There are a few games, movies, or other entertainment media that fall into the “alien core” category. A game with quirky and surreal visuals and unconventional storytelling, these mediums often make a very strong impression on those who consume them and because of this they have very loyal followings and fan bases. For those looking for the next weird thing to try, you may have missed Smile for Me and its surreal use of puppetry. This flower-sniffing adventure is certainly not all that it seems.

Smile for Me is a point-and-click puzzle game crossover with a visual novel, surrealism and humor are woven into a world that barely hides a darker message beneath the surface. With hints that something isn’t right besides the world and strange characters, this game is sure to make an impression, but perhaps not everyone will appreciate it.

Photo: LimboLane

Smile for Me is a game that has already been in the kids’ pool of the public consciousness since its original release in 2019. However, the hype for the game has recently revived thanks to the Bloom update. Not only has the game been made available on multiple Steam consoles and languages ​​with this update, but the game’s graphics and accessibility options have also been updated, making for a refreshed experience that practically feels like a remaster.

In Smile for Me, you play an unknown character known only as The Florist. Presumably, you’ve fallen for a time where you wake up in The Habitat with no prior knowledge of how you got there.

The Habitat, as explained by the delightfully not-at-all-scary creepy-doll Dr. Habit in its horror-like analog introduction strips, is a kind of rehab center for the sad and downtrodden. The goal of The Habitat is to put a smile back on the faces of the residents, a task you seem to be in charge of when you first wake up in the facility.

In Smile For Me, your goal is to make all 23 residents of The Habitat happy before an ominous and unannounced event occurs. This is done by fulfilling the requests of the tenants, which completely puzzles you by interacting with the environment. Sometimes you’ll need bonus items from other completed puzzles to finish a resident’s request, and residents will often deny 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 is no need to rush rehabilitation, although some tenants say something completely different in a very urgent tone. You will quickly learn that Dr. Habit is not your friend and probably should not be trusted.

Smile For Me borders on horror and roams free in the action department, without crossing the line into an overtly scary game. There is a lot of danger in The Habitat, mainly introduced by Dr. Habit, and there are times when you will feel like a monster is on your feet and starts punishing you. However, Smile For Me isn’t a scary game, nor does it try to be, using its scary and suspenseful elements to tell a story about mental health and trauma.

Smile for me event photo
Photo: LimboLane

And perhaps because of the existence of this story and these characters, I never found myself bored with its simple gameplay.

In Smile For Me, the gameplay is reduced to two simple mechanics. When interacting with the inhabitants of the habitat, you are sometimes asked to respond to their questions, nodding yes or nodding by moving the camera in certain directions. What’s more, you can use a series of items that don’t 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 react when certain items are used on them. Sometimes, items won’t do anything until a certain line of dialogue has been spoken, or a certain goal has to be achieved.

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

The puzzles were, for the most part, also good at keeping my attention until the very end. Most of them were just enough of a challenge to modify the nosy part of my brain to asking, “Well, wait, how does this work?” Without going on for so long that I got frustrated or bored. That said, I did have to look up a walkthrough in one or two, and the game’s way of locking off parts of the map until you’ve finished 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 at me hand picture
Photo: LimboLane

I think Smile For Me is a game worth trying, even if it doesn’t sound like something you’re going to get into. The $15 price point might discourage some skeptical gamers from trying the title, but luckily for them, the game is often featured in sales and bundles on Humble’s website.

The last word

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


Smile For Me reviewed on PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the game reviews section of our website! Smile for Me is available at steamAnd Nintendo SwitchAnd Play StationAnd X-Box.

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