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The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone Review

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Having young kids, I’m often the one who gets to review the games that are aimed at them. That’s put me into contact with dozens, if not hundreds of games aimed at younger players. It means that I’ve got a decent idea of which licensed kids games are the best (or worst), and would happily rattle off a list of the top few. 

On that list, perhaps surprisingly, would be The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf (The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem and Marsupilami being the others, if you’re interested), of which this is a sequel. Which is another way of saying that I had great expectations for this one.

the smurfs 2 the prisoner of the green stone review 1
A sequel to The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf

The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone starts with an Uno-reverse of the original game’s plot. This time round, you start off friends – or, at least, temporary allies – with Gargamel, the Smurf’s arch-nemesis. That’s because Handy and the other Smurfs have effectively burgled Gargamel’s laboratory, trying to chip off a sliver from his magical green stone. In the process, the green stone shattered, unleashing its captive spirit, Stolas. The spirit covers the world in giant crystalline shards, and it’s the Smurfs’ task to both rid the world of crystal and stick Stolas back into the genie’s bottle.

Which is a roundabout way of giving you the same objective as the first game. Instead of hoovering up magical gloop and chopping away carnivorous blooms, you are blowing up crystals and chopping away quartz-like deposits. Regions are covered in the stuff, and a percentage-total climbs upward as you make everything as it once was. The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone is a reasonably safe sequel, then, with the most delicate of changes.

There’s a slight change to the game’s structure. Out goes the Smurf Village as a hub, and in comes a more traditional level structure. These levels don’t interlace to create a bigger map, as The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone prefers to use Gargamel’s portals to scoot you around.

What made the gameplay sing in the first game is very much evident here. This is a 3D platformer where the world is reasonably open. Enticing you into the fringes of the map are crystals, and they can be popped by firing your Smurfomix gun at them. Bellflowers are also tucked into corners, and you can suck up their innards (?) for valuable resources. Should you fancy, purple challenge portals can also be found on the outskirts of each level, offering combat arenas for yet more resources. Which is all to say that there is plenty for completionists and XP hunters to find.

the smurfs 2 the prisoner of the green stone review 2
A reasonably open world

There’s still that Super Mario Sunshine joy to be found in the moment to moment gameplay. Clearing up ice caves and forest floors is satisfying in a PowerWash Simulator way, while there’s a low-level layer of puzzling over the top. The Smurfomix has various upgrades (Stickall, Pushall and Catchall, with abilities that roughly correspond to their names), and they can be used to manipulate the world. A seesaw can be glued down with Stickall, while blocks can be tethered together with Catchall. 

If there’s a criticism of these initial upgrades to your Smurfomix, gained in the first half of the game, it’s that they confusingly overlap. Whenever white, glowing plants appeared in the world, our kids would hand us the pad as they either relate to the Pushall or Catchall. Why the visual language for them is both the same we don’t know, but it led to moments of getting truly stuck as we spammed the white plants with bullets from both guns. 

Still, on most occasions, the puzzling doesn’t spike much higher than ‘I wonder what happens if I do this?’. It’s a welcome addition to the platforming and nook-exploration that forms the majority of the game.

Combat will be more divisive, but we ended up as fans. The hump to get over is that it’s pretty full-on. Wave after wave of enemies of various creeds – flying, bouncing, tanks, evolving caterpillars and many, many more – will surround and batter you, leaving very little time or room to work out a plan. It’s a gear or two up from the first game, which is quite the ask. 

the smurfs 2 the prisoner of the green stone review 3
There’s a bit of combat too

Our counter argument would be that there is a Story Mode available that nullifies much of the threat, and that can be turned on at any time. Equally, once you get used to the tempo – if you’re of an age to get used to that tempo – then you’re given all the tools you need to succeed, and kicking Crystobeast butt is consistently satisfying. 

Signature Moves (each Smurf has their own) are charged-up effects that can wipe out entire arenas. Our favourite is Dimwitty’s Carrot’n, a carrot that acts like a Dune thumper, attracting all the enemies towards it and pulsing out explosions to make sure they never attack you again. The different Smurfomix effects can be used offensively, not just for puzzles, so you’re also switching between them for combat’s sake. Covering enemies in Stickall gloop never gets old. There’s a positive comparison to be made with It Takes Two in how a single gun effect can be used in a multitude of ways.

The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone loves an upgrade system, so the tools are always getting more potent. By smashing those green crystals and siphoning from the bellflowers, you’re accumulating enough currency to upgrade the Signature Moves and guns. If you’re like us, you will find the gun that you most love and double-down on it. The only negative is that you’re reliant on flowers in the environment to give you ammo for that gun, and the ammo is only temporary. If you love a Stickall, then you’re going to be limited to using it when The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone wants you to use it. Which is more prohibitive than we would have wanted.

Regardless of the flaws in focusing on a specific weapon, this system is unexpectedly deep. Tiers of upgrades unlock for each gun as you move from Smurf to Smurf, and there’s more than enough to keep you hunting until the end of the game. Some of the upgrades are so ridiculously powerful that it becomes fun to backtrack to old challenge portals and absolutely destroy them for the greatest rewards. It might not look like it from the cover, but The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone is surprisingly deep.

the smurfs 2 the prisoner of the green stone review 4
The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone – one of the best kids games of the year

The problems of the first game are still here, but lessened to a degree. The story is still on the flimsy side, with Smurfs mostly finding themselves in locations by accident and trying to find a way out. An is-it-an-enemy-or-not? plot surrounding Stolas does intrigue, but it only surfaces on rare occasions. The greatest annoyance comes from the various interruptions and cycling dialogue from the Smurfs themselves. You have to have a pretty high tolerance for squeaky quips.

A new flaw, though, was technical issues. We didn’t encounter many – at least that we can remember – in Mission Vileleaf. But in The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone we experienced several crashes when using the Smurfomix in ways that games didn’t intend. The checkpoint system is frankly brilliant here, taking you back a few seconds from where you originally were, but there’s still the inconvenience of having to reboot the game. Still, we can mostly wave these issues away as nuisances. 

Once again, Microids and OSome Studio have achieved the improbable in The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone. They’ve made a platformer that’s smurfing ace, a Super Mario Sunshine-like 3D adventure that both kids and adults can enjoy. The best licensed kids game of the year? You better smurfing believe it.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Large inviting world to explore
  • Simple but colourful art
  • Great interplay between the guns
  • Depth in its upgrade systems
Cons:
  • Combat might be too intensive for some
  • More crashes than we’d like
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Microids
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS5, PS4, Switch
  • Release date and price - 2 November 2023 | £33.49
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Large inviting world to explore</li> <li>Simple but colourful art</li> <li>Great interplay between the guns</li> <li>Depth in its upgrade systems</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Combat might be too intensive for some</li> <li>More crashes than we’d like</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Microids</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC, PS5, PS4, Switch <li>Release date and price - 2 November 2023 | £33.49</li> </ul>The Smurfs 2: The Prisoner of the Green Stone Review
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