Smile for Me

As someone with bad teeth, I’ve spent probably three times as long at the dentist than I have at a hospital.

When I was younger, I was in for an extraction and the dentist gave me laughing gas. I have a very clear memory of looking into his face with my mouth wide open, a bleeding hole where a chunk of bone once was, and saying, “You look like a puppet.” Or at least trying to say that — as much as one can in that position. The dentist looked at me and laughed, but there was something weird about his laugh. It was as if he were the one who had said something funny, or else he was just in on some extra layer of humor that I wasn’t aware of. I guess I don’t know how else a dentist should react upon hearing a doped-up kid say he looks like a puppet, but I think about that almost every time I have to go back into the dentist.

That memory popped up again the first time I saw the dentist puppet in Smile For Me.

Smile for Me

I was recently given a review copy of Smile For Me for Nintendo Switch. The game originally came out on Steam back in 2019, but it finally landed on Switch on April 24, 2023 (which happens to be the same day I’m publishing this review).

Smile For Me is what I would call a comedic horror-lite fetch-puzzle game. Summoned to a mountain resort by a strange dentist, you are asked by one of the other tenants to make everyone smile once again. During the day you run around completing fetch quests to make them happy, and at night the dentist sends subliminal messaging through a television set to get you to stop.

Visually speaking, it has a unique and colorful art style — this is a 3D world with 2D characters that turn to face you, each having a few different positions or emotions but no traditional animated movements. I love the character design, as well as the little bits of story and personality that each character conveys.

Smile for Me

My favorite three are as follows:

  1. Mirphy Fotoparat: A photographer on the hunt for something to truly magnificent for her gallery, a picture of a booty.
  2. Randy Hapukurk: A lad who’s only desire in life is to smell like pickles.
  3. Tim Tam: A small purple child that only wishes to see the world burn — punching everyone, entering a staring contest, burning a stolen object, and returning two other stolen objects. Tim Tam is an agent of pure chaos.

The story in Smile For Me reminds me of being a child and trying to imagine what kind of person would ever want to go into dentistry. Surely no one could actually want to be a dentist of their own accord, right?

Smile for Me

The game has several endings, a sort of Good/Neutral/Bad-type deal. I’ll only spoil one of them here for you, because honestly it’s the only true ending in my head. In the bad ending, you confront Habby the dentist at the top of his tower, punching him twice before he falls presumably to his doom. You know what they say, the only good dentist…

I have not played Smile For Me on PC, so I can only comment on my experience on the Switch. The game feels a bit heavy and slow, almost as if it’s running 5-10% slower than it should be. The character moves with such a strong momentum that it can be difficult to stop when you want to, making going up and down stairwells so much harder than it should be.

Smile for Me

Some of the controls and dialogue overlap, which can get a bit obnoxious when you’re trying to use an item but instead end up nodding or shaking your head in response to someone behind you. Using the hand to turn or interact with things feels weird, and it’s hard to control when doing things like spinning a valve or completing a whack-a-mole challenge.

I think the one thing that bothers me the most, though, is how cluttered your inventory is by the end of the game. In my current save, I have 23 items. The only way to go through them is by cycling through them one at a time left or right, and that gets a bit tedious.

With all of that said, Smile For Me is a really enjoyable experience. It took me about five hours to finish my first playthrough, and once you finish with whichever ending you choose you can immediately reopen your save file and go for a different ending. The art style is gorgeous. The humor and slight existential horror mix is done very well, and it doesn’t wear itself out by any means. I think the Switch port feels a bit rough around the edges, and I’d probably recommend the game on PC for those who can play it that way, but it is a game that I genuinely enjoyed having the opportunity to play.

Smile for Me

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for Smile For Me on Nintendo Switch, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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