Smile For Me Review – Big smiles and big secrets

Smile for Me uses puppets and flowers to send you down the rabbit hole in this sinister and surreal tale.
Smile For Me Review 2
Image: LimboLane

There are few games, movies, or other entertainment media that fall into the “weird core” category. Game with strange, surreal visuals and unorthodox storytelling, these pieces of media often leave a very potent impression on those that consume them and because of this have very dedicated followers and fan bases. For those looking for the next strange thing to experience, you may have missed Smile for Me and its surreal usage of puppetry. This flower-sniffing adventure certainly isn’t all it it seems to be.

Smile for Me is a point-and-click puzzle game crossed with a visual novel, Surrealism and humor are sewn into a world that’s just barely hiding a darker message below the surface. With hints that something isn’t right sprinkled in alongside the strange world and characters, this game is sure to leave an impression, but maybe not one everyone is going to appreciate.

Smile For Me Dr Habit
Image: LimboLane

Smile for Me is a game that has actually been in the kiddy pool of the public consciousness since its original release in 2019. However, the hype for the game has recently made a huge resurgence thanks to the Bloom Update. Not only was the game made available on consoles and multiple Steam languages with this update, but the graphics and accessibility options for the game were also updated, making for a refreshed experience that practically feels like a remaster.

In Smile for Me, you play a nameless character known only as the florist. You are presumably fallen on some had times, as you wake up in The Habitat with no prior knowledge of how you got there.

The Habitat, as explained by the delightful and NOT at all creepy puppet Dr. Habit in his analog horror-like introduction tapes, is a sort of rehabilitation center for the sad and downtrodden. The goal of The Habitat is to return a smile to the faces of the residents, a task that you are seemingly responsible for when you first wake up in the facility.

In Smile For Me, your goal is to make all 23 quirky residents of The Habitat happy before some ominous, unspoken event unfolds. This is done by fulfilling the requests of the tenants, which are puzzles you an complete by interacting with the environment. You will sometimes need items rewarded from other completed puzzles to finish a resident’s request, and residents will often block entry to other parts of the facility until you make them smile.

Sometimes, you will have to wait a few in-game days to complete a resident’s quest, at least if you need help from them in the form of hints. As Dr. Habit says, there’s no need to rush rehabilitation, though some of the tenants tell something very different in a very pressing tone. You’re gonna learn quickly that Dr. Habit is not your friend and probably shouldn’t be trusted.

Smile For Me’s creepiness borders on horror and waddles around freely in the thriller department, without ever crossing the line into an overtly scary game. There is plenty of menace in The Habitat, supplied primarily by Dr. Habit, and there are times when you will feel like a monster is on your heels and set out to punish you. That being said, Smile For Me isn’t a scary game, and it isn’t trying to be, using its creepy and thrilling elements to tell a story about mental health and trauma.

Smile For Me Event

Image: LimboLane

And its probably because of the presence of this story and these characters that I didn’t find myself getting bored of its simple gameplay.

In Smile For Me, the gameplay is reduced to two simple mechanics. When interacting with the residents of the Habitat, you are sometimes prompted to respond to their questions, and you nod yes or shake your head no by moving the camera in certain directions. Beyond that, you can use a series of items ot interact with characters or the world by pushing them together.

And that’s it. Characters will respond differently when you say yes or no and will interact when certain items are used on them. Sometimes items won’t do anything until a specific line of dialogue is spoken, or a certain objective needs to be fulfilled.

That’s all there is to do, and that certainly won’t sound exciting to many players, but the story and characters of Smile For Me managed to create an experience that kept me engaged the entire time I played. This wasn’t necessarily because some big exciting event was going on the entire time, but because the plethora of personalities made meeting each new character an engaging enough experience to keep me wanting to continue.

Puzzles, for the most part, were also good at keeping my attention through to the end. Most were just challenging enough to tweak the curious part of my brain into asking “Ok, wait, how does this work?” without going on for so long that I felt frustrated or bored. That being said, I did have to look up a walkthrough on one or two, and the game’s way of closing off sections of the map until you finish previous puzzles means that when you get stuck on a difficult or confusing puzzle, you’ll be stuck on it until it’s finished.

Smile For Me Hand

Image: LimboLane

I think Smile For Me is a game worth experiencing, even if it doesn’t look like something you’d be into. A $15 price point might dissuade a few skeptical players from experiencing the title, but luckily for them the game is often featured in sales and bundles on the Humble website.

The Final Word

Smile For Me is a truly unique experience of a game. It presents players with a dark story hidden behind a surrealist world and absurdist humor. With character met and puzzle completed, you’ll find yourself a little deeper down the rabbit hole in this one-of-a-kind game.

8

Smile For Me was reviewed on the PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Smile for Me is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Playstation, and Xbox.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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