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Hallo's Atari 2600 Review #1: Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle

"Sorry, Smurf, the princess is not in the castle...actually, she is!"

Smurf:  Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle

Publisher:  Coleco

Date:  1982

 Smurf:  Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle is a side-scrolling adventure where an unnamed Smurf attempts to rescue Smurfette from the clutches of Gargamel who has hidden her deep within his castle.  Ok, maybe not too deep, but she is stuck on top of some dining room furniture and apparently is not able to climb down by herself.

 The Smurfs was, of course, an animated television series released by NBC in 1981 and quickly turned children across America into Smurfaholics.  One of the more fascinating concepts of the Smurf series is the language itself; Smurf is not only the name of the little blue creatures running around paying

 homage to Papa Smurf, but it is also used in both verbal and adjectival forms to describe what the Smurfs are doing.  For example – “Climbing up this pile up rocks is going to be Smurfy” is perfectly correct grammar.  Or, “you really Smurfed your opponent in that Smurfy game of tennis” also works.  The possibilities are endless.  English professors should really consider using the word “Smurf” to demonstrate the immeasurable importance of reading any kind of literature in its greater context.  In the sentence, “The experience at my job interview was incredibly Smurfy”, it is not immediately clear whether the Smurfiness is meant to be for good or ill.  And so forth.  Oh, and the best tasting “Spaghettios” rip-off of all time was Smurf Pasta.

 But this article is not about pop-culture in general, so let’s talk about the Atari 2600.  Since the Smurf series was released in 1981 and Atari released their game in 1982, we have to give Atari a little credit for being pretty quick on the draw with this one.  The game provides a fun playing experience and, if I may be so bold, acts as sort of a predecessor for Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers with its side-scrolling action and rescuing of a “princess” in a castle.  In order to get to Smurfette, the hero of the game must leave his home, jump over a fence while dodging a hawk-like-creature, jump over a river and a snake, jump up three levels of, well, I have no idea what – looks like big steps, and then dodge a spider in a cave.  Finally, once arriving in the castle, you must hop on some chairs and rescue Smurfette.  Sadly, Gargamel never makes an appearance. 

The level of difficultly increases each time Smurfette is rescued (unfortunately, she is apparently kidnapped immediately following her rescue and the adventure starts over).  The hawk, spider, and snake all speed up their attacks and you have to clear the same screen multiple times.  So, when you jump the fence and dodge the hawk, you have to do it again.  And again.  And again before moving on to the river.  The music is very well done throughout the entirety of the game.  Although it gets a bit repetitive (as all 2600 games tend to do), it is a nice tune and the cave sequence with the spider yields an eerie little change of the music.  The game looks good from a graphics standpoint.  The screens are colorful, the skies provide a rich blending of colors, and although the rooms may be somewhat simplistic, they pack a little more punch than most 2600 adventure games.


The controls take some getting used to.  Instead of pushing the button to jump, you instead push the joystick up.  Push it up once and you will slightly jump straight up.  Push it up twice and you will perform a massive leap up and forward.  This is what you will use 99% of the time in this game.  The Smurf hero in this game is a complete wuss.  If he even touches the leg of a chair, he dies.  So, you can’t touch anything in this game.

Overall, Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle is a fun, simple to play adventure game that invites you to try and beat your high score.  Although it can get old fairly quickly, I like the playability of the game and I am always a sucker for games where you “rescue” someone while a big red heart shows up at the moment of rescue.  That, my friends, is super-duper Smurfy.

Hallo’s Rating:  B+      

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Reader Comments (1)

Played it for nearly an hour last night while capturing the screenshots, and I really enjoyed it. I had the Colecovision version, which was, obviously, prettier and had more screens, but this still is pretty awesome for a severely underpowered machine. Discovering games like this is why I still love playing the old systems.

May 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterDanny Webb

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