If you saw the trailer for the new Smurfs movie and thought it should be turned into a dancing game for the Wii, you’ve probably got a nurse that cleans your face after you eat. But hey, chin up! Someone at Ubisoft had the same idea, so there might be a future for you in the corporate world.
At $30, The Smurfs Dance Party is a budget game, much in the way that your shoelaces can serve as “budget spaghetti” in a pinch. The gameplay is a straight lift from the Just Dance franchise, meaning you’re awarded points based on how well you can imitate your onscreen avatar. As the game’s box boldly states, Dance Party lets you “dance alongside all your favorite Smurfs – from Papa Smurf to Smurfette”. In my case, I assumed this meant I would be dancing alone.
Instead, I was greeted by a glassy-eyed CG Papa Smurf thrusting his perfectly smooth crotch in my face over and over, never once breaking eye contact. When the song finally finished, I chose another, and I was forced to watch an FMV Gargamel dance to a rap song about how evil he was. But enough about the game’s strong points.
If The Smurfs Dance Party were at least fun to play, perhaps it could salvage some shred of dignity, but that’s asking altogether too much. Gameplay often feels completely disconnected from the score you receive. You’ll waggle the Wiimote around violently and get three stars, but perform the actual dance move and get one. Even more frustrating is the fact that, due to the grossly inhuman body proportions of the Smurfs, you’ll often need to do things they’re incapable of, like raising your arms over your not-watermelon-sized head. The whole thing is just an exercise in frustration and guesswork, which is an awful idea for a game that’s aimed at children.
The game features 25 songs, presumably because someone at Ubisoft asked, “What’s the fewest songs we can get away with putting in this turd?” and 25 seemed like a good number. There’s actually some legitimate music to be had here, like Barbara Streisand by Duck Sauce and One of the Boys by Katy Perry. The fact that I just referred to Katy Perry as “legitimate music” should tell you a lot about the rest of the soundtrack, which is made up of Smurf-centric remixes and original songs that sound like they were written with Microsoft Songsmith the night before the game was due.
For a title that’s centered so heavily around music, all of it is outright terrible or in especially poor taste. One of the rap songs, for instance, quite obviously uses “smurf” as a replacement for the N-word, while the remixes include such gems as “Who Let the Smurfs Out?” and a Smurf DMC/Aerosmurf collab, “Smurf This Way.” You might think that was a joke sentence. It wasn’t. What I’m trying to say is, if you held me at gunpoint and forced me to pick my favorite song in this game, I would choose the bullet.
Some very optimistic programmer decided to put the lyrics to every song in the bottom left corner of the screen, just in case anyone wanted to sing along. Sometimes, late at night, I think about that programmer. I think about him and I weep for his innocence.
In addition to free play, the game features a half-assed story mode in which Papa Smurf, looking like he’s strung out on heroin, recounts the plot of the film through a series of unskippable cutscenes. In between, you have to dance along to songs about some of the events from the story. With only eight levels and about 10 minutes of movie footage, it’s at least a mercifully brief experience.
There are some multiplayer options as well, though I can’t imagine anyone hating their fellow man that much. The two competitive modes award completely BS point bonuses at the end of a song, Mario Party style. Because, as we all know, nothing helps a child’s confidence like being rewarded for “Most Misses” or nabbing the coveted “Low Score Bonus”. There’s also a team mode, where you and up to three of your friends work together to earn a high score while your self-respect dies in pieces.
In the end, the biggest fault of the game isn’t that it’s overwhelmingly bad; it’s that no one seemed to care just how bad it was. Every aspect of the game reeks of a very conscious, hollow attempt at cashing in.
Quite tellingly, there are no credits in the instruction manual, nor do they play after you complete Story Mode. When you finally find them, buried away on the Parents menu, they’re accompanied by a Duck Hunt-like minigame that serves no purpose other than to distract you from reading the names of the people responsible.
Of course, when appraising a game like this, it’s important to keep the target audience in mind. The Smurfs Dance Party was clearly intended for fans of the upcoming live-action Smurfs film; in other words, it was intended for no one. And that’s exactly who’ll enjoy it.
The Smurfs Dance Party was released on July 19th, 2011 for the Wii.