In order to stand out in the crowded point-and-click adventure sector, you have to come up with something that’s completely different and rather unconventional. As luck would have it for Smile For Me developers LimboLane, unconventional is at the core of their game’s DNA. But does that mean Smile For Me is going to put a smile on your face, or will you actually need cheering up afterwards?
Prepare to be introduced to Dr. Habit, a seemingly friendly chap looking to spread joy and turn everyone’s frowns upside down. After receiving an invitation from him via the World Wide Web, you decide to up sticks and live at his special place for people without a smile – The Habitat. It doesn’t take long for you to realise that not all is as it seems and this community, the Habiticians, filled with sadness require your help.
The sinister undertones of Smile For Me are immediately noticeable, with Dr. Habit presenting cult-like video presentations throughout, which get darker if you don’t obey the rules. The fact that he’s a creepy puppet and talks gobbledygook adds to the overall uneasiness of the whole situation. Fortunately there are subtitles in place to convey any dialogue, so you don’t have to worry about that aspect. It’s still really bizarre though, and you’ll no doubt be apprehensive about the concept at first, especially as the world within is abstract to the point where it’s akin to a lucid dream – or perhaps a nightmare.
Playing as a flower delivery person, you’re tasked with trying to cheer up the rather unhappy inhabitants, ideally before Dr. Habit pulls the trigger on his grand scheme known only as ‘the big event’. In order to do so, you must explore the Habitat in first-person perspective and figure out what’s wrong with all these downers. This will enable you to then fix their potential problems and solve any issues.
Smile For Me is a point-and-click adventure, therefore the puzzles faced are mostly inventory based affairs. That doesn’t mean you’re simply going around handing out items; no, there’s far more ingenuity than that. You may need to use an item to decipher a message, take pictures with a camera, grow flowers in a particular way, or create a meal made from trash. At other times, you’re even manipulating a pipe to direct a golf ball towards a clown and scanning areas for treasure. Many of the solutions are varied and the logic needed here ensures that achieving success in cheering someone up is rewarding.
What’s also great is how the characters have vastly different reasons for their sadness and possess interestingly quirky backstories. It’s easy to become engrossed in the tales of love, family drama, bad career choices, and a chap who may or may not be a werewolf. The character designs are fascinating too, with everyone appearing as paper cut-outs while additionally having their own unique style. As such, there’s a natural intrigue to interact with all twenty-two residents.
During conversations with Habiticians you’re limited to nodding and shaking the protagonist’s head to answer any questions. This requires moving the camera up and down or side-to-side, however if you find that a bit of a faff, the option is present to bind a button to each action. The customisable control setup is excellent in terms of accessibility, ensuring many players will be able to create a suitable binding layout.
So, what’s not to like about Smile For Me? Well, merely a handful of things hold it back from being a brilliant title to be honest.
For the purpose of interacting with anything, you have to locate the hand within your inventory, which is less of an issue in the early parts. Later on though, the inventory is ridiculously cluttered and so it’s a bit of a nuisance. Another downside sees a small selection of puzzles pushing the boundaries on being logical, potentially leaving you stumped for a little too long and seeking a guide. Furthermore, it’s confusing at a couple of junctures as to what to do next and it might only be apparent upon ending the current day by sleeping.
Smile For Me manages to deliver a totally weird, but very interesting point-and-click adventure that’s unlike anything else. Sure, you may need time to get used to the sinister nature of proceedings, but the experience slowly becomes engaging and encapsulating as you interact with your fellow Habiticians. It’s dark and twisted, without ever venturing into scary territory, while the tales of woe are increasingly intriguing. The puzzling aspects are the icing on the cake with a variety of excellent problems to solve that really make you pay attention and use your brain.
Put a smile on your face for a few hours by picking up Smile For Me.