At first I didn't really get how to drive in Smash Cops Heat. Then Fahey showed me. The gist of it is, you have the authority to drive really stupid. Once you realize that prerogative, the game reveals itself as a chortle-inducing demolition derby going lights-and-sirens through every fire hydrant and phone booth in town.
Smash Cops Heat is Hutch Games' follow-up to last years Smash Cops, and is free for iOS devices in the App Store. The game is a series of missions in some unnamed seaside town, involving such tasks as ramming suspects, completing checkpoint races and, in the toughest I've faced so far, evading suspects as you race to a safe point.
All of this unfolds from the overhead perspective of a news helicopter, which is a brilliant take on making a not-quite-top-down racer. (The first mission in the tutorial began with a chyron title: "BREAKING NEWS: COPS LEARN TO DRIVE," which sets a great tone for the game.)
Smash Cops Heat's other distinction is its touch controls, which have you holding your fingertip behind the cop car to accelerate it, then dragging your finger left or right to make it turn, which is always a tires-barking swerve. After about six missions (maybe five minutes of game time) you'll start to pick up the sweet spot for when you should start a 90-degree turn and how hard you have to throw the car into it.
Ramming isn't just a question of driving into a suspect vehicle. Smash Cops Heat empowers you with a ram command, essentially a speed boost. The key is to activate it when you have some distance between you and the suspect, because a burst right into his rear quarter-panel will send him flying. If you're already PITting a suspect car, hitting Ram does very little. Rams have a cool-down period, but if you need to finish off a fleeing suspect, there's always "InstaRam," which come in limited supply.
The other tool you'll need, on tough missions especially, is "SuperCop," which makes you invulnerable for a brief period of time. As any collision causes damage to your car (and when you're at the end of your health, it's on fire, which can be quenched by running over a hydrant.) So, trying to bring down a van, I had to use SuperCop to deliver the final blow, which would have destroyed me had I not.
It presents a strategic choice to the game but, 10 missions in, I can see how SuperCop and InstaRam will become integral down the line, because these episodes are plenty tough already. This may be how Smash Cops Heat plans to make money, as both resources are available as an in-app purchase. (You're also awarded SuperCops for completing challenge missions.) Better cars are unlockable the more stars you achieve (you get one to five per mission; the biggest factor in getting them appears to be time.) Future missions also unlock after a certain number of stars, so a skin-of-your-teeth one-star performance in which you hoard your InstaRams and SuperCops may not be of much use to you.
Through it all is the rollicking, tongue-in-cheek presentation of reckless cops punishing the city with their Pyrrhic brand of law enforcement. If you like action shows packed with wildass car chases, rolling hubcaps and broken automotive glass, you should take Smash Cops Heat in for questioning.