The Simpsons Game
Players: 1+ Player Game | Genre: Platform
Hi! I’m Troy McClure! You may remember me from such videogame preview articles as “Felix Wright: Tax Attorney” and “President Evil (red, white and blue versions)”. I know that many of you reading this feel that today’s videogame industry seems flooded with licensed games. Well, here’s another one! Allow me to introduce: The Simpsons Game!
The game is being developed under the watchful eye of EA by their Redwood studio, who are all too aware that gamers are wary of games bearing The Simpsons license, after seeing so many terrible Simpsons games like The Simpsons Water Polo and The Simpsons: Bart Vs. The Overbearing Censors.
“We didn’t want this to be like The Simpsons meets Crazy Taxi or The Simpsons meets Grand Theft Auto or The Simpsons meets whatever,” they claim, “The Simpsons is such a great license that a good Simpsons game should just be about The Simpsons, you know?” Apparently, those of you waiting for The Simpsons: Sports Trivia are going to have to keep waiting.
While many would naturally expect the plot of a Simpsons game released around this time to follow the plot of the soon-to-be-released movie, be prepared to say “eat my shorts” to your expectations! Why? Because, as it turns out, the game’s plot has nothing to do with the movie at all, whatsoever! Instead, the premise behind The Simpsons Game is that the Simpsons are starring in a videogame! Isn’t that just crazy?
As it turns out, Homer, Marge and the rest all know they’re in a videogame, and now you know that they know. And maybe, just maybe, they know that you know that they know. Creepy, huh? Well, now that they know they’re in a videogame, they have to figure out just what to do about it. And hilarity ensues!
The story of the game within the game is spread across 16 “episodes” that each have their own unique plot that ties into a greater whole. The general idea is that Kang and Kodos, those delightful aliens bent on world domination, are at it again, spreading chaos by bringing Lard Lad to life, or setting the ferocious dolphins on Springfield’s denizens. What’s an animated character caught in a videogame to do?
Those that watch the Simpsons may recognize plot elements from the episodes in the game from the show, as the game is full of in-jokes for the rabid (and often smelly!) Simpsons fan. What’s more, the game is filled to the brim with videogame references as well, for a double-whammy of parody! These references range from the episode titles (one is called Shadow of the Colossal Donut, and another is called Medal of Homer), billboards and posters within the game (on the docks, for example, you see a billboard for God of Wharf), and even plot points revolving around game parodies, like one episode where Marge has to gather the people of Springfield to protest Grand Theft Scratchy. The game also has some nice hidden bonuses, like one secret area we were shown modeled after Wolfenstein 3-D (decked out with beer posters and re-dubbed Duffenstein). Finally, one of the game’s goals is to seek out “clichés”, formulaic videogame standbys like “the water warp” (when you fall in water and the game zaps you back to where you fell off) and “the weak spot” (when you fight the giant Lard Lad by attacking his wiring hatch). On discovering any of these, you’ll see a screen with the comic book store guy rattling off pointless info about them, and you’ll get ever closer to unlocking the game’s hidden goodies.
The game’s episodes all focus on a pair of Simpsons characters that the player can freely switch between (the ones we saw featured Homer and Bart, Bart and Lisa and Marge and Lisa). What’s more, at any time a friend can join in on the second controller to take control of the second character. Now that’s what I call a co-op-portunity!
In addition to each character’s unique attacks and abilities, such as Bart’s slingshot and Lisa’s stunning saxophone, all of the characters have multiple special transformations they can use to help them. Homer, for example, can turn into Homerball and Gummi Homer, Bart can transform into Bartman, and Lisa can find areas that let her enter a Zen state to control a giant hand. These special forms are useful not only for fighting enemies, but also solving puzzles, such as when Lisa’s giant hand must be used to lay down a path to walk on a partially-destroyed dock.
While previous games often featured lines or scripts written by the TV show’s writers, The Simpsons Game marks the first time they have been directly involved with a Simpsons videogame, constantly trading feedback with the game’s developers. Furthermore, the entire voice cast of the show has chipped in to provide over 1000 lines for the game’s numerous characters, as well as roughly 55 minutes of cinematic scenes. As if that wasn’t enough, the entire game has been created using a wonderful cel-shaded art style that wonderfully mimics the look of the show, with very fluid animation, and all the little nuances you’d expect from the license.
So, the big question is, will this game be a success? Will it toss off the infamous “Simpsons curse” of bad videogames, and set itself apart as the ultimate Simpsons game? If I said “no”, I wouldn’t be a highly-paid celebrity endorsing a videogame, now, would I?
The game’s graphics look “Woo-Hoo!”, and the comedy is definitely “Haw-Haw!”, but it was hard to tell from our short time with the demo whether or not the gameplay will be “Okilee-dokilly”.