Life is hard for those who grew up with The Smurfs these days, what with those awful new movies getting endless sequels and all.
People forget that The Smurfs used to be a cute cartoon, a fun comic book and you even had some decent enough games attached to these little blue fellas back in the day.
I’ll be talking about the NES and Game Boy versions of one of those games because…
Because Nintendo, that’s why.
The Game Boy port opens with the usual gruesome story:
That this guy hasn’t eaten his talking cat yet is still shocking to me.
Even Wile E. Coyote’s hunger-themed quest seems more worthy somehow.
Anyway, Papa Smurf has a chat with his peeps (or “smeefs,” if you will) and gets them to agree to taking out Gargamel once and for all by ANY means necessary.
I’m kidding, the plan is to rescue a bunch of Smurfs which Gargamel has cruelly captured.
You start the game and everything seems weirdly happy and jolly. No real enemies to fight except worms and other tiny insects which actually seem rather upbeat about being attacked:
Although, eventually you do meet some bees who don’t seem too impressed by your antics:
Animals really get a raw deal in this game, Smurfs kinda use them for anything and everything, even transportation.
I mean, that’s what birds are for, right?
I wonder how many Nintendo games make you stand on birds…
By the way: that’s one really small bird when you think about how big Smurfs are.
The scale is all over the place in those games.
And if you think the NES is too good for any bird-ridin’:
I should mention that the gameplay in The Smurfs is a little awkward: A makes you jump and B makes you run. Yup, it’s one of those games where you can’t really attack, instead you’re made to settle for jumping. Luckily, the game isn’t too hard. In fact, at times, it can be a little too easy.
The bosses are particularly underwhelming.
This giant snake may look intimidating but all you need to do is steer clear of him until you find the right moment to jump on his head. Do that like three times and he’s a goner.
The final boss, Gargamel, is particularly disappointing.
For one thing, he’s not even that tall!
You’d expect the guy to be like a giant and yet you’re basically the size of his head.
But that’s not the main problem.
Literally all you need to do to beat this FINAL boss is to jump on this plank three times and… that’s it.
I mean, granted Gargamel isn’t exactly a genius but come on, he’s not this useless!
There had to be a somewhat more epic way to end this game, surely.
That said, I gotta hand it to this game: it does make an effort overall to try and give us some variety and some challenges, even if it does drop the ball when it comes to the bosses.
For one thing, there are a few fun Bonus Stages to let the game breathe a bit, the main one involving bubbles:
Gotta have bubbles.
Plus, even though the game is mostly a typical side-scrolling platformer, you get some different types of levels from time to time including one where you’re riding a stork like that magic carpet in Aladdin.
That level’s a strong contender for pointiest Game Boy level, by the way:
You can even run your bird into other birds!
Who hasn’t dreamt of doing that?
Let’s be honest.
Another level sees you ride a sled down icy mountains:
Another sees you avoiding giant hungry fish as you ride a log down a dangerously busy river:
And, of course, we get the obligatory mine cart level:
Do people actually like those?
I guess someone must like ’em if they’re in EVERY GAME.
(same goes for underwater and sewer levels)
Gargamel’s faithful cat Azrael pops up in the game near the end as you invade Gargamel’s castle Robin Hood-style:
He’s more of a nuisance blocking the bottom part of the screen than he is a real boss, unfortunately.
Plus he’s smaller than you, somehow.
Oh, and one more thing about scale: if a peach is bigger than you and you’re the size of Gargamel’s head then that means…
Well, I guess it means this game doesn’t understand scale, like, at all.
Something which we’ve already established, of course.
Now, how does the Game Boy version of the game compare to the NES one?
Well, for some reason, I found the Game Boy version to be more appealing. Obviously, the NES has colour and that’s a big plus but I liked the more close-up look of the Game Boy game and the way it told its story. Plus, you’d really expect the NES to completely outclass the Game Boy and offer something much more substantial but, apart from some minor differences, they’re basically on a par with each other.
Plot-wise, this is basic stuff: you pick up keys and free various Smurfs.
And, of course, Smurfette:
Who was either going out with you from the start or who is just very, very friendly.
You rescue everybody from the clutches of this surprisingly tiny, really unthreatening old man and everyone lives happily ever after.
This is a game that’s clearly aimed at slightly younger gamers so don’t go in thinking this is in any way, shape or form comparable to Super Mario Bros 3 or MegaMan!
This is a lighter, simpler attempt at a side-scroller and, although it can be anti-climactic at times and the gameplay isn’t exactly the best it could be, it’s not bad at all.
Worth a try.
Any game which has you jumping on frogs’ heads is worth a shot, to be honest.
So… any Nintendo game, basically.