Monday, January 12, 2009

The Simpson's Game

Game: The Simpson’s Game

System: Wii, DS, PS3, PS2, PSP, Xbox 360

Release: October 2007

To say that The Simpson’s is my favorite show is like stating the Atlantic is damp. I am a devoted fanboy who knows ridiculous amounts of useless information about this show. I collect the crappy merchandise knowing that I’m just adding more and more money to people who don’t really need it. The show is tremendously successful and I own every season and movie available on DVD. One of my favorite stories from working at Linens N’ Things involves helping Nancy Cartwright, and one of the best lectures I had in college was from David Silverman. If you don’t know those names, then look them up along with John Swartzwelder!

Fanboyizm aside I realize when the products of the show are crap. For instance, certain later seasons lack in quality compared to the Golden Era of seasons 3-8. Another prime example is the numerous video games featuring my favorite yellow family. Until recently, the only game worth mentioning is the classic arcade Simpson’s game. EA has actually done a good job creating a satirical platformer that’s big on laughs and solid enough on gameplay to warrant at least one playthrough.

The Simpson’s Game does what the Simpson’s do best—poke fun at themselves. The entire game makes fun of video games from creation to clichés. When a cliché is found Comic Book Guy pops up with a sarcastic sigh that can be experienced right from the start.
Players start off in training mode, which is a dream where Homer is in the Land of Chocolate like the episode Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk. Here players get used to the basic game mechanics. The typical jump and punch mechanics are complimented by special abilities for each family member. For Homer he can become a large ball that can be propelled into enemies and off ramps. He can also turn into a giant gumi-monster that flings blobs of goop at his foes. The rest of the family gets to learn of their special powers over the next few episodes or levels.

Walking around Springfield, Bart just so happens to come across a video game instruction booklet for The Simpson’s Game. He learns that he has super platforming powers that can get him through the next level. Bart dawns the Bartman cape and cowl to take advantage of grappling hooks, gliding, and slingshot abilities. Homer is there to give a helping hand, and at this point the game coop feature comes into play. For the majority of episodes players can have a friend join in at any time to take over a family member. Usually there is only two Simpson’s on screen so only two people can play at a time. After each episode, however, the second player is idle. Springfield acts as a default or home map that only one player can navigate to find secrets and trigger episodes. Marge and Lisa also discover their video game powers in the proceeding episodes. Lisa can stun enemies with her saxophone, and use her Buddha power to move large objects and solve puzzles. Marge has RTS qualities. She can recruit near by town folk to destroy and build whatever she desires. Even Maggie helps out Mom by crawling through airshafts to find secrets and solve puzzles.

With the family all powered up, it’s time for the plot to kick in. Aliens invade Springfield, so the Simpson kids attempt to locate Professor Frink. In the process they discover that they’re entire existence is nothing but a video game—deep ain’t it. This leads to the family confronting Will Wright in order to save their 8bit counterparts. The Sims creator reveals that he is just a pawn, and points the finger to “the creator.” After four more episodes that vigorously throw zingers at the video game industry the Simpson’s confront Matt Groening. They discover that he too is a pawn—no way!—and the Simpson’s are off to confront God in a DDR tournament of epic proportions. After defeating God, he rids Springfield of the invading Aliens, and the Simpson’s return to their ordinary video game lives.

This plot is hilariously ridicules, and works well for the game. All family members are mixed and matched in every episode to help elevate repetitive gameplay. Coop is blast because it can be done with just about anybody. The puzzles are uncomplicated yet rewarding. Unfortunately, the camera is not very good, and hardcore gamers may be thrown off by the games simplicity. Others will embrace a game that makes you laugh, and anyone who works in the industry should give it a try. One of my favorite jokes was the QA department littered with outdated PCs, skeletons, and cobwebs. There are even a ton of collectibles and easy achievements for those collector perfectionist types. Snerts Snazzy Simpson’s Score—man I love alliteration—grants The Simpson’s Game a decent 3.5 out of 5.

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