Although The Smurfs 2 is a kids’ adventure based on the latest flick starring everyone’s favourite Belgians, this garish romp feels more like a shambling Frankenstein’s monster stitched together from random parts of other successful videogames.
Taking its lead from Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. classics, The Smurfs 2 is a familiar cartoon platformer where players run, jump and bounce through a series of simple levels, collecting treasures as they go and bopping any enemies on the head that stand in their way. In a nod to Sonic The Hedgehog, staying alive in the game sees players grabbing berries as they hop between platforms; juicy treasures that become strewn across the levels if you bump into one of the bad guys, instigating a mad dash to grab as many as you can before they flicker out of existence. A gang of playable Smurfs with different powers – Brainy can jump high, Papa Smurf can throw missiles, Gutsy can punch harder than the others and so on – will remind veteran players of a thousand other titles from the 8-bit Head Over Heels to Pikmin 3 on the Wii U, while the ability to reach restricted areas of levels using new powers you unlock has a distinct flavour of the Metroid series.
But shameless plagiarism aside, what’s most annoying about this latest movie spin-off is that it’s so damned bad. For starters, the cerulean heroes lumber through the levels with all the urgency of a dead snail, giving the game a torturous, leaden pace that fails to capture the effervescent personality of the pint-sized protagonists. In terms of gameplay, the action itself amounts to little more than strolling from the left side of a level to the right, with only a handful of futile hazards in the way that will fail to challenge any kid old enough to hold a joypad. Visually, the old-fashioned, first generation PS2-style graphics also make The Smurfs 2 feel like a product of a bygone age, but most offensive of all are the irritating soundbites that repeat incessantly as you bumble through the levels, and will see enraged players turning the air a brighter shade of blue than any Smurf you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Ironically, while The Smurfs 2 blatantly steals its core mechanics from other titles, it fails to make the best of the elements it thieves, and will only encourage players to ditch this licensed bullshit and go and return to the games that inspired it in the first place.