The Simpsons Game
While hardly a retro game, having been released in 2007, I thought I’d still talk about The Simpsons Game today as I’ve tackled like three Simpsons games before and this one does parody retro games as well as newer ones.
There are some good Simpsons games out there but, famously, there are many more annoying ones. As much as I have a soft spot for Bart Vs The Space Mutants, there’s no way I’d ever consider it a great game! I do really like Bart’s Nightmare but I’ll admit parts of it are needlessly irritating. Then you’ve got stuff like The Simpsons: Hit And Run and Road Rage but they’re not what I’d consider to be quintessential Simpsons games seeing as they’re basically ripoffs of other games.
Without further ado, let’s check out The Simpsons Game on the PS2.
Any fan of The Simpsons should be very happy with the game’s first level which sees Homer run around The Land Of Chocolate after some white chocolate rabbit.
This whole stage has nothing to do with the rest of the game’s story and actually feels more like a bizarre plot-hole by the end but who cares?
It’s totally great!
You get to become a big ball, bounce on marshmallows, eat tons of sweets, punch chocolate rabbits in the face until they explode…
The graphics are obviously not quite as slick as if the game was made yesterday but they still look good. A genuine attempt was made here to keep the look of the characters as we know them and place them in a 3D environment without it looking too jarring.
See the Futurama game on the PS2 for a much less successful attempt.
And a much less successful game altogether.
The cut scenes, which look as good as the animation on the show itself, are perfect, however. The game’s plot is so clever and the writing is so sharp throughout that the game is worth playing for that alone.
After Bart discovers the manual for The Simpsons Game just lying on the street, each member of the Simpsons family develops super-powers and goes on various goofy missions, the first of which sees Homer and Bart punch the crap out of teenagers and countless security guards in a museum.
One cool thing is, as you can see, Bart can become Bartman at will and attack using swarms of bats, climb walls or glide through the air with his cape. It takes some trial and error to get right but once you get the hang of it, it’s ridiculously fun.
Almost as fun as Homer’s big ball attacks.
Which can be a little awkward to achieve at times but, luckily, there’s always food lying around to power up your special “abilities” so no worries. Except in the level with the above giant taco which gives you a pesky time limit under which you’re required to race others through different countries-themed areas.
This one can get confusing if you’re playing as 2 players since the setting is pretty chaotic and it can be hard for Bart, especially, to find the right places to jump to or climb onto within the time limit as Homer bounces and rolls around everywhere.
Timing and reflection is key but, chances are, it’ll be a complete mess from start to finish.
The game is helpful, however, when it comes to letting you know which character needs to do what and where.
There are pickups throughout from Malibu Stacy coupons to Duff beer bottle caps but, disappointingly, they don’t open secret areas or upgrade your weapons or powers. They’re just collectibles which often lead you astray from the main path so I found it very tempting to just ignore all of them.
The main frustrating thing about the game, though, has to be the camera. The non-fluid way in which the analog stick makes it move can be such a pain, it makes certain jumps super difficult for no reason and basically breaks the pace of the game sometimes.
This camera most definitely deserves to eat my shorts.
On the plus side, the game has a brilliant sense of humour and, in typical Simpsons fashion, the whole thing clearly has an awesome time poking fun at the game industry. It’s very self-aware but pays homage to gaming in a respectful and entertaining way as well.
Having Comic Book Guy pop up every time a “video game cliché” is forced upon you certainly helps lighten up the toughest levels:
Even if, once again, this is just another collectible, another interruption that does nothing.
There are quite a few references to specific games and consoles throughout, old and new, from the likes of Frogger:
To Mortal Kombat:
The Atari 2600:
And Mega Man:
To name just a few.
Point being you can tell the writers and developers had a ball trying to fit in as many gaming in-jokes as possible. The game was published by EA so quite a few EA games get the Simpsons treatment though it is surprising that we never get an FPS level or mini-game at least.
“Wreck-It Ralph did it! Wreck-It Ralph did it!”, I hear you bellow?
He sure did.
An entire level is even dedicated to gaming jokes as The Sims creator Will Wright guest stars, leading you through the “Game Engine,” where all games are made like some sort of James Bond super-villain. The main enemies you face are essentially Ryu from Street Fighter II and some football player straight out of a Madden NFL game.
One throws fireballs, the other throws footballs so they’re pretty tough.
