One day, someone will craft a movie tie-in game that is fantastic rather than just fantastically awful. Until then, it seems we’re destined to put up with uninspired offerings like WayForward’s rather half-hearted Smurfs 2. Apparently, Smurf 2’s storyline loosely follows that of the movie. So just in case you haven’t seen it, our story kicks off when token chick-smurf Smurfette gets kidnapped by series nemesis Gargamel (GAR-GAH-MEL) and his goth-looking Naughties. It’s up to you and Team Smurf to get her back, following an unelaborate series of platform levels and collecting collectibles along the way. We’d love to tell you more, but there isn’t all that much to say. You’ll navigate Papa, Grumpy, Clumsy, Vanity and co through a myriad of different but ultimately boring backdrops until you eventually rescue her, but thankfully, that shouldn’t take long.
To be fair, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Smurf 2’s gameplay. Taken in isolation, each component is a standard and often well-used staple that we’ve seen employed umpteen times before. The problem is that, combined, these components conspire to make what might just be the world’s most dreary adventure ever. We love platformers – but not when level 12 is an almost carbon copy of level 2. And we love a good boss fight, but not when Boss Fight 3 is just Boss Fight One with a different background. Collectibles are cool but undemanding, and the added in-level challenges are … well, disappointingly unchallenging. It gets worse, though.
Whilst each unlocked playable character brings something new to the gameplay – Papa can freeze time, Smurfette floats to access hard-to-reach places, Gutsy hulk-smashes stone walls – once you’ve unlocked Jokey, his long-distance explosive attack means there’s little incentive to use anyone else. And whilst graphics and environments are pretty enough at face value, the lack of originality makes each short, punchy level feel about fifteen times longer.
Even the boss fights are a lacklustre affair. Complete one, and you’ll have the recipe for completing every other one, including the uninspired Final Boss Fight. Broadcasting their moves so clearly they might as well be subtitling them, all you need to do is avoid their bumbling attempts to take you down, then wait for them to knock themselves out to stomp on their heads in a Bowser-esque fashion. Rinse and repeat and you’ll be done, probably without as much as a scratch on you. The only challenge might be if you blindfold yourself beforehand … and even then, you’ll still probably scrape through.
Of course, WayForward would love it if you subjected yourself to playing this through again. Only by using the unlocked-at-completion Smurfette will you be able to reach all areas and collect all collectibles, but to be honest, who cares? Those cut’n’paste levels were tedious enough the first time around, and it’s not even like you get much incentive for doing it anyways. It doesn’t even make sense. How can Smurfette be kidnapped if you’re playing as her? WHERE IS THE CONSISTENCY, WAYFORWARD, EH? EH?
We know – The Smurfs 2 isn’t made for adults. Crafted carefully for children, this is a game designed expressly for our little people, and there’s no doubting that the difficulty has been gauged correctly to appeal to a new generation of little gamers. Trouble is, we sat down with a handful of target-aged kids and they didn’t like it either, reporting that the level hub was pointless, the unlockable NPCs even more so, and the storyline advanced by the world’s laziest cut-scenes. Should we expect something a little more challenging? Actually, yes. Of course kid-flavoured games should be a tad easier than others, but being easy doesn’t have to mean boring, does it?
Stuff recycled graphics, irritating audio and the world’s most tedious gameplay into a blender and The Smurfs 2 just might be the unappetising result. There’s nothing spectacularly wrong or broken about it … but then there’s nothing particularly good about it, either. We tried to be nice but really … this is smurfingly terrible stuff.