The Simpsons franchise has a terrible of track record of producing some of the most awful licensed games in existence, yet at the same time this franchise has provided a couple of classics to boot. So when EA announced a new The Simpsons game this year it was justifiably met with a decent amount of trepidation.
To put it as plainly as possible, this iteration in the series is an oddball of a game. Its core design is akin to platformers showing signs of age even five years ago. However, the game knows it isn’t the next Okami, and plays upon that fact with a countless number of satirical jokes against standard video game conventions. However, just because you make fun of these conventions it doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the criticism in partaking in them – though it does help ease these criticisms.
The premise for the game is that Bart chances upon a manual that falls from the heavens: a manual for something called ‘The Simpsons Game’. With this manual he learns that being in a game gives him and his family super-powers, and in typical The Simpsons fashion, he and Homer set out to cause as much destruction at possible.
While these wheels are turning, a game called Grand Theft Scratchy is being released (no points for guessing which game is being poked fun at here) and Bart wants a copy. Of course, what Bart wants and what Bart gets aren’t always the same. Marge, being Marge, seeks to put an end to the sale of the game – by being violent.
This is the sane part of the game’s setup; later you’ll come a place called “The Game Engine” which is a weird alternate dimension run by familiar faces in the form of Mario, Sonic, Koopas, some Madden guys and most hilariously, by Ryu. There are cameos from other characters from the game industry, and eventually you’ll get nauseous from the bizarreness of everything that is going on. This is exactly why the game is so interesting.
If there’s anything which makes The Simpsons Game worth playing, it’s these parodies on gaming culture. The direct digs at EverQuest and Medal of Honor are almost worth the price of admission alone. It’s obvious that the developers have a good knowledge of the gaming industry, and know just which chords to strike to make sure the games audience sings along with laughter. Of course, this is pulled off masterfully due to the excellent writing.
But it’s not only those familiar with the industry who’ll benefit from the humour. The humour of The Simpsons is also here in droves. Everyone has a friend who has a The Simpsons quote for every occasion – if that guy is you, you’re going to love this game as it is laced with references to the show.
If the humour does one thing, its hiding the fact that the game you’re playing is decidedly average. Camera controls border on horrendous, the platforming sections feel like a PSOne game, and the combat is just not accurate enough as you’d like it to be.
Though the game will continuously poke fun at gaming clichés, in the end you’ll still in them. A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, but something that smells this bad can’t hide its smell by being called a rose. Invisible walls, death by water, and other clichés are here, and although the Comic-Book Guy pops up on screen to point them out, soon enough they just become as annoying as they are in any other game. It sounds like a great idea, but ultimately, the gameplay is worsened because of it.
The gameplay isn’t all stock, however. You’re constantly paired with another The Simpsons character and can switch between the two on the fly. The great thing about this is that you’re able to play cooperatively. And the feature isn’t just thrown in either; most of the puzzles require both characters to solve.
The Simpsons Game is one you’ll be able to plough through in about seven hours. If you get sidetracked and explore Springfield – which is something aficionados are bound to do – you can easily extend that out to your heart’s content. There are superficial incentives for going back and playing some more, like time challenges and item collection, but again this plays into clichés – and by this point it’ll feel more like the joke is on you rather than the industry.
Graphics and sound have been given quality attention, with the game looking and feeling almost exactly like the show. There are times when a certain camera angle will make Bart look like he’s from The Goonies, but the smooth framerate and right look make this game a winner.
Sound is wonderful too with the entire original cast lending their voices to the gamem, with deliveries of lines at a pitch-perfect level. Music is surprisingly good too, especially when the game switches to emulate other franchises (keep your ears open during Medal of Homer).
Ultimately, The Simpsons Game is one that can be recommended only for its humour. You’re not going to find an incredible game here but what you do get is slickly presented game with a whole lot of laughs along the way. It’s not that The Simpsons Game is a bad game; it’s just not great one. Is it worth playing? Yes; the dead-pan humour is worth your time and it’s not often you’ll get the chance to play a game that can have you rolling on the floor. Try it out, but just don’texpect a keeper.