Marge, stop this crazy thing!
The Simpsons, yep, they’re all in the family, living the wonder years as the modern stoneage family. You can always leave it to Bart, and with Lisa in the middle, The Simpsons itself has been a parody from the very beginning. Over the nearly two decades the show has been on the air, they’ve made fun of just about everything, and they’ve also made a ton of money. Licensing and merchandising are the core of the Simpsons franchise, and they’ve tried several times with varying success to make a video game version of America’s favorite yellow family.
[image1]From their self titled action game, The Simpsons, in 1991 there have been a large number of games bearing their name. Skateboarding, Wrestling, Road Rage, Hit and Run, Bowling, Bart vs. The World, Bart vs. The Space Mutants, Bart vs. The Juggernauts, Bart’s Nightmare, Bart’s House of Weirdness… it just doesn’t end.
Most of those games have suffered from fairly mediocre gameplay, and sadly, The Simpsons Game suffers from the same fate. However, none of those earlier games has ever captured the humor of the series quite like this new entry, and that makes The Simpsons Game one of the funniest game you can play, though at times you’ll really wish you were playing Bonestorm instead.
From the very moment you press start on The Simpsons Game (easiest achievement ever), the humor is apparent. With over forty minutes of Simpsons animations acting as the cut-scenes, as well as countless voice recordings for both the main characters and secondary ones, its obvious that the entire creative team on the show was involved in the creation of this game.
The Simpsons Game takes place on an average day in Springfield. Average, that is, till Bart, while trying to buy Grand Theft Scratchy, accidentally discovers an instruction book for the very game you’re playing. The forth wall having thus been broken, Bart realizes he’s in a video game, and he and the rest of the family are blessed with new super video game powers. So begins an adventure that will include anally obsessed aliens, a random appearance by Sideshow Bob, and more Simpsons and video game references than you can believe.
[image2]The gameplay is your standard platformer – giving you control of two Simpsons family members as you work your way through “episodes”. Each character has special abilities that change and enhance as you go through the game, or when Bart discovers what too many gamers use nowadays, the game guide (cheating is fun!). Homer can turn into a big, fat beach ball, without a mumu though. Bart can transform into Bartman and glide around, Lisa can use her freaky voodoo powers to levitate objects, and Marge does what Marge does best, inciting crowds to riot. Maggie, who rides on the back of Marge, even reprises her “Great Escape” role and can crawl through vents to find objects and activate buttons.
The graphics are top notch on both all platforms, though more animation can occur on screen on the 360 and PS3 versions. Walking around a virtual Springfield, the Simpsons fanboy in me was recognizing every single building, from the Duff Brewry to the Spirograph factory. Cell shading is used to perfection in this game and really helps you feel as if your playing a real episode
The video game parodies are the core of this game, and if you’re a gamer, you’ll be sure to get many of the jokes. Though some, like knowing who Will Wright is and why you should care that he’s a boss character, might be lost on the more general audience. Even then, there are plenty of parodies for casual gamers to enjoy too. Missile Command, Frogger, Joust, Gauntlet, Wolfenstein 3D, Everquest and the much discussed Grand Theft Auto all are put up for ridicule. You even get to fight Ralph in a pokemon style JRPG battle, though sadly he doesn’t summon Wigglepuppy. All these parodies were spot on, though I wish some were a bit longer, especially Duffenstein 3D.
For a game that makes fun of video game cliches, The Simpsons Game actually features two of the worst cliches in gaming. First, the camera wins the award for the worst camera of the year. It sometimes swings about wildly, gets caught on objects and generally impedes gameplay at numerous crucial moments. Yes, that wall is beautiful, but I’d really like to see what my character is doing, please.
Secondly, and worst of all, are the bottomless pits. No, not the one under the trapdoor in Mr. Burns’ office. These pits are everywhere, and you always have to jump over them. Miss and you fall to your doom, though by doom I mean you reappear at the beginning as if nothing happened. This was the old type of platform game, before you could interact with your environment more. Its just as frustrating now as it was back in the day. Jumping from platform to platform on a linear path does not constitute a puzzle. I’m sure Will Wright would agree with me, even though his voice congratulates me for “solving” the puzzle of jumping.
[image3]While limiting your characters during most of the episodes, I was annoyed that you couldn’t just walk around Springfield as the whole family. There are numerous hidden collectables in Springfield that require constant character switching to get. Especially later in the game when there are levels you play with all four characters, it seems silly.
The Wii version is pretty much the same as the other versions, just with annoying controls. Yet again, a game not designed for the Wii shows the drawbacks of that platform. They basically took the same control scheme and slapped it on the Wiimote. Mapping some of the attacks to a wiggle makes them hard to execute in crucial moments. Also, as bad as the camera is, its even harder to control using the d-pad on the Wiimote.
The Simpsons Game may just be the funniest video game ever, but funny is not the same as fun,and it’s just not a very good game. I found myself wanting to finish the game just for the humor, even though I was screaming at the TV after falling down the 10,000th pit or when the camera showing me the wall again while i get killed. Only real Simpsons fans will enjoy this game and get most of the references, and that’s the tooth.