As the main gamer in my family, I get asked by relatives and friends for recommendations on games for their kids. I’ve found that finding games for younger ones on consoles like PlayStation and Xbox can be a bit tricky when considering things like difficulty, suitability, variety and general appeal. The Smurfs wasn’t a franchise I grew up with until my sister was born and we watched the live-action 2011 film of the same name. The sweet, lovable blue creatures on adventures larger than life were fun to watch on the big screen, but how do they fare in the latest video game adaptation? The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf by Osome Studio and Microids is a vibrant 3D platformer for all ages, but underwhelming and overly ambitious gameplay mechanics prevent it from being something Smurftastic.
The story begins with the villain Gargamel using an evil formula to produce a plant called the Viletrap. The plant contaminates and toxifies the Smurf Forest, and scatters its Viletrap seeds for Gargamel to capture innocent Smurfs. You play as four different Smurfs over the course of the game, with Papa Smurf sending you out to find ingredients to create an antidote to cure the effects of the Viletrap. You don’t go out empty-handed though, as you’re equipped with the Smurfizer, a tool used to spray the antidote over the contamination, as well as to propel you through the air and get to those hard-to-reach places.
So smurfin’ cute
The story is light-hearted and fun, and drops you into the big heart of these tiny Smurfs. Playing as the iconic Smurfs Hefty, Brainy, Chef and Smurfette, all they all have distinctive personalities that keeps the game feeling fresh and entertaining, enhanced by some corny but smurfin’ sweet dialogue. In saying that, some older players may get sick of the Smurf language…but maybe that’s just the grumpy Smurf in me talking.
What surprised me about the game was that despite finishing the main story in around four to five hours, it left a lot of opportunities for replayability post-game. This game offers a lot more on than it lets on and can be particularly great for beginners/young achievement hunters who might have an itch to complete the game in its entirety, as once the campaign is completed there is still another few hours worth of gameplay to sink into. You can go back to explore every level and cure the rest of the contaminated plants as well as find collectables and materials to further upgrade the Smurfizer (more on this later).
One aspect that stands out to me about Mission Vileaf is how accessible it is for gamers of all skill levels. There are three difficulty settings that can be changed at any point in time, and I personally believe it creates an inviting and welcoming gameplay experience for gamers of varying abilities. At the start, the game gradually introduces different moves and actions as to not overwhelm the player, but for fast learners and experienced gamers this can be quite a drag. For example, at the beginning you are only limited to jumping while equipped with your Smurfizer. Later on in the game, more actions are unlocked, which I found a bit painful because there were so many types of hard-to-reach items early in the game, with no prompt as to what they were or hints on how to reach them until the game decides to tell you much later on.
It’s a long way down from here
The combat in the game is really enjoyable and easy to pick up. Different enemies along the way have their own sets of moves which requires you to use the Smurfizer in a variety of ways to take them down. The introduction of each enemy type is done at a good pace but still provides a decent challenge towards the end of the game when there’s a combination of different types to fight through.
Hiding around different parts of the Smurf Forest are materials that you can use to craft upgrades for your Smurfizer and increase stats like your health. The crafting aspect of the game and how detailed it was with the variety of materials you needed was not something I was expecting in this platformer, but my issue was how easily I was able to complete the game with only a handful of upgrades. I was hoping in the final chapter of the game might encourage me to go back and explore the forest more to come back stronger for the final battles, but I honestly didn’t need to. It’s a shame because the crafting system had me excited to work up towards the endgame, but for me as a 20-something-year-old experienced gamer, the mechanic just didn’t live up to its potential that could’ve made the game so much more rewarding to finish. Younger players however might get a kick out of this crafting system if they haven’t experienced this in another game before.
Mission Vileaf really brings the vibrant world of The Smurfs to life with its bright colour palette in the main forest area, and there’s a nice variety in level design as you progress in the game. The music is just as bouncy and joyous as you would expect it to be for a game like The Smurfs, which is fitting for its upbeat and optimistic characters.
Pick on someone your own size!
One thing the game does well for its younger audience is providing some visual and audio cues to help in potentially tricky parts of the game. For example, in one boss fight that had a big open area, a butterfly lying on a breakable object was an indicator of where my character needed to go next. Certain elements of the map may require you to use more power from your Smurfizer. Leafy bridges can grow and permanently extend to hard to reach places, which are signaled with cute, melodic audio cues.
The game also features a multiplayer mode which can be activated at any time during the game. The secondary player can control a tiny robot that throws exploding seeds at enemies as well as heals the Vileaf-contaminated areas around player one. While I didn’t get the chance to test this mode, this can be great for kids with younger siblings looking to get in on the fun as it seems to be more of a supporting role.
The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf is a bright and colourful adventure suitable for all ages and skill levels. As a platformer, the areas have fun designs and provide a good variety of interactive elements to keep the game feeling fresh. While the crafting mechanics in the game miss the mark, Mission Vileaf is still enjoyable to play and is sure to warm any Smurfy player’s heart.
Reviewed on PS5 (PS4 version played) // Review code supplied by publisher
- Osome Studio
- PS4 / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch
- November 25, 2021