The Smurfs Village Party Review – Party Foul

I'm feeling blue.

A while back there was a running gag about the 2022 video game, Garfield Lasagna Party, and my utter disdain for it despite being among the first in the world to nab its platinum trophy. So, when approached with the opportunity to review The Smurfs – Village Party, well I almost felt obligated to fall on the sword. But while the Monday-hating feline’s take on a party game was a svelte, over-and-done affair, Village Party is a much bigger and more involved title with a lot more ground to cover. This was not good news.

To my surprise, this isn’t just another slapped-together collection of mini-games designed for couch play, but it also includes a decently-sized, pseudo-open-world campaign that has players work their way through a simple Smurfs story while engaging in free exploration, collectible hunts, missions and mini-games along the way. Conceptually, I like this, and it’s something I’d love to see Nintendo try with a future Mario Party game, giving players a little single-player platforming adventure they can knock over in a few hours as an appetiser to the main, multiplayer dish.

Unfortunately, the concept is as good as it gets here because the actual act of playing Village Party’s story mode mostly stinks. The controls are fiddly, the camera misbehaves constantly, the world is garish and bewildering to navigate, the platforming is floaty and frequently broken, the UI and interface are god-awful and interrupt your field of view far too often to be as functionally useless as they are, and the whole thing is riddled with bugs and frequently crashes. It is, unequivocally, a bad time.

I also never want to hear “Ow! There’s a smurf smurfed inside my shoe!” ever again. The intense rate at which the same handful lines are repeated over and over while walking around the game’s map is akin to torture, and it’s exacerbated by the whole replacing every third word with Smurf thing that the franchise is known for.

Even the mini-games themselves, the potential saving grace of the whole experience, are largely uninteresting and tedious. What should be bite-sized bits of fun are often far too long, poorly explained and with wonky controls, and when playing against the CPU opponents in the campaign mode often completely devoid of any balance. The half-baked nature of these games comes through most when they turn out to be blatant rip-offs of Mario Party mini-games, and the gulf in quality becomes fully apparent.

Once you’re done with the campaign, you do have the option of challenging the mini-games again against tougher CPU opponents, or of course playing against your friends – which is about the only time that a lot of them are any fun. I don’t think that part is overly surprising, I’m not sure a lot of other party games would be fun alone, even the good ones, but when there’s been a genuine attempt at a solo experience it’s a weird choice to show your core feature in its worst light.

And for those that might read all of this and think, “Hey my guy, this is a kids game, surely the target audience doesn’t care about half of what you’re saying and is just here to play with Smurfs?”… I would typically agree! Thing is, there are much better party games out there. Loads of them! In fact, I’ve repeatedly named arguably the best one among the bunch and there are two of those on Switch right now. So why go with the far worse option? I’m also not convinced that players who are age-appropriate for this game would even recognise the Smurfs or care enough to pick them over something better.

Conclusion
I jumped into The Smurfs - Village Party on a whim, hoping to feel the same dumb glee that I did when burning through Garfield Lasagna Party's trophy list. To my surprise, Village Party's ambitions rose much higher than a lot of games like it, but unfortunately the ensuing fall was much, much deeper than I could have imagined. This isn't worth your time, your kids' time, or anyone's.
Positives
Does feel very authentic to the Smurf world
The idea of an open-world adventure in a party game is neat…
Negatives
…but not here
Tedious mission structure
Boring and clunky mini-games
Complete lack of polish
Grating, repeated voice lines
3