There are some great works of art that are so acclaimed and renowned that they are able to bridge generational gaps and leave a permanent mark in history. Still, I wouldn’t go as far as to call The Smurfs a great work of art, but the impact is there, right? I mean, who hasn’t heard of them by now? We have toys, animated movies, board games, all sorts of merchandise and I’m pretty sure I saw a Smurf-themed vinyl in Forza Horizon 5 last week. The Smurfs – Mission Vileaf certainly isn’t the first game out of this IP (a quick glance at Wikipedia says it is the 20th Smurfs game) but it is the first one I get to play. And you know what, it was a perfect game to play during this rainy weekend. Got me a cup of hot chocolate and I’m all cozied up in this room while it is raining outside so I might as well explore a forest or two with these blue critters.
If you know anything about The Smurfs, then hearing the name Gargamel certainly rings a bell. Their old nemesis has found a formula for a special kind of plant. An evil plant that’s called vileaf. This plant produces viletrap seeds, which can attract and imprison Smurfs. And not only that, but this plant is incredibly toxic, ruining the forest wherever it spawns and destroying Smurfs sarsaparilla fields. Papa Smurf decides to ask some of his fellow Smurfs to help him find the ingredients for a super-powerful antidote for all the plants sick from the vileaf. Thanks to the “smurfizer”, an invention from Handy Smurf, go on an adventure to find the ingredients and free your fellow Smurfs – and save the whole village if possible.
Now, how to properly translate that smurfizer? Or better yet, describe it. The smurfizer is a PG-friendly version of a flamethrower where instead of destroying the weeds with flame, you revert them back to normal by spraying the healing fluid wherever you find some vileaf. It is a pretty simple tool that is incredibly satisfying to use. I can’t tell you how many times I got sidetracked just going out of my way to find some vileaf to destroy. You start the game playing as Handy Smurf and later you get to use the smurfizer as Smurfette, Brainy Smurf, and Chef Smurf. And of course, as you play, you acquire some new abilities such a gliding and sprinting. Besides following the main story, the game is also filled with loads of collectibles and upgrades to discover. So you’re a completionist like me, consider that the length of the game can be doubled. The enemies are pretty easy to dispose of, they tend to telegraph their attacks, and one well-placed head splat or just using a smurfizer on them will do. Almost every other enemy requires a different strategy so once you find yourself surrounded by 2-3 different ones, the fights can be as engaging as they are colorful.
The game looks great and plays great. It is incredibly gratifying destroying vileaf all over the map and in a way, changing the structure and design of the levels. In my dozens of hours of playtime, I haven’t encountered a single bug or a framerate loss so thumbs up for releasing a game in a perfect state (something that other developers should look up to). The platforming is precise and with zero input delay although there were times when some sections of levels tend to be too colorful so you can have a hard time figuring out what object is part of platforming and what is merely a background asset.
If you’re one of the younger readers, you’ll have no problems recognizing some familiar music when it comes to Smurfs (I could swear I heard some tunes from the animated show). But even if we put that aside, the soundtrack is calming, engaging, and never distracting. I’d say the overall tone of it is nothing short of tranquil and honestly, there isn’t much need for intense music when exploring the map. I did notice that it switches to a higher gear with every enemy encounter, so it can be also a bit dynamic in that regard.
And guess what, I saved the best for last. I also felt like it was necessary to point out this next feature since I couldn’t find the mention of it anywhere on the Steam store page. The game also comes with a two-player coop mode. The second player will be able to play as a tiny robot to support the first player, with different abilities: you can throw exploding seeds at enemies, you can freely fly around and scout the surroundings for your co-op partner and you can also heal the plants from vileaf curse. The two-player coop mode can be activated at any time in the game. In the end, The Smurfs – Mission Vileaf is a simple platformer that doesn’t oversell itself and it also doesn’t sell itself short. It’s not too short and with great visuals, The Smurf – Mission Vileaf can play its role as a great single-player game just as it is a coop one.
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