The Simpsons Game Review

The Simpsons have a long history of expertly parodying popular culture. The show also has a long history of inspiring some really pathetic videogames. EA was undoubtedly aware of this when designing The Simpsons Game because they've taken the approach of creating a videogame that parodies videogames. On paper this seems like a brilliant approach, because what could be better for a game based on a television series that parodies so much of what's on television than a game that parodies everything you find in videogames? In practice though it doesn't quite work as well as planned. After all, how can you poke fun at tired videogame clichés and conventions and then turnaround and use those same conventions yourself?

The Simpsons Game opens when Bart happens upon a manual for a game that happens to be titled "The Simpsons Game". By reading the manual Bart not only learns that he and his family have special videogames powers, he learns how to unleash them as well. What begins as a free-spirited romp for the Simpsons as they exercise their new powers soon becomes a quest to find their maker as they become aware that they are actually in a videogame themselves. The story provides the writers with ample opportunity to poke fun at videogames and make references to episodes from the nearly twenty year old TV series. (Scary thought #232: The Simpsons has been on the air for the entire lifetime of today's high school students. Yikes!) The writers have taken full advantage of this opportunity, and the game is packed with humor that fans of the series and of videogaming in general will undoubtedly enjoy.

One of the running gags in the game is Comic Book Guy's appearance every time the game resorts to a videogame cliché to point out the fact that it is indeed a tired cliché. Run into an invisible barrier, perform a double jump, or jump between moving platforms and CBG pops up to draw your attention to the fact that you're doing the same things you've done in countless games before. It's humorous, but at the same time it's also ironic that the game still makes you play through those clichés. "Ha ha, aren't double-jumps lame? OK, now double-jump your way across the level." The game missed an opportunity to come up with inventive ways to allow you to circumvent the clichéd platform play and you'll find yourself wishing that it hadn't, especially since the platform play itself leaves something to be desired.

If you're going to poke fun at the generic nature of most platform games, then you really need to provide some great gameplay. Unfortunately, The Simpsons Game suffers from some of the same problems that plague most run-of-the-mill platform games, namely poor camera control and spotty jump detection. The referential humor and visually interesting levels quickly begin to lose their appeal when you've had to replay the same jump sequence five times because you can't get a good view of your landing. It would also have been nice if the puzzles in the game were a bit more challenging, but they're all pretty much of the push the button or stand on the switch variety. The fighting in the game fares worst of all; it's nothing more than blatant button mashing with iffy collision detection.