The Simpsons Game
Reviewed by Jacob Spindel, April 2008
Homer Simpson once said, “It’s better to watch stuff than to do stuff.” While some people may agree with his assessment, many viewers have probably wondered just what it might be like to interact with the Simpsons characters directly instead of just being a spectator. Fortunately for them, The Simpsons Game for PSP gives gamers an opportunity to do exactly that. From waling on Waylon to make “Smithereens” to rubbing out Itchy and Scratchy, this is your chance to be a full-fledged citizen of Springfield. Although the game has its share of rough edges, overall The Simpsons Game is an entertaining experience.
“Well, If There’s Going To Be Hurting...”
The Simpsons Game’s storyline is divided into a series of episodes, in which the Simpsons actually figure out that they are inside a video game but soon discover that they will need to take advantage of this fact to fend off an invasion from Kang and Kodos and defeat some special surprise guest stars who are apparently behind the whole plan. Each episode centers on two of the game’s four main characters (Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa), with Marge’s levels usually including a short side-quest for Maggie. As you might expect, each character has distinct capabilities, such as Bart’s slingshot or Lisa’s ability to use telekinesis through meditation. You can switch between an episode’s two characters at will as you make your way through puzzles while collecting items and battling bad guys.
The episodes also contain cut scenes totaling over 40 minutes of original animation. These cut scenes are cleverly written (by some of the writers of the TV show, in fact), and they are fun to watch. However, the gameplay itself is unfortunately not quite as polished. The controls and camera angles feel pretty loose overall, almost as if the Simpsons are so accustomed to living in a two-dimensional world that they are just struggling to adapt to three-dimensional gameplay. Many of the jumps can be very difficult to line up, and the camera angles can occasionally cause you to overlook an obstacle altogether. The puzzles also tend to be a bit repetitive, with most of them consisting of some variation on “Use one character to access a new area, and then use the other character to do something in that area.”
Still, the gameplay does have its moments. The levels are large and detailed and allow you to visit a wide variety of creative and bizarre locations. Battling enemies and completing stunts can also be fun, as long as the controls don’t get in the way. Some of the tasks themselves are also quite unusual and original, such as when Marge summons an angry mob to protest violent video games or a concert from Poochy; activities like these won’t leave you feeling like you are just playing a “rerun” of game scenarios you’ve played numerous times before.
The Simpsons Game does not include any multiplayer modes. However, realistically speaking, most PSP gamers probably have pretty limited interest in multiplayer gaming anyway.
The Simpsons' graphics are, well, "Simpson-y." That is, even on the PSP, the cut scenes look almost identical to the TV show, and the gameplay scenes adapt the same style of animation into three dimensions. Unfortunately, as we've seen, this is not necessarily a good thing for item visibility or the camera angle. Still, the graphics are at least authentic, even though they can sometimes be frustrating.
The Simpsons Game features original performances from members of the show's cast, including Dan Castelleneta, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, Nancy Cartwright, Harry Shearer, and Hank Azaria, among others. As you might expect, their voice acting is excellent and brings the game's satirical jokes to life. The characters speak frequently in both the cut scenes and during gameplay, although the quips during gameplay do tend to get a bit repetitive.
The game's music and sound effects are pretty basic, but the tracks match the moods of the levels while also fitting well into the Simpsons' universe.
“Less References, More Mopping”
For die-hard Simpsons fans, The Simpsons Game gives you a chance to become part of the storyline in a way that few previous Simpsons games could manage. Playing as, and interacting with, a wide variety of characters is an immersive experience, which is also enhanced by the clever writing and impressive voice cast. Nonetheless, fans who are not quite as devoted may find that the sometimes-clunky gameplay leaves them wishing they were back to just "watching stuff" instead of "doing stuff."
Hints & Tips
-When playing as Bart, make sure you pay attention to the grappling hook icon that appears at bottom left of the screen. Missing an opportunity to grapple can make a level seem confusing or impossible.
-When using Marge to lead a mob, keep the mob with you for as long as you can, even if you think you no longer need them. It is a hassle to try to find your mob back if you mistakenly leave them behind too early.
-If you’re not sure what to do next, remember that you can press Select to see a To Do List, or try hitting the R (target) button to see what you can lock onto.