Review: Smurfs 2 (DS)

To Smurf, or not to Smurf?

Recently we got a little down and smurfy with our review of The Smurfs 2 for the Wii U, and now, we’ve set our focus on the DS version which offers a completely different gameplay experience, despite sharing the same title. Where the former offered up uneventful platforming that should only appeal to novice players or those simply fixated by anything Smurf-related, this particular instalment features a premise and mini-games geared strictly to the youngest of crowds – think 3-7, ideally. Now that we’ve gone smurf-deep with the entire package, the question is: does a little go a long way, or is it time these happy-go-lucky Smurfs grew up a bit?

The Smurfs 2 functions as an interactive storybook that offers up small doses of gaming, in the form of mini-games, along the way. Throughout the whole experience the player will need to hold the DS vertically, as if they’re actually indulging in a book, while all of the mini-games and interactions are restricted to touch-screen controls – no buttons are used. The story is delivered by a narrator, so basic reading isn’t really necessary to get involved, though it will help when it comes to identifying game titles and understanding gameplay descriptions; which are both fittingly elementary. What’s odd is that your hand isn’t held quite as much as you may expect from a game aimed toward very young players, as it’s often unclear what you’re supposed to be doing.

Most of the mini-games are very, very easy to partake in – even without a description – though there are some that really seem to have no directive. For example, there is a game that requires you to play dress-up with Smurfette by matching different hats, dresses, and shoes. After playing for about five minutes, and earning a three flower rating, the game didn’t end and we had to tap an icon in the corner of the screen to manually exit. Even if this is considered an open-ended activity more than a game, there’s nothing to notify you of that being the case. It’s extremely confusing, a terrible design choice, and could’ve easily been fixed with a brief description or by providing a clear goal to achieve. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only “activity” guilty of such ambiguity.

As for the actual mini-games, none of them offer any real sense of depth. Basically, if you’ve played them once, you’ve seen all there is to see – despite some changes to the backgrounds, mostly. To give a few examples of what’s on display here, there is a game called Clumsy Kung-Fu that operates like a game of Simon Says; there are four arrows on the screen and you must memorize the pattern in which they illuminate, then repeat said pattern. Another is Smurf-a-pult, which features the familiar Angry Birds catapult mechanic, but instead of knocking down flimsy structures for high scores, you’ll attempt to launch yourself as far as possible while avoiding hazardous obstacles, and landing on springs/skateboards to maintain momentum. We understand that these games may sound fun on paper, but they’re just too trite and devoid of enticing playability to be captivating.

Those are just a couple examples of the contrived mini-games available throughout the 20-some odd minute story. They’re mostly structured after a popular game or genre, but almost always lacking the depth and/or quality of what’s being emulated – or, smurfulated, if you will. Even the interactive elements of the storybook are extremely underwhelming; touching objects in the image triggers minor animations. If you believe this is something your kids would enjoy regardless of our opinions, we’d still like to recommend that you don’t pay full price for this smurf-sized package. There are many other games like this available on the DS that do every single thing better than The Smurfs 2 does, and offer much more content.

Conclusion

So what we’ve learned is that “smurf-deep” is a mighty shallow depth. The Smurfs 2 is a collection of mini-games that have the integrity and tuning of something you’d play in a pop-up box on your web browser. We have no doubt that there are some young kids who will find fun within the pages of this “interactive” storybook, though that doesn’t mean it’s worth the price tag for a product that’s virtually slopped together. There’s simply not enough value present, and for the most part, the only difference between The Smurfs 2 and the abundance of shovelware already available for the DS is the inclusion of the Smurfs themselves. Just stay the smurf away.