I can't smile without you.

I’m going to tell you as little as possible about the game Smile for Me. It’s one of those situations where it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible and just let the world unfold before you. And what an usual world it is, depicted with off-kilter buildings that look like they fell out of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, inhabitants who are rendered as two-dimensional figures that always (always) face you, and a puppet who sends you nightly messages via retro-looking video taped messages.

Smile for Me takes place in “The Habitat,” a colony for unhappy people set up by Dr. Habit. Your goal? Make these people happy! And in this point-and-click adventure, your job is to walk around, find out what people need to overcome their sadness, and put a smile on that face! How sweet, right?

Uh… no.

Smile for Me manages to pull off a very difficult trick; it’s creepy without doing anything overtly scary. There are no monsters waiting to attack you in dark corners, no whispering children singing in the background, and no combat other than a game of Whack-A-Tooth. And even your main goal (making the other inhabitants happy) quickly causes the gear of The Habitat to shudder. Dr. Habit’s daily messages start to point out that it’s his job to make people happy, and his methods turn out to be very different from yours.

The game is, as I say, largely a point-and-click adventure. You run around the habitat, click on people to talk, and gather objects you’ll need to combine or alter to solve certain puzzles. Most of the solutions are straightforward (How do you get someone in another room to hear a confession? How do you convince a security camera that the guard is still there?), but others will require some of that old “well, let’s just offer every object to every person” magic to find the solution.

And you’d better move quickly because each day of the game has a time limit; you need to get into bed before it gets dark. If you don’t, Dr. Habit will take note and give you another kind of video.

Smile for Me has a ’90s pop culture feel. Sort of like something you’d see on Liquid Television. The disturbing parts are upsetting on the scale of a fairy tale, and almost all the parts (hand puppets, taped video, angular sticker-people) hark back to a younger perception of fantasy and reality. It has an unusual vision, and part of the creepiness isn’t that it’s random, but a just-out-of-reach sensation that somehow this all makes sense. That makes exploring, interacting, and understanding the path it’s taking, all the more engaging.