Credit to Ubisoft…they sure know how to make great looking endless runner games. They also know how to squeeze every last drop of money out of unwitting players with their in-app purchases.
The Smurfs: Epic Run is modelled closely on the Rayman runner games that have come before but with much improved visuals. The 2D graphics here are admittedly gorgeous & show real dedication to detail.
So, Gargamel has cast a fog that has captured all the Smurfs except one who managed to escape in time. This is the Smurf you play as tasked with rescuing all the other Smurfs, finding the village & defeating the evil Gargamel.
This consists of running through levels while being pursued by the fog, picking up coins & rescuing captured Smurfs. Running is done automatically with a tap of screen making the Smurf jump. As more Smurfs are unlocked more abilities become available such as gliding & double jumps. Rescue a Legendary Smurf & they will be playable at a cost…some of these are so expensive (using in-game money) that after playing for nearly 20 hours I’ve only been able to unlock a small handful.
I could unlock lots more if I’m willing to part with real money…but I’ll get onto the in-app purchases later.
The controls are really fluid & responsive; it’s all about timing your jumps. This can be frustrating when you’ve got a train of rescued Smurfs behind you though. To save them you run into their cages & they automatically fall in behind you mimicking your jumps when necessary. However they are slightly behind you so you have to make sure they don’t get hit or that they mistime a jump & fall in a hole. Doing this loses them & you’ll have to replay the level to rescue them again.
Thankfully rescued Smurfs stay rescued…for example should you rescue 3 out of 4 Smurfs in a level, going back to it afterwards will see only 1 needing rescuing.
Each level has 3 stars that can be earned to have it finished completely. Reach the end of the run, rescue all Smurfs & collect a certain number of coins. Earning stars in levels will gift you XP which in turn levels you up. Levelling up increases the amount of energy you have to use which is used to play levels. Energy expenditure increases the further you progress & should you run out you’ll have to wait until it recharges or pay for more.
There sadly isn’t much variety between levels with similar runs constantly cropping up. They are also quite short with most being completed in less than a minute. You can find pick-ups throughout the level that can then be purchased & equipped in your inventory. Don’t bother they give minor bonuses but cost so much in-game gold it’s laughable. The same goes for rings…a Diamond ring costs 20,000 in-game gold & what do you get for that insane prize? +2 seconds to the duration of all potions.
Potions offer short-term abilities during a run such as creating a rainbow bridge that covers holes or making you a coin magnet. Useful but if you want to make any real progress in the game you’re going to need new Smurfs with new abilities so save your coins for those.
Snappy Smurf, the one with the ability to double jump costs 15,000 gold coins. This could take you hours & hours to earn provided you’ve got the required energy to keep doing runs.
Gold coins are earned in several ways…during runs. Try & collect as much as you can & if you see a split path with an arrow pointing towards a dangerous route, take it. The route is rarely much more difficult but the rewards are far better & there is never a Smurf locked up on these split paths.
You can also get coins by getting the present that appears right before the end of a run. These are missable so make sure you try & get them as the coin rewards can be quite high. You can complete Papa Smurfs challenges for more coins but these are so random you’re better off not concentrating on them & just claiming them when you manage to complete one by chance.
Oh & the more Smurfs you save, the more will work on the Sarsaparilla farm which can then be traded for coins. This is barely worth a footnote because it has limited storage & the returns aren’t that high. You can upgrade the storage facility but the coin cost is high for not much in return.
Every day you get 3 spins on the wheel of chance that can gift anything from more energy to coins to green gems.
These gems are the premium currency of the game & are used for numerous things. Many unlockable Smurfs, rings & items are behind these paywalls but don’t be tricked into even considering spending any money on them.
Sure it suggests you can earn some of these pricey Smurfs in an ‘epic adventure’ which is a portal that appears on the map. The only problem there is that you need at least 6 Smurfs to start it. I have put almost 20 hours into this game & only have 5 so far with the next costing 18,000 gold coins to buy. Or I could spend a smaller amount of green gems right? Say 200 on Brainy Smurf?
Let’s break this down as we always do…
I currently have 4 gems so to buy Brainy I need 196 gems. So what are my options…110 gems for £3.99 or 220 gems for £6.99? Almost £7 for 1 Smurf, the price of 2 vastly superior games in the store.
However that’s not the worst of it…
In possibly the most outrageous display of greed I’ve ever seen in any of these games some Smurfs cost upwards of 1600 gems. Sure they have decent bonuses attached such as permanent double coins but to buy this Smurf outright would cost £39.99 for 1700 gems. I’m not even joking…the next nearest is 560 for £14.99. You could pay the price of a full retail console game with 100+ hours of unrestricted gameplay for the price of 1 Smurf.
Stunning levels of greed & stupidity…it even has the audacity to stick the words ‘best value’ above it. Please, tell me there is no-one out there dumb enough to pay £39.99 for absolutely nothing. This same amount of gems will pay for unlimited energy so for £39.99 you can keep playing over & over again!
Should you die mid-run you can revive yourself instantly for only…get this…30 gems. The price of 30 gems? £1.49, so you can try again once. Die 5 seconds afterwards & you literally just threw £1.49 away.
So what else? I have to mention tournaments. A section of the entire game closed off to me & anyone who refuses to connect the game to their Facebook account. I have 35 tickets that I’ve collected while playing & they are useless because I refuse to allow Ubisoft access to my Facebook account.
Finally in another attempt to restrict gamers unwilling to pay stupid amounts of money to play an average endless runner, finishing an area will see you hit a timer before you can move onto the next one. At area four the timer started at 12 hours, I could pay 40 gems to unlock it instantly (£3) or annoy the hell out of my Facebook friends by inviting them to play as well.
This would have been a perfectly decent game had they charged up front (a couple of quid) & opened the game up fully but oh no, that might have meant they only get some of the money instead of all of the money.
The only reason I’m not giving this a 0/10 is because some effort went into making it look as pretty as it does. That there deserves praise & some form of reward but in their blind greed all they’ve succeeded in doing is ensuring I’ll be deleting their game & making sure they never get a single penny from anyone who reads this review.
The Smurfs - Epic Run