Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, videogames used to have one joystick and two buttons. And when you finished playing, you’d have no money and aching thumbs.
So, if you always find yourself thinking about old Quantum Leap episodes and how cool grunge was, don’t worry. It can be 1991 again. It's time to dial up Nevermind on your iPod, because The Simpsons Arcade Game is back in all its single joystick thrashing, two button mashing, glory.
The evil Smithers has robbed the local jewellery store and he’s taken Maggie as part of his haul. So, it’s up to Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa to rescue her. That’s it really. You have a punch button and a jump button. Or, in multiplayer mode, you can join with another member of the Simpson clan to do a combo attack. It’s simple. But don’t worry, by the time you’ve pounded your way through all the bowling balls, zombies, saxophones, and robots, you’ll know what RSI-inducing, classic gaming is all about.
As you can guess from the whole ‘Smithers as villain’ thing, The Simpsons Arcade Game was originally released by Konami around the time of the program’s second season. So, it’s not just retro gaming, it’s retro Simpsons. While you get very quick in-game cameo’s from the likes of Santa’s Little Helper and Nelson, the gameplay centres on the four Simpsons.
Homer punches and kicks, Marge hits people with her vacuum cleaner, Lisa uses a skipping rope, and Bart has his skate board. Food gives you health. Rocks can by picked up and thrown. And there are a few sling-shots lying for a limited number of ranged attacks. While collision detection is a bit random, if everyone is swinging at the same time it’s hard to tell if you’re doing any damage, your unlimited lives let you bash your way comfortably through all eight levels. From the streets of Springfield, all the way to the nuclear power plant.
If you have four controllers, players can drop in and out of games as they like. And a crowded four player game is as fun as it sounds. Especially when the hats, rocks, and even the odd car, start getting chucked around.
But it’s not just about teamwork; the game keeps a running count of kills, so there’s a lot of jumping around trying to steal the last hit on the shuriken-throwing ninja or walking donut. Also, to keep the sense of competition going, the game includes a couple of bonus rounds that take it back to who’s fastest on the buttons.
If you’re really fast on the buttons, and you want to take your skills to the world, The Simpsons Arcade Game goes there too. From a very simple online menu, you can quickly set-up or join a game. While joining an in-progress game usually means waiting for an in-progress game to shed a player, once you do join everything runs perfectly.
However, when players drop out of games, and they will (if only to get a bit of ice on their aching thumbs), it’s no problem. Playing by yourself not only keeps your kill count going, giving you a head start for when the game picks up new players, but it still allows you to unlock rewards for completing the game and using different characters.
Sore fingers aside though, The Simpsons Arcade Game not that difficult. While it’s the kind of button-masher you don’t get anymore, it’s also very short. In fact, you could probably finish it twice in the time it takes to watch The Simpsons Movie. And, while there are rewards for going back, there’s not a lot to unlock. That is really the game’s only problem. Gameplay, graphics and sound are pure 1991, but you usually want your retro games to be tough to finish. For all the boss battles and button mashing, The Simpsons Arcade Game is pretty easy.
What there is though, is good. Especially if you love the classics. And from the stripped down theme tune to the ‘Doh’ Homer mutters every time he kicks someone in the back and can’t run away, The Simpsons Arcade Game is a classic.