Smilemo is a brutal action platformer from REXECHO and CFK, and this is not your traditional title in the genre. Smilemo punishes you in a weird and unique way, but that does not stop this from being a tough-as-nails platformer that will keep you playing until the very end.
So is Smilemo one of those games that needs to be played to understand? Or is this a disappointment compared to the strong competition in the genre? Let’s find out!
Smilemo is a strange one when it comes to its story, but it is still a fun one to follow! Basically, you are the smiling emoji that becomes bipedal and anthropomorphic through an error in a download, and unfortunately for you and the system you are within, a virus has been downloaded and it is up to you to stop it from spreading.
There is not a whole lot more to the story than that. After escaping the first Trojan Virus, the system reconnects with you and updates on the scenario. After “defeating” each virus and collecting vaccine codes along the way, you will gain new abilities as you advance through the seven stages. Between each stage, the system chats with you a little more to encourage you and inform of anything new.
For what it is, Smilemo is a decent little story to carry you through the interesting experience. It is not deep or heavy, but it is a creative little tale to give context to what is happening on screen and gives purpose to your little smiling emoji. A nice and fun narrative to compliment the wild gameplay, which is next on the list of things to talk about.
As stated before, Smilemo is a brutal action platformer, but instead of the traditional death when touching “red” things, the protagonist bounces and ricochets backwards until their momentum is stopped. This can unfortunately bounce you all the way back to the beginning of a stage at times, and believe me, that is not a pleasant feeling… especially after the umpteenth time.
Thankfully, there are checkpoints, but they are sporadic and could have been better placed. One thing that is quite frustrating is the RNG when taking a hit, because there is no real indicator as to what the difference is between a regular hit and a critical one. This is important, too, because the critical hit launches you further back, which can literally throw you with so much momentum that you keep hitting more red obstacles all the way back to a point that makes you want to pull your hair out. I’m all for difficulty in games, but something about this pattern does not feel right.
This also means that it is quite possible for a critical hit to launch you over a checkpoint, but thankfully you can return to the last Save Point from the pause menu. Another thing that is disappointing is that Smilemo forces you to use the joystick instead of the d-pad, and for a 2D precision platformer, that is a frustrating choice, as the d-pad is a significantly better option for many players. At least give us the option.
After clearing a standard platforming stage, you will then face the Trojan Virus infecting that certain area, and these are almost like infinite runner sections where you need to dash run, precision jump, etc to avoid being eaten by the Trojan and “save the day”. These boss sections are harder than the actual stages, but thankfully instead of bouncing miles back on the stage, the Trojan Virus just eats you and you return to the starting point.
Graphically, Smilemo is pretty basic. All things red are bad and will hurt you or eat you, and anything that is not red is safe to touch, run on, and climb against. The game uses simple and crisp 8-bit style graphics, but I will say that the particle effects that are displayed at random points, mostly during the boss fights when the Trojan Virus is destroying the stage behind you, look fantastic.
The soundtrack is pretty fun and is honestly quite memorable, although it would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the music. One particular sound that drove me mad is the “Critical” hit sound when being thrown back, as it is this high-pitched exclamation like you did something great. I do enjoy that the music fades and slows down as you are ricocheting backwards, but that “Critical” hit sound is painful to hear after so many times.
Smilemo is a decent platforming romp with a little twist to it, and for the most part, it is a challenging and memorable time. However, a lot of the times, the memories are going to be ugly because of that “Critical” hit sound and watching your little emoji avatar fly backwards and erasing all of your progress.
Thankfully, Smilemo is an affordable title, but it is also a very short game. If you struggle with precision platformers, this may challenge you for many hours, but if you are a platforming junkie, you can easily knock this one out in under an hour. I’m sure speedrunners will surprise me even more if they decide to tackle this one.
I reluctantly recommend Smilemo, because it is unique and can be fun at times, despite its annoyances. At a discounted price, this is definitely an easier pill to swallow. At the end of the day, though, there are significantly better platforming experiences out there, so this is mostly for those looking for something fresh and new to mix things up. Otherwise, go play Celeste or N++ instead.
Cute little story about emojis and viruses
Unique "no-death" mechanic
Trojan Virus boss fights are a good challenge
Bounce back/Ricochet feature can be infuriating at times
"Critical" hit sound effect
Cannot use d-pad
What's Your Reaction?
My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.