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Smile For Me Review (PS5) – Surreal Point n’ Click Adventure Disarms With A Winning Grin

Smile For Me PS5 Review. Can the power of positivity see you through LimboLane’s offbeat abstract adventure? Find out in PlayStation Universe’s review of Smile For Me on PS5.

Smile For Me Review (PS5) – Surreal Point n’ Click Adventure Disarms With a Winning Grin

Need a cure for what ails you? Want to turn that frown upside down? Well, developer LimboLane has the solution for you. Smile For Me.

That’s the promise anyway, but when your character finds themselves in The Habitat, the home of what essentially amounts to a cult. A miserable cult with weird folks kicking their collective heels before the promised ‘Big Event’ occurs. You cannot speak, but you can help these poor souls find some happiness. Because let’s face it, you’re a good listener.

The hook of Smile For Me is that you reject or accept quests from various residents by using the analog stick to shake or nod your head. It’s a fun gimmick that surprisingly does actually draw you into what you’re doing than just pressing X. The format of the game is largely point n’ click adventure with a nice twist of visual novel storytelling thrown in there.

There’s also a good five buckets of surreal chucked over it for good measure. The core of Smile For Me may be about learning to get yourself and others out of a mental funk, but it approaches this like a therapist dressed as a clown. It’s not hard to dig up the realness from it, but it’s easier to swallow from really strange-looking folk with accentuated versions of relatable problems. The look of Smile For Me is like the more adult side of a Klasky-Csupo animation. So if you wanted Ahhh! Real Monsters by way of Stressed Eric, then boy is this the game for you. I mean, the game starts with an infomercial presented by a puppet. So you know what you’re in for quite swiftly.

Nod Ya Head

One of the early ways you can help out in The Habitat is to aid a moping guy get the interest of the painter he’s obsessed with. To do that he wants to show her the perfect painting, but he’s unsure what she’d like. So you head over to try and pry the information out of her armed with nothing more than your nodding head.

There’s various conversational paths, but ultimately only one that matters if you want to resolve the personal stories of The Habitat. But you don’t have to solve those problems. If you found the answer every time then it’d be boring. Failure brings interesting responses and sillier sub-stories. So there’s really no wrong way to play Smile For Me. That’s how it should be in something that’s already quite abstract. No right answers and no way to truly fail. Just an experience where you’re essentially forced to listen to a bunch of oddballs air their grievances.

You can also take snapshots of the residents along the way. It’s basically a collectible quest, but it does add to the stories you’re experiencing. It’s almost like a personal tic of the protagonist, and ends up being a natural part of Smile For Me’s progression.

A minor gripe I have about the structure of Smile For Me is that unlocking new areas is tied to solving certain problems. It knocks the freedom the game seems keen to encourage the player to partake in. Yet it does sort of work with how the game’s story plays out and how the protagonist appears to be hardwired to get involved in the business of others. In a game as off the wall as Smile For Me, rules don’t seem to matter, so I’m probably ridiculous for griping about it at all.

Breaking the Habit

What makes it worth it is discovering where the overall story goes. There’s a sharpness of wit that weaves into the offbeat nature of Smile For Me. That tag team catches you off guard when the game hits profound little moments or the prominent presence of The Habitat’s leader Dr. Habit unearths some uncomfortable truths with his snake oil sales. Plaudits must go to LimboLane for so effectively weaponizing whimsy and absurdity in order to attack the feelings like this. It’s a tough thing to pull off, but it’s done in an almost unnervingly casual manner in Smile For Me.

Fittingly, to be rewarded by what Smile For Me has to offer, requires patience and understanding. There’s a lot of back-and-forth on your quests and that’s a repetitious exercise designed to test your patience. Is there a futility to solving the problems of a bunch of fictional characters? Probably, but what you get out of it in Smile For Me will be worth it.

Smile For Me is out now for PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.



The Final Word

Silly, surreal, unsettling, and quietly effective at delivering its message. Smile For Me's abstract nature can be a barrier, but breaking through it will allow you to experience a very distinct adventure.