Game review: The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf (Xbox One/Xbox Series X)
Microids and OSome Studio invite players to do some Smurfing and Smurf-up the evil Gargamel’s latest fiendish plan in The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf.
Like many 70s/80s kids, I was introduced to The Smurfs via the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, ignorant of the fact that the little blue people had been around since the 1950s. Had my parents chosen to drive just a little further for their fuel in the 1970s, I’d have probably had a collection of the little Smurf figures given away at National petrol stations like many of my school friends. Instead, I got to know the Adventures of Papa Smurf, Smurfette, and their little village via the original Saturday morning cartoon.
The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf will be familiar to anyone that’s seen any of the Smurf films and TV shows over the past 40 years. I’ve got to admit that I only put my hand up to review it as I thought it would be a nice game to review with my five-year-old. Little did I know that this game would distract me from Halo Infinite.
Gargamel is up to his usual tricks and has contaminated the Smurf’s village and the surrounding lands with an evil plant known as the vileaf. The plants are toxic and risk destroying The Smurf’s sarsaparilla fields.
The vileaf plants also produce viletrap seeds, which can trap Smurfs.
Luckily, Handy Smurf has created the Smurfizer. This powerful tool can be used to spray the plants infected with vileleaf and cure them.
The game is an open full 3D world with players controlling Smurfs sent on missions by Papa Smurf to stop Gargamel. The controls are easy, with the left stick controlling Smurf movement/aiming the Smurfizer and the right stick moving the camera. On Xbox, A is jump and B brings the Smurf down with a powerful stomp.
Having the Smurfizer as a spraying device means that the game avoids equipping young players with anything that looks like a gun, although enemies do fire seeds and energy at the Smurfs. This makes the game perfect for younger kids, although the gameplay does require a certain amount of dexterity.
At its heart, The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf is a platform game, having players jumping across the scenery and using mushrooms to propel themselves across the landscape, all the while clearing it of infected foliage.
The upgradable Smurfizer also becomes a glider, allowing the player to remain airborne for an extended amount of time. As the player upgrades the Smurfizer’s abilities, the map opens up with previously inaccessible areas becoming available.
The levels are well designed and cover a variety of challenges. The Smurf’s village allows players to get to grips with the game, with Wild’s camp in the forest offering some very tricky aerial manoeuvres. There are even sequences that feel more like a 2D platformer with a fixed camera.
The game looks absolutely gorgeous.
The Smurfs are perfect recreations of their animated counterparts, and on Xbox Series X they look real enough to reach out and grab. The visual style is fun and very polished.
Whilst the game is mission-based, and you can just tear through that, there are plenty of side-tasks to complete for extra rewards. To be honest, these tasks are really for completionists as some are pretty challenging for minimal reward but fun to try.
Clearing areas of infection not only garners the in-game currency but also rewards the player with cosmetic upgrades for the Smurfizer. It’s also rather zen-like just clearing the infected grass with my hose.
Two players can play co-operatively, the second player controlling a floating robot with many of the same abilities as player one. The robot shares the same screen as player one’s Smurf and respawns along with player one if it gets left behind. This is a great way to introduce a young player to the game and have them involved without hindering progress until they get the hang of the game.
There are some elements that don’t seem very well explained, like the crates, full of life-renewing sarsaparilla, that the game waited a while to advise me about. The 3D camera sometimes makes judging jumps difficult and frustrating, but I sooner got control of the camera that the game seemed to be whipping the view about.
Some areas are home to enemy creatures that will attack the Smurfs. A quick squirt of the Smurfizer will sort out many of them, although others need to be stomped, Mario-style, and then given a dose of spray. The game reminded me of Super Mario Sunshine, on the old Nintendo GameCube. It shares a lot of the same game mechanics and has the same almost whimsical feel.
The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf is possibly the most enchanting platformer I’ve played in years. It is a game that I found very compelling and hard to put down. Its innocent and relatively simplistic gameplay was a welcome change from all the shooting and killing that is my usual gaming fayre. It was delightful to be able to play a game together with my five-year-old without cringing due to inappropriate violence.
If you want a game that you can play guilt-free with the kids and one that you’ll likely find engaging in its own right, I can recommend The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf. The game is out now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.