"Smurf Rescue"

We've all watched The Smurfs cartoon on Saturday morning, and we've all thought the same thing:  "Boy, it would be great if I could just get inside one of those little blue guys, control his actions, and make him jump over small, harmless obstacles."  Well, thanks to ColecoVision, now you can!

Smurf Rescue takes place in the Land of the Smurfs.  Or, Land of the Smurf, anyway, as there seems to be only one in this game, with the exception of the sassy Smurfette, who has been captured by the awful Gargamel and now languishes in his dark castle.  Are you Smurfy enough to save her?

Well, it's not going to be easy.  The designers of this hot new game had the foresight to make it challenging by denying the Smurf any sort of offensive attack... go ahead, hit those two buttons as much as you like.  They do nothing.  It's a gutsy move, sure... but those ColecoVision wizards are thinking outside the box.  The only thing they allow your Smurf to do is jump.  I just hope, for Smurfette's sake, that it's enough.

The game begins with the Smurf emerging from his mushroom dwelling with a big smile on his face.  Sure, Smurfette has been captured by a disgusting old man obsessed with Smurfs, and God knows what he's doing to her even now.  But hey!  That's no reason not to enjoy the day!  It's Smurfy!  Singing the Smurf Song, I set out on my adventure.

"La, LAA, la-la-la-la..."
Death by picket fence.  Call the zoning board! 

Yes, my first Smurf didn't even make it off his property before dying horribly.  The real tragedy is, considering its proximity to his fungi-house, he probably built that fence himself.  

There are no second chances in this game... even at full energy, slowly walking into a picket fence will kill you.  And there are still more dangers to be faced!

Here's a small hill, about chest high.
Here's a dead Smurf.
And here we see a tuft of grass.
The Smurf wasn't sick. 
The Smurf wasn't sleeping.
The Smurf was dead.
Quickly, my mood changed.  This game had been great fun for a while, sure... and I suppose, technically, a picket fence could kill you... but now I'm faced with the fact that my Smurf can't even stroll through a patch of slightly overgrown weeds without keeling over like Dick Cheney.  What would the next obstacle be?  A leaf?  A piece of grit?  What if it started to rain?  And why, exactly, was Gargamel having so much trouble defeating these little, blue, pathetically weak creatures in the first place?

At any rate, things got spooky as I reached the next few areas, and after jumping over one or two sharp rocks, I entered an altogether different place.  Black walls, spiderwebs... and a pronounced feeling of dread.  I was a pilgrim in an unholy land.  I was a Smurf in Gargamel's castle.


I proceeded through the castle, jumping the whole way.  There weren't any obstacles for two screens, but I was worried there might be some air molecules or dust mites hovering down at shin level, and I was taking no chances.

And then... there she was!  Smurfette!  That cruel tyrant, Gargamel, had imprisoned her deep in a dungeon, chained her helplessly inside an impenetrable cage, surrounded by horrible creatures and deadly traps... okay, so, he had placed her on top of a box.  But there was a pretty big immobile skull in front of it.

One double jump, and there I was... a hero.  I had braved grass, small geographical inclines, two fences, a few rocks, and a skull as big as a Smurf... but I had my reward.

Doing it all over again.

Yes, that's right.  Starting out again, going through the same screens again, with absolutely no variances in placement of obstacles, mission goals, music, or leaping abilities.  Because that's what we, as gamers, want.  The same thing, over and over again.  We don't go to arcades to be faced with new experiences.  We want to play the same levels, over and over again, until we know them by rote and can complete them with complete nonchalance, without even paying attention.  We want to be able to chat and drink cream sodas and listen to Huey Lewis and talk about Teen Wolf while we play our arcade games.  It's called "replayability", and that, my friends, is what gaming is all about.

Still, Smurf Rescue does push the envelope.  I wasn't going to mention this, but you can play Smurf Rescue on one of four different difficulty levels.  On higher levels of difficulty, there are some changes to the gameplay:

Look!  A bat!
Look!  I'm dead!

This new development, frankly, worries me.

I mean, is adding bats to higher difficulty levels just the beginning?  What's next from these game designers?  Some sort of... shooting game?  Where there are hundreds of heavily-armed enemies?  With, I don't know... some sort of first-person perspective and dozens of constantly changing game levels and incredible power-ups?

I know it sounds crazy.  But after Smurf Rescue, fellow gamers, I'm ready to believe anything.