Games that are movie cash-ins have a terrible reputation. All of us 30-something gamers have experienced six or so console generations littered with the remains of licensed garbage. It is hard to get away from the stigma created by that history even when the games have been on a upward trend this generation. With a terrible movie to cash in on, I came into this review without high hopes for Smurfs 2. Not even coming from a great developer like WayForward gave me any hope. Thankfully, Smurfs 2 turns out to be a solid 2D platformer of yesteryear that will further scratch the nostalgia itch for any child of the eighties that normally the Smurf’s license alone would be calling dibs on. Oh and children might like it too.
Smurfs 2 follows the plot of the movie as faithfully as possible. Luckily what works against the movie actually ends up very video game esque. I am not sure if that is a knock against the industry or not in this case. During a smurfy gathering for Smurfette’s birthday, she is smurfnapped by a shady mysterious figure which turns out to be a test tube Smurf classified as Naughties created by Smurf nemesis Gargamel. During the commotion, Papa Smurf is knocked over while he happened to be carrying some kind of teleport crystals which ends up teleporting away most of the Smurfs while opening up portals to the games levels. It’s the Smurf’s job to rescue their only female member and put a stop to Gargamel’s plans.
The game plays out as a very traditional 2D platformer. Jump and avoid enemies and other hazards while progressing left to right (in 2 levels vertically bottom to top). There isn’t too much variation outside of adding more hazards and little things to interact with vertically gusting air that causes the Smurfs to float. WayForward is a talented studio so I expected more…I’m not sure what but some kind of cool game mechanic that gave variation.
Four Smurfs are available to play with at the outset of the game with 5 other smurfs unlocked as you progress through the game. Each smurf has their own special move such as Brainy jumping higher or Clumsy tumbling forward in a speedy attack/dodge style move. Otherwise there is not much of a difference in how each Smurf controls. The game features local drop in co-op multiplayer for up to 4 players so it is perfect to play with friends, kids, or random homeless people that happen to drop by your place of residency. Areas from the film such as the Enchanted Forest, New York, and Paris are featured themes while areas exclusive to the game’s adventure (Spooky Woods, Arctic Tundra, and Lava Jungle) fill out the rest of the game. Smurfs 2 features 6 worlds (themes) containing 5 levels and a boss fight coming out to a total of 36 levels.
Each non-boss fight level has 3 goals for the player to achieve. These goals range from collecting a certain number of berries to playing through as a certain smurf. They are varied enough to add a bit more challenge to the level though a good bit of them are unable to be done on the first playthrough of the game and must be revisited after defeating Gargamel. This is due there being blue blocks blocking off content that only disappear after Gargamel’s defeat. Goals revolving around the unlockable Smurfs also require you to get to the point the game to unlock them.
There are two kinds of collectables in each level— berries and Smurf coins. The berries act like the rings in the old Sonic games boosting your score but otherwise serving no purpose but keeping you alive. If you are hit you lose all your berries and if you are hit a second time with no berries then you die. Smurf coins are more of a traditional collectible with each level having 3 to 5 to collect. Collecting the coins unlock Smurfs to interact with in the Smurf village. Killing enemies drop potions and if you collect enough potions you enter what is called True Blue mode. True Blue features loud smurfy singing of the theme song while berries count as double. The mode only lasts a few seconds unless you extend it by killing more enemies and collecting the potions.
Each of the Smurfs have a small set of catchphrases performed in their movie that they repeat at ad nauseam. Mix that with the True Blue mode’s loud singing of the Smurf theme and the mute button should not be very far away from players. It gets old fast. Graphically, the game is nothing to write home about. The characters look like little 3D model versions of their movie counterparts while the cutscenes are animated much like the old cartoon. It would be great to see a whole game with that style of art and animation rather than going the 3D route.
Smurfs 2 avoids falling prey to the movie/licensed game curse and just being plain garbage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much beside not sucking. It is a solid platformer that kids and Smurf fans will love. The local co-op couch multiplayer makes it the perfect game for parents to pick up and play with their little ones.