’ nature. Although a little pricey at $4, if you enjoy the game, you’ll get a large amount of playtime and bang for your buck, but the game might not be for everyone. As for which version to buy, I would personally recommend Smuggle Truck as the entire game seems better held together with the concept and scenes, but if the ideas and topics covered in the game offend you or others close to you, Snuggle Truck is a just as capable version as the original.
$3.99 Size: Varies with device
Installs: 1,000 – 5,000
Varies with device