Smurf Me My Nose Ring
"I thought it was so amazing, cos I'd never played on the Playstation before that," Sasha beams about her first encounter with The Smurfs. But was this just initial over-reaction or does she still feel suitably impressed. "Well it is for the first time, innit?". The Smurfs features two sections, the pre-school sub-games part and the proper single player game. The pre-school section includes several small and overly easy games where you playing as Hefty Smurf have to complete a variety of challenges, such as skiing down a slope to collect food, floating about on air currents to collect food and all sorts of other food-gathering alternatives. The food of course, is for a little baby Smurf that the stork left on your front porch. I'm not making this up. "I liked the river one and I liked how they actually got the game set out, as in they produced the pictures and it seemed like it was really good fun for the little ones to play, the 4 year-olds." But did she think that these little sub-games (which made up about a quarter of the game) were the sorts of things that anyone else would play more than once? "They were okay the first time but they got boring quickly and I wanted to play something else after I had played them. I don't really want to play them again." When she accidentally loaded them up instead of the main single player game she openly cursed… "Arrggh God!" Now that's no way to talk for a 10 year old.
I'm A Big Kid Now
Anyway, while they were amusing distractions she quickly moved on to the real game, where Hefty Smurf has to rescue the other smurfs and baby smurf from Gargamel. Riveting stuff. One good thing about a simple plot in a game like this is that it gives the kids something easy to understand that they can cling onto. I don't think Sasha really cared all that much about the plot though. Did she even know what the plot was about? "Yes you're supposed to be getting things that are healthy for the Smurfs." And she's 10 years old, Heliogame Productions, not your 4 year old demographic. However in spite of the, uh, plot complexities that outwit the audience, she really enjoyed the game for the most part. I actually can't watch TV right now because she's still playing it. It wasn't devoid of flaws, as was pointed out to me at length. Aside from the plot issues and lack of interest in the pre-school sub-games, Sasha's other main problem was that the single player game was pretty tough after such a muted introduction. She would repeatedly run out of hearts and end up with a 'game over' even before she'd accomplished victory over the first two levels, although she can get about three or four levels in on occasion now. Does she think it's overly tough though, or doesn't she really mind? "No, because I know my controlling of the keys and I know where to put my fingers and the Smurf is running a lot and it's not hard to control him." Although she did have a couple of concerns. "And like this green and yellow creature I can't get past it very well, I can if I jump over him or go behind and jump over him. When he dies his neck goes up and he falls over."
I'm Blue, Dub-a-Dee
Speaking of the death animations (she was, just for the record) brings me neatly onto the topic of graphics. For the Playstation these are fairly impressive and although technically a 2d side-on platformer, the game has a very 3d outlook, with the camera panning from side to side and around the main character on occasion. The main character, Hefty Smurf, is a little angular, but is quite clearly a Smurf and no mistake. The other Smurfs and the various creatures inhabiting their forest are all faithfully reproduced throughout the game and Sasha happily bopped on their heads and threw boxes at them to vanquish their souls. (Language-check, this is "The Smurfs", not Soul Calibur -Ed). The framerate dropped worryingly every so often (although Sasha didn't make an issue of it) due to more than a few baddies appearing on screen, but on the whole remained consistently acceptable. The main concern I had looking on was that a lot of the characters and backgrounds looked a little bit too jagged around the edges. I would have thought that a little more work could have been done to avoid that and make it seem more obviously akin to its cartoon inspiration.
The sound effects throughout were suitably cute and cartoony, but the voices of the various Smurfs seemed fuzzy to the point where I had to listen carefully to understand properly. Sasha concurred. "It was jumbly, didn't make sense." The musical accompaniment was actually quite impressive and reminded me of a slightly more sinister and catchy version of the theme tune to the series. I liked. Sasha did too, "Yes I do, it very amusing and calm." Well, you know, she'd cottoned onto the fact that I was writing down what she said at this point, so she was trying to sound more mature, it certainly wasn't "amusing and calm". Bah.
But What About Me?
To tell the truth, I enjoyed The Smurfs a fair bit, but two things should be considered when taking that into account.
If you're a young adult or a late teenager, you won't benefit much from laying out Ł30 for this, but an overnight rental from your local video or games shop might be in order if you enjoy stout platformers or have a couple of children at the 10 year old or just above mark. There's certainly nothing new here for platform-game fans that you haven't seen done better in the likes of Rayman or Crash Bandicoot, both of which are available on the budget label. You might just as well grab both for the same price as this and get twice the fun.
Finally, I ought to mention the cut-scenes. I was having spasms of joy over these (real Smurf-based footage! Aw!) but frankly they were a bit boring after a while. What did Sasha think of them? "I just press the button to ignore them." That's my girl. Ratings:- Mature Gamer - 5/10 4 Year-old (Target group) - 5/10 10 Year-old - 8/10