ike many Simpsons fans out there, I was hoping that this would be the title to turn it around for America’s favorite animated family in the video game arena. With two-player co-op and a focus on the humor that has made the show a primetime staple since 1989, The Simpsons Game has everything a fan could want...but not everything it needs to be a fun, interesting game.
The biggest problem is illustrated through one of the game’s funniest features: the cliché. As you jump and punch your way through each mission, you will encounter hackneyed video game traditions like giant saw blades and pressure pads. Then the Comic Book Guy pops up and calls attention to the blatant unoriginality of these devices (“Ah, the crate. As seen in everything.”). While this almost always gets a laugh, pointing out clichés doesn’t make them any more fun to play.
The development team clearly knew that basic switch puzzles and time trials are tiresome, yet the player is forced to endure them. Even though the goals themselves are sometimes funny, the generic combat and platforming rarely make them fun to complete. There are also dozens of stupid collectibles like coupons and bottlecaps scattered throughout the world. Trust me, they are not worth picking up.
I know that I’m not making the game sound great – it isn’t – but the important distinction here is unlike most mediocre platformers, you are actually rewarded for bullying through the levels. The comedy is so pervasive and well done that it still makes you want to keep going just to hear a good one-liner or see the next hilarious parody. I’ve never seen a licensed property that captures the essence of it source material so well; it sometimes feels like you are playing an episode of the show (albeit with poor cinematography).
For all of its self-referential humor and nods to gaming classics (there are brief segments mimicking the likes of Frogger, Space Invaders, and Wolfenstein 3D), the process of actually playing The Simpsons Game is unfortunately average. The chuckles along the way make it worth the trouble for fans, but if you don’t know Arman Tamzarian from Disco Stu, most of the game’s redeeming elements will fall on deaf, bored ears.