The Smurfs have returned, and things couldn't be less smurfier for the blue bunch. Gargamel has created an evil group of Smurfs called the Naughties, who have managed to kidnap Smurfette. The Smurfs must band together to hunt her captors down and save Smurfette.
The Smurfs 2, named after the impending movie, is a simple platformer that doesn't try to be more than it really needs to be; and that helps and hurts it. The gameplay is pretty easy to pick and go, as you lead Smurfs across easy obstacles on their way to complete six total levels with five act stages at each stop (30 levels in total). The levels are mostly simplistic in construction, as you get a few enemies (in the form of beetles, bugs and birds) to dispatch by simply jumping on top of them and a goal of collecting berries. Along the way, you have varying actual level design, as you go through very short, multi-tier levels that are filled to the brim with berries. So what can you do with all these berries as you go along these easy levels? You can survive and unlock achievements. The draw of The Smurfs 2 lies within achievements.
For purists of the gaming world, The Smurfs 2 challenges you to collect a massive amount of berries, which leads to unlocking achievements at the end of each stage. The berries also provide a dual purpose. The berries can be compared to Sonic's ring collection, as the berries provide you life, but can be all-at-once taken away if an enemy comes in contact with you. Collecting them is a challenge, as you have to watch out for unexpected enemy patterns. For the most part, the game doesn't throw anything particularly complicated at you in terms of enemy patterns. I think the hardest enemy I ran into in The Smurfs 2 was a hummingbird. It had a distinctive movement pattern, but because of its speed it was difficult to jump on top of while it was moving.
Besides berries, there are also coins on each stage that players can acquire (just like in Super Mario Wii U). These coins can be used to unlock more Smurfs in the game, which provides some depth to the title. To WayForward's credit, they made each Smurf unique in the game, sporting their own power in direct reflection to the type of Smurf they are. This is something that motivates the player to keep going through the levels in The Smurfs 2 and keep collecting the coins, which are sometimes cleverly hidden in the game. Again, each Smurf has his own flavor, which provides a bit more variety to the title (and it needs it). For example, Vanity Smurf whips out his mirror and unleashes the power of love to the enemies around him, which stops the enemies temporarily. If you're familiar with The Smurfs at all then you understand the mirror thing.
Outside of coins, berries and unlocking more Smurfs, there's not much more to it when it comes to gameplay and level design. There are no respective challenges like you would find in a game like Luigi U or other popular platformers. It's just simplicity with some neat add-ons for kids.
A major positive for The Smurfs 2 is how good it looks. The Smurf models are pretty spot-on in comparison to the film, and it has some 80s cartoon cutscenes (sadly, they're just still pictures -- basically a slide show). The voice acting is actually kind of solid as well. All of the Smurfs have their own voice acting and personalities, though I'm sure there are several Smurfs voiced by the same person. Shifting gears just a bit, the environments are actually quite decent looking as well. The backgrounds are nice and layered with active movement and animation all around. At the very least, you get a very active and alive environment around you as you play. Visually, the game is pretty for a kids game based on a film.
Now, having said that, this game isn't made for hardcore gamers. At times playing this game was like eating plain oatmeal in the morning. There's nothing initially wrong with the oatmeal, but it doesn't have an incredibly satisfying/exciting taste at the end of it all. It was just there. Now, I fully understand, and appreciate, that this game isn't trying to be like the Luigi U or Super Mario's of the world. It was made for a very young audience that are just getting their feet wet in the gaming world. That's the same audience that is going to see the movie of the same name. So, to be fair, I pulled in my son (5) and youngest daughter (6) to try this game out.
The attention they gave to it lasted about two days. These kids have been raised on the Wii, Wii U and Mario. They're fans of Minecraft and they enjoy some games that most hardcore gamers wouldn't embrace if they were the last games on earth. They made their way through most of The Smurfs 2 levels pretty easily, though they had difficulty when it came to the boss battles. One battle in particular was the battle with the giant toad at the end of the first stage. Maneuvering over the disgusting burping bubbles from the toad wasn't difficult, but when the toad whipped out his tongue then things became frustrating for my duo. They tended to hand the controller to me when this happened, but promptly asked for it back once the boss was dispatched. Again, the entire gameplay experience for my young group of gamers lasted for two days before they went back to Minecraft.
Two days is impressive for a game in this household.
Anyway, this game really was made for their age group and for the most part it succeeds with them. Anyone beyond that age group is going to find a very boring and repetitive game underneath that simply cannot live up to other platformers around it. I do have to give it props, though, as it does outshine the Coleco Vision version of The Smurfs. At least you don't die instantly when you touch random objects.
Gameplay and level design aside, the biggest issue I have with this game is the price point. I'm not sure that I would choose this game over the upcoming Super Luigi U. The Smurfs 2 is priced at $39.99 MSRP. Super Luigi U is priced at $29.99, and that's the stand alone version. Because of the simplicity The Smurfs 2 and the length of gameplay (and the type of gameplay), it is difficult to get excited about a $39.99 Wii U game like this when Luigi U is waiting to be released this month at a lower price point. It would be a steal of a deal for $19.99 or even $24.99, but for $39.99 you're asking a lot and not giving back enough in return. Again, this is just my opinion, which is coming from a reviewer that was sent a free copy of the game.