While it can probably be argued that you don't really have much going for you if you're a miniscule blue Belgian with a bright red hat, if there's one area the Smurfs do have us snookered, it's in terms of language. I mean, while Klingons have their own language, and Skyrim has a good few shouts, the Smurfs have communication down to a T, to the point where it seems like pretty much any word in their smurfcabulary can be replaced with the word "Smurf". And think about how easy that would make your life. "Does my bum look big in this?" "Does it smurf". "What did you think of that home-cooked meal I've slaved away at for hours?" "It was smurfy". "Am I getting fat?" "I think Smurf!"
So the Smurfs 2 game, then? It's a little bit Smurf.
Coming from WayForward, the masters of the 2D platform game who previously brought us the excellent Batman: The Brave and the Bold, A Boy and his Blob, and the upcoming (and very good looking) Ducktales: Remastered, it's probably fair to say the studio couldn't have had a better heritage. When it came to platform games, we always thought WayForward could do no wrong - but the Smurfs 2 feels like the work experience boy put it together in his spare time.
The basic premise here is as simple as they come, with no bells and whistles strapped on for good measure. Gathering together up to three of your friends, you get to pick a Smurf (all the good ones are here, along with Hefty Smurf), and take on the thirty-ish levels as you try to rescue the lovely Smurfette from the clutches of the evil Gargamel. As a film tie-in, it's difficult to see what could go wrong - but somehow, pretty much everything has.
For starters, it's a game aimed at children, yet children will be the ones that get the most frustrated with it. Although it's playable in four player mode, it's not obvious that the game's ever been played in it, as, much like New Super Luigi U, things get a lot more frustrating rather than a lot easier. As your characters can crash into each other, you'll have to queue up to cross many of the jumps - and in practice, that's easier said than done. What it mostly degenerates into is a load of Smurfs jumping, crashing into each other, bouncing off each other, and then both plummeting to their doom.
As you make your way through the levels, you'll find yourself collecting smurfberries (what else), finding the odd secret room or passage, collecting the rarer Smurf coins, and even coming across animals that have been hypnotised into doing Gargamel's bidding (i.e. attacking you Smurfs). From rats to birds, from slugs to bees, there are plenty of enemies to deal with, although to put a feel good twist on it, you aren't bouncing on their head and squishing them, you're actually freeing them from their spell instead. By jumping on their head.
But even this causes problems. Some enemies, like the slugs, split off into two smaller enemies when you jump on them, which are incredibly hard to see. Not often are they light blue on a light blue path, but they're also incredibly small. Walk into them accidentally, and you'll lose all of your smurfberries - get hit again, and it'll be game over. The birds are equally frustrating, as they swoop in from the sides of the screen without really giving you chance to react, stealing all your smurfberries if the make contact. Even in multiplayer, should you get hit when having lost all of your smurfberries, you'll be gone, and end up relegated to the sidelines as you watch your friends play through the rest of the level. It is possible to bring you back, but only if they come across a certain item in the level - while if you're playing in single player, you'll simply be taken straight back to the main menu.
While most of the levels are fairly formulaic, every now and then it does at least attempt to freshen up the formula. Each set of levels ends in a boss fight, whether you're fending off Azrael, Gargamel's cat, or going up against a giant frog who likes spitting bubbles at you, when he's not leaping into the air and trying to squish you beneath his gigantic bulk. As your Smurfs move rather slowly, it can actually be quite hard to dodge the boss' attacks, meaning these actually seem quite a lot easier in multiplayer. Some of the normal levels try to do something a little bit different, too - one, set in New York, sees you trying to keep pace with a vertically scrolling level, as you bounce on balloons and try to not get left behind.
In all, then, The Smurfs 2 is more than a little bit of a disappointment. While film tie-ins don't have the best of reputations, they're at least usually a little bit better than this (even if the most recent one, Brave, wasn't really all that great). Frustrating for children and adults alike, this is a blot on WayForward's record, and one that they'll likely want to forget. If you're desperate for a Smurfs 2 tie-in, it may be worth checking out the DS version instead, as that's a completely different game that may be much better for younger children.
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360