Turning heads and frowns upside down, Smile For Me finally makes its way onto consoles after its successful debut on PC. Developed by LimboLane and published by LimboLane and Serenity Forge, Smile For Me is a first-person point-and-click adventure game that aims to make players smile in a setting that feels uncertain.
Happiness comes and goes. The whites of our smiles begin to hide behind pursed lips. Sometimes, our troubles stretch over long periods of time. And all we want, all we desire, is to find a solution to absolve us of our innermost turmoil and smile again. In Smile For Me, we play as a young florist who finds himself at a place called The Habitat. Created by Dr. Habit, it is a place “for all you’re happiness needs.” Afterall, Dr. Habit wants nothing more than to see the world be a happier place full of brimming smiles. Housing few rules, The Habitat only seeks those who are sad and asks any frowns to be held until the day of the Big Event.
Much of your time at The Habitat is spent getting to know your fellow Habitants and trying to make them happy. Along the way, players slowly uncover Dr. Habit’s past, which further details his reasoning for creating such a place. As a silent protagonist, nods and head shakes serve as our only form of communication. Correspondingly, it continues conversations and initiates quests given by residents.
In its ported PlayStation and Switch versions, players are able to utilize motion controls for the gestures. For the Nintendo Switch, tilting the handheld up and down grants a nod, and side-to-side registers as a shake. This vital mechanic translates over to motion controls fairly well and highlights the unique whimsy of character interactions. For those wary of getting motion sickness or just don’t enjoy motion controls, don’t frown. Players can opt to execute gestures manually and turn off motion control in settings at any time.
Quests are given by the Habitants. The quests are puzzles and have only a couple of challenging ones. Some are simple like smothering pickle juice all over a character per request. Others require a bit of backtracking or specific timing. As someone who does not find joy in extensive backtracking, it didn’t drag or feel too repetitive. The areas are small and player movement feels quick and fluid. Plunging down stairwells and rooftops with no fall damage, I would sometimes catch myself zooming through quest lines impatiently wanting to see how it all unfolds.
Smile For Me runs like a fever dream. Puppet work, real-world images like flowers, and colored pencil-styled animation are some artistic applications that draw you into a world that feels unhinged. Dr. Habit’s VHS-recorded segments, with his slowed and reverb gibberish speech, best encapsulate the atmosphere of the game. It is a visual mixed-media collage environment that combines 2D and 3D elements and creates a unique player experience.
Affirmations plaster the walls that border on propaganda and surveillance cameras can be spotted around. The anxious uncertainty can be felt as players explore an ever-so-present juxtaposition world that is cheery and stagnate. Again, there are only a few rules, but players will be quickly reminded not to break them.
While the game delivered with its unique presentation, I craved more depth elsewhere. Often, I found myself wanting more from the Habitants. I wanted them to breathe. I wanted some sort of compelling development. While misery loves company, there was too much company. Perhaps it was the amount of Habitants and allotted time that barred itself from creating some sort of deeper emotional attachment. While I was able to make them happy, the time spent with each resident was fleeting. Some quests felt like a quick victory that lacked purpose in the bigger story at play: the story of Dr. Habit and how we choose to face our sadness.
Sadness wears differently on everyone. Some dig deeper roots and require work to uproot ourselves. While Smile For Me had me grinning for its off-beat visuals and world, ultimately I could only offer a half-quirked smile by the end.
Smile For Me will release on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox on April 24.
Smile For Me
While Smile For Me had me grinning for its off-beat visuals and world, ultimately I could only offer a half-quirked smile by the end.
Katherine is a writer and occasional Twitch streamer often found sharing her fondness for most things indie and diverse. Covering video games and tv/film she hopes to inspire thoughtful conversation for titles in these mediums.