After a number of average forays into the video game market and a film that disappoints on several levels, when the latest Simpsons’ release, another video game, was announced, I was sceptical to say the least. I mean, it’s not as if creator Matt Groening needs the money, or that the franchise doesn’t indulge our lives sufficiently already.The real problem is that there simply isn’t much in the entertainment world left uncovered, so what new ideas could The Simpsons Game bring to television’s favourite yellow family?
To be honest, I kind of wanted the game to fall flat on its face, if only to prove that endless cross-media adaptations only harm a brand’s reputation and anger hardened fans. However, I can happily proclaim my worries were unjustified, and The Simpsons Game is one of the most entertaining interactive Springfield adventures to date, setting a maker for other future movie and TV tie-ins.
The key to The Simpsons Game’s success lies in the original story. Where as so often when a film is released, the associated video game simply rehashes the silver screen adventure, luckily the powers that be ignored the recent movie and instead employed three regular Simpsons writers to create a fresh, new storyline. With their own plot, developers EA had the creative freedom to make full use of their years of experience, and The Simpsons Game had sufficient freedom to build on the freeform platforming genre.
First up, they’ve taken tips from the very best. The core layout of the game sees you running around a fully expansive Springfield, ala Mario Sunshine, hitting waypoints around the town to trigger story developing levels. Luckily to help you through each mission, you’ll have an assistant, or to be more specific, a family member. Able to swap between each of the family members at bus stops around Springfield, with Maggie simply on Marge’s back, you can pick the twosome for your specific needs.
Which leads nicely onto the storyline. Although the plot may be wholly original, it could leave avid gamers wanting more. As new video game Grand Theft Auto Scratchy hits stores, Bart is amongst the first to pick up a copy, but before gets home, another mysterious manual hits him on the head; ‘The Simpsons Game’. Flicking through, the Simpsons discover they each have special abilities, including Bartman for Bart, a large gummy monster for Homer, Lisa has a link with the gods and Marge can make use of her megaphone. First using their abilities to stop the launch of Grand Theft Scratchy and then defend against an alien invasion, the advancing plot soon becomes merely a means to completing the game rather than an absorbing conquest. Instead, the entertainment and quirky gags come from hilarious Easter eggs and references entwined in each level, culminating in their own Simpsons take on classic games such as Medal of Honour and Pokémon.
The cell shading graphics are bright and colourful, and more than you could hope for from an adaptation, The Simpsons Game instead falls down in other areas. Controlling the camera can be difficult and on several occasions, you’ll be left unsighted at critical points but the main problem is a complete lack of replay value. Give The Simpsons Game a solid ten hours and you’ll be done with the storyline, casting aside the countless collectables dotted around Springfield, intended to keep you playing.
While EA have done an accomplished job and certainly created the best Simpsons game to date, I can’t help but feel the title doesn’t quite reach its potential. Sure, kids will love it, taking the helm of their favourite TV family for just the right amount of time to keep them interested, but for the seasoned gamer, you might get a little frustrated. The gameplay feels a little repetitive after a while, and when you think of the impending Mario Galaxy, you could be wholly uninspired. The gags though are there for all to enjoy providing just enough entertainment to justify a purchase.