When I first caught wind of Smash Champs, an animal-based fighting game from Kiloo, I was excited. I'm from the old school: I remember when fighting game developers pit all sorts of fauna against each other in mortal combat, including dinosaurs (Primal Rage) and were-beasts (Bloody Roar).

How disappointing to learn Smash Champs has almost nothing to do with fighting. Instead, it's a Fruit Ninja-style game that lets players "train" their champions, but forces them to sit on the sidelines while battles are carried out automatically.

Smash Champs

The player can choose to ally themselves with one of six man-beasties, including a gorilla, a polar bear, a jaguar, a fox, a hyena, and a crocodile. Whatever animal they choose, the process of training them is largely the same. The master of the dojo lobs balls in the air, which the player swipes to send flying at their fighter. The fighter hits them back, which theoretically improves their chances in the upcoming fight.

The Fruit Ninja portion of Smash Champs is pretty dull. The balls' patterns are predictable, and there's not much satisfaction in throwing them. By contrast, Fruit Ninja's unpredictability (and gratuitous fruit juice splatter) is what makes the experience fun.

Smash Champs

Then, once the game finds an opponent, the fight between the animals begins. This segment is completely hands-off: Players are spectators and nothing more. The fights are very well-animated, which makes sitting on the sidelines all the more frustrating.

Smash Champs

Also frustrating is the fact the fight's winner is seemingly sometimes decided at random. Supposedly, the victor is decided based on a few factors: How the animals did at training, what level they are, and their element (each animal subscribes to an element that is part of a paper-rock-scissors power triangle). That said, my level three fighter still occasionally won over a level seven opponent with an elemental advantage.

Smash Champs looks great, and players can even dress up their animal avatar in tons of cute outfits. But beyond its great visuals and character designs, there just isn't much here that's worth sticking around for. It's back to the zoo for these warriors.