Smile is a morose game. It’s The Sims stripped back until you can see the white of its skull, a few beads of blood spoiling the perfection of bone like the piss-burned holes in a field of fresh snow. Your little computer person has needs, just as a Sim or an actual human does, and the entire purpose of life is to ensure that those needs are fulfilled. In Smile, this means that every day is a struggle to survive, as cooking a meal takes valuable time that could have been used playing a game, which would have been fine if you’d been able to have a shower at the same time. Smile is free (donations accepted through itch.io) and was created during the Ruin Jam.
The obvious joke, of course, is that Smile’s barebones approach to the life sim is cut from the same cloth as The Sims 4. Less of the same. If it is more than a joke, however, then it seems to be a representation of life as a challenge, the daily slog of spinning plates lest the whole structure of self collapses like a bone china skeleton. We’re back to that gleaming skull again.
Perhaps there’s a slightly more suitable analogy given the consumerist nature of Sims and their race to not only keep up with the Joneses but to run the Joneses off the road and set fire to their aspirations. Smile is life presented as busywork, with all the joys of social interaction, good food and a relaxing night’s sleep extracted. The only thing remaining is a collection of bars to balance and of demands to be met.
Smile is a grim little toy and its punchline leaves a bruise.