Video games about TV shows have always been around, and The Simpsons have been in them since their appearances in arcades and on the NES back in 1991 (with 5 Simpsons video games being released in 1991 alone). The games themselves came in a range of different gaming genres, and had a wide range in quality, from being obviously bad (like Simpsons Wrestling, Simpsons Skateboarding and Virtual Bart), to good (Simpsons Road Rage) to oddly enough, being 1 of the best TV show-to-video game transitions ever made (Simpsons Hit and Run). But now onto the question; Where does The Simpsons: The Game fit into all of this?
Developed by EA Redwood Shores on the PS3 and 360, Rebellion Developments for the PS2, PSP and Wii, and Griptonite Games for the Nintendo DS, it can be argued that this game has a lot of variation in quality, and gameplay/level-format-wise, the Nintendo DS version is practically a different game altogether. I played the PS3 version, so I’m sticking to that 1.
Our story more or less begins (After Homer dreams about heaven…or at least, The Land Of Chocolate) when Bart goes to the Video Game Store to buy Grand Theft Scratchy (a parody of the Grand Theft Auto series). Marge notices Bart having the copy, and confiscates it. A bit annoyed by this, Bart then notices a gaming manual drop out of the sky. It is the manual to The Simpsons: The Game, which tells him what superpowers he has in his possession, as well as the powers of the rest of his family. This then leads to a perilous adventure, which involves space aliens, Tron moments, and numerous amusing cameos. The game is made up mostly of parodies of other video games, and even as “Video Game Cliches” as a collectables in each level, including the main, explorable Springfield.
Lets now break this game down into its building blocks.
In 2007, this was the best that The Simpsons ever looked in a video game. The cut scenes are wonderful, and pretty close to looking like the show. The actual gameplay graphics looked amazing in its day, as it made an attempt to replicate the cel-shaded style of the show rather than trying to create 3D versions of the characters – a style of presentation that would eventually be used in Family Guy: Back To The Multiverse in 2012, and South Park: The Stick Of Truth in 2014. Out of all 3 of these games, The Simpsons: The Game is the most rough and pixelated, but it’s also the 1st attempt of the bunch, and was (at least at 1 point) 1 of the best features of the game.
Writing-wise, the game is funny and contains a combination of recycled jokes from the show, as well as newly written material to further a new story. However, at the same time, This game did come out during what I classify as a dark period for the show, when The Simpsons Movie in 2007 was the best material they had put out since 2000 (In other words, the quality of The Simpsons depends on whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House…seriously, look it up, you would think there’s a pattern…but don’t put the quality of The Simpsons before what you think is best for your country, you’ll just have to buy the DVDs of Seasons 4 to 9). To make it another ironic product of the time, this game was being released shortly before (and shortly after) the beginning of the Writer’s Guild Of America Strike.
The music is well done, with some remakes of certain tunes (such as The Land Of Chocolate) and music that anybody who plays the freemium game “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” on their iPads/Mobiles will know well. Treat it purely as background music – although I did enjoy the music in the Medal Of Honor and Japanese Gaming Parodies.
The gameplay is by far this game’s downfall. The levels are a good size, but unfortunately the Simpsons family are very slow on their feet, and the controls are pretty darn clunky, with plenty of moments were the controls are what make the game difficult, rather than the game simply being difficult with the requirement of skill from its players to move forward. It also has some quite poor camera work. But 1 thing I will say, the superpowers that the family members have are pretty amusing…especially Homer’s.
Would I recommend The Simpsons: The Game? Yes and No. If you’re a fan of the show, then I say “Yes, have a look at it”, but at the same time, whether you like the show or not, it’s not the most replayable game in the world. If you go into it and know as little as possible beforehand, and have prior knowledge of video game culture, that’s when you will enjoy it the most. But once you’ve played it, there isn’t much reason to return. The writing/story is good but not ’90s Simpsons quality, the graphics and overall look have aged, the music isn’t something to rave about, and the gameplay isn’t that much fun, despite how amusing some of the special powers are. Much of it feels like a chore to progress a story, which misses the point in it being a video game. If you want a fun Simpsons game, there’s Simpsons Hit and Run. And if you want to see a TV cartoon done really well as a video game (to the point of timelessness), there’s South Park: The Stick Of Truth. I will also say that this game includes a bit of a prophecy on how it will turn out today. Be on the lookout for it.
Cut Scene Graphics: ****3/4
Gameplay Graphics: ***1/4 (****1/4 in 2007)
Art Style: ****3/4
Level Design: **1/2