Review – The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf
Look, let’s be honest for a second. The Smurfs, as in the franchise as a whole, is not very good. The cartoons were boring as hell. The modern movies made Paul Blart: Mall Cop look like the freaking Shawshank Redemption. The games released over the past few decades were bad at best and the underground foundation for a bargain bin at worst. And now we have a new one. Even though, as I’ve previously mentioned, I am a sucker for licensed games, I had no hope for The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf to be anything but bad. Shockingly, it wasn’t. It wasn’t good either, but just the fact that it was so aggressively average might actually make it the best Smurfs product ever made.
The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf is a 3D platformer. That alone made my ears raise like a puppy being offered a cookie. These games are my jam and not exactly the easiest to make a cheap licensed knockoff. Even the most average 3D licensed platformers from back in the day, such as A Bug’s Life and Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt, had well designed levels and a handful of gimmicks that made them stand out from the rest of the crowd. Technically speaking, the same can be said about The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf, as it’s not completely incompetent. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bonafide hit, or even something worth spending your money on.
The question is: how to make a damn 3D platformer based around the Smurfs? They are known for being utterly helpless and frail, so how can you adapt such franchise into a genre that’s all about overcoming obstacles and defeating a handful of enemies here and there? The answer came in the shape of the Smurfizer. Clever name, I know. The Smurfizer is a machine created to purify and cleanse all pollution scattered across the land. There are tons of infected grass, enemies and mushrooms, and they can only be cured by spraying a magical dust coming from the Smurfizer, in a gameplay loop not unlike Super Mario Sunshine, now that I think about it.
Cleaning grass will destroy gigantic piles of sludge that serve as obstacles, while spraying magical Smurf dust onto enemies is usually how you kill them. You might occasionally have to do a ground pound (it’s a 3D platformer, you have to have a ground pound) or jump onto their mushroom-shaped head in order to unveil their weak spot as well. It’s not challenging at all, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is really repetitive. Every aspect of this game is really repetitive, as to be expected. It’s the freaking Smurfs.
The level design isn’t inherently bad, but there’s just so much you can do when creating levels based on this source material. You use mushroom pads to jump, climb some trees, and cleanse pollution on a handful of grassland-based levels. They are colorful and occasionally nice to look at, but this is something I would have expected from a game from two generations ago. Especially regarding the quality of the textures, which are really poor, and the simplistic lighting effects. To top things off, the framerate isn’t very stable. It’s not outright terrible, but it keeps noticeably dipping every now and then. The gameplay isn’t fast-paced enough to require pinpoint precision, even during platforming challenges, so you can ignore these issues. You shouldn’t, but you can.
The overall platforming in The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf is decent, but every single character you control features a weird “acceleration” before they actually start moving properly. It makes some jumping sections a bit more annoying to overcome as you’re forced to go back a few feet in order to “gain momentum”… in a damn Smurfs game. The biggest issue with the gameplay is the camera, which only occasionally behaves in order to give you a headache.
I left the most divisive aspect of this game for last: its sound design. Sure, the soundtrack is stock and unmemorable, but it gets the job done. The problem (or not) lies on the voice acting. It’s terrible, but not in an amateurish way. At the same time, you can actually notice how the voice actors are actually delivering a good job. They are trying their best with what they’re given. They’re just being hampered by what’s a really bad script. There are even some cutscenes presented entirely in poetry, which weren’t half bad per se. Again, it’s the fact this is not an inspiring source material that inhibits everyone else from delivering a good performance.
This might actually be the best product ever made with the Smurfs named attached to it. The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf is not terrible, it’s just aggressively mediocre. It has some good ideas here and there, such as some above average level design and well-animated characters, but it is hampered by a series of technical issues. Then there’s the biggest culprit of them all: the fact it’s based on such a bland franchise to begin with. At the end of the day, this is an average title that might please die-hard fans of the franchise, if there are any out there.
Poor textures, lighting effects and framerate are all over this game. Yet I do have to admit that at the very least, the Smurfs are all well-designed and moderately well-animated.
It’s a basic 3D platforming control scheme, but with poor movement and camera controls. Not to mention the aforementioned framerate issues. I do like the emphasis on exploration though, even given how simplistic it is.
The voice acting is pretty weird, as it’s actually terrible, but at the same time, you can actually notice how the voice actors are actually delivering a good job. They’re just being hampered by what’s a really bad script.
Fun Factor: 5.5
Even though its source material is indeed terrible, this isn’t a bad game per se. It is competent, even if it’s janky and unpolished. At the end of the day, an aggressively average title that might please die-hard fans of the franchise, if there are any.
Final Verdict: 5.5
The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf was provided by the publisher.