The only way to stop them from endlessly respawning, and the same thing happens in most other levels, is to destroy their “nests” which, in this particular case, are elevators out of which they keep being birthed.
The level itself is a really fun homage which sees Bart and Lisa jump in and out of green pipes:
Before catching up to a Donkey Kong-like primate who has captured Professor Frink. Do look out for loads more cameos in this level, by the way. Don’t want to spoil the whole thing for ya so I’ll leave it at that.
While it would have been cool to see the Simpsons literally go back to some of their old games and comment on those, I think it’s pretty clear that this game was meant as more of a way forward than a way back.
This is not just A Simpsons game: this is THE Simpsons Game.
Can’t be thinking back to Bart Vs The World and its rubbish graphics!
Time to burn all those NES cartridges.
Quit living in the past and “having a cow”, as they say!
Or as this one fictional cartoon kid says, anyway.
Time to move on.
Not that I’m moving on or anything, retro games are like donuts to me: round, with pink sprinkles, hole in the middle…
They’re delicious is what I’m tryin’ to say.
With cream inside.
I love my old pixelated Simpsons, even if they have driven me nuts in the past.
Scary pixelated Homer is scary.
Now let’s talk about the other powers our favourite characters are gifted with in this game.
Through meditation, Lisa can set up paths by carrying big objects with a giant hand that comes out of the sky. How the writers came up with that one I’ll never know but why not? It’s about as crazy as anything else in this game!
Now I was expecting Marge to disappoint, I’ll admit. When you think of a badass game character, Marge Simpson rarely comes to mind. That said, she is awesome in this game. Her power is the ability to rally townspeople into angry mobs and get them to destroy whatever you want with the help of a hypnotising megaphone.
She can also fight but, I gotta say, I never expected to see Marge punch and kick children as hard as possible in the neck…
Yeah that happens.
Plus she’s holding Maggie the entire time!
Then again, even Maggie proves to be really useful in this adventure as, on a few occasions, you get to play as the eternal infant and crawl through air vents, hitting buttons with your pacifier.
There are way too many levels to talk about in this game so I’ll give you a rundown of my favourites.
First, there’s a “Grand Theft Scratchy” stage which Marge attempts to free of all sleaze. And yes, it’s pretty much as amazing as it sounds. You don’t get into cars and run over random passers-by but you do get to see cat prostitutes walking around and punch the crap out of mouse pimps.
Another stage sees Bart and Homer battle aliens in a spaceship after Halloween Special regulars Kang and Kodos invade and start destroying Springfield.
Lots of big Homer ball action in this one.
Cletus plays an integral part in this level, I should point out.
I mean, who else would aliens abduct?
Another stage has a Japanese RPG type of theme as Homer and Lisa fight sumo wrestlers, battle weird Pokemon-style monsters and follow Mr Sparkle’s dramatic instructions.
I’d probably make that face too if I saw myself in the mirror wearing one of these outfits.
Or a spotted mountain made of peppermint.
Finally, one stage sees Springfield once again get overrun by killer land-walking dolphins. Which means that shooting stuff at dolphins is a big part of this level and it is glorious.
Not that anyone should be punching or hurting dolphins in real life or anything but those particular dolphins are evil and have silly voices so I’m saying go nuts just this once.
This level, however, could have been an opportunity to make fun of the Ecco The Dolphin franchise but the game doesn’t really go that way. Having Bart and Lisa turn into dolphins and stop the dolphin invasion as one of them could have be amusing.
Really, every level in this game is worthy of mention: there are some genius ideas in all of them and most of them are tons of fun to play through. For a Simpsons fan, this game’s definitely a must-play. You’ve got loads of nifty, at times delightfully obscure (remember Poochie?), cameo appearances…
The story gets side-tracked a heck of a lot but, for the most part, it’s a really well written adventure packed full of clever, genuinely funny jokes and in-jokes, not to mention loads of cool fan-friendly surprises. The gameplay and the overall format of the missions does get repetitive after a while but you’ll never want to shut the game off as it does a great job remaining entertaining throughout.
To cut a long review short (is nearly 1900 words short? I can’t tell), I do recommend you try out The Simpsons Game as it feels like a lot of effort and heart went into it and although it is let down here and there by some shoddy camerawork and lacks of logic in terms of what you’re meant to be doing it is overall quite probably the best Simpsons game ever made.
Sorry Sega Genesis Bart.