The Simpsons Game PS2 Review

Few Simpsons games have made us laugh in the same way that we laugh at the long running show, although EA’s unimaginatively titled The Simpsons Game is one of the funniest games that we have played in a long time. For many fans of the unhealthily yellow family this is job done

The plot and humour are certainly effective, and they should be as the writers and actors of the show were involved. After Bart is hit on the noggin with a manual cleverly titled “The Simpsons Game”, the Simpsons family find themselves trapped in the confines of a videogame and gifted with their very own special powers. This event sets things up for tons of gaming parodies, which includes everything from Grand Theft Auto and Space Invaders to EA’s own Medal of Honor series (accompanied by a rousing score from the said franchise, that is so out of place that even that is worthy of a chuckle or two). It’s all funny stuff, and feels very much like an extended episode of the series.

Job done most certainly.

It’s not only the humour that should make fans of the show proud though, as the visuals are without doubt the closest to the show yet. Homer and family are instantly recognisable and look great, whilst the bright environments could have you thinking that you have literally stepped into an episode. Yes, by a massively wide margin, – whether you are playing on the 360, PS3, Wii or PS2 – this is the best looking Simpson’s game yet. It’s just a shame that the camera isn’t always helpful.

It certainly looks, sounds and has the desired laughter effect, but the game itself isn’t quite as successful. It certainly will give fans a lot of pleasure to explore the Springfield hub (at least on the 360 and PS3 versions), but the game has a few missteps and absences that could have really worked their magic into making it into an even better game had they been included.

You take control of every single main member of the yellow family, which should be a written law with any Simpsons game. Homer is the best of the bunch (much like his status on the show then) and can grow into a huge roll-around ball and belch fire amongst other things. Bart is a rather close second, using his slingshot, gliding across ledges, scaling walls, and grappling to higher areas. Then there’s Lisa who can levitate objects using The Hand of Buddha for puzzle solving and defeating enemies, whilst her trademark Saxophone is capable of stunning enemies amongst other things. Finally there’s Marge of course, and using her megaphone she can gather an angry mob of familiar Springfield characters and then command them to destroy and build stuff as she crusades against violent games (Grand Theft Scratchy beware you’re in for a cleanup). What about Maggie? We hear you cry, well Marge can encourage her to crawl through air ducts for exploration and puzzle solving, which results in a first person viewpoint complete with sucking dummy. What else other than the dummy sucking sound would remind us that we’re controlling the youngest member of the Simpsons family? You would be correct if your mind drew a blank to that question.

In each episode you’ll be taking control of two family members, switching between them, and using their individual skills to progress. Even better though is the option for cooperative play, which allows a second player to drop in or out at any time. Cooperative is played via split-screen and is good fun, although some players won’t like having to wait around whilst the other player is completing tasks in order for you both to progress. For those wondering, there’s no online play either.

The game involves a lot of jumping and fighting, but little else, which is an opportunity that should have been snatched. As the game parodies so many others, it’s a major shame that each level couldn’t have been closer to its inspiration, as in spite of the different feel of each stage, you’re still doing the same thing over and over again. In spite of this, the levels are certainly one of the greatest strengths of the game, not because they are particularly well designed or anything like that, but because we wanted to see what game related joke was waiting for us around each corner. The game is full of them, and we would advise you to take your time and absorb the lot with a keen eye that is normally reserved for bird watchers of the feathered kind.

Another interesting point is the gaming clichés, in which there is a long list (32 to be precise) of to be found in the game. Hop into water, and you’ll be told that you don’t get to swim until the sequel, find a weak spot of a boss and you’ll be informed of your unoriginality, and so on. Every time you find a new cliche you are alerted by Comic Book Guy (a character that fans of the show will be familiar with) and like the rest of the game many of them are really funny.

The game has a very relaxed difficulty level, and you’ll wonder why you need more health when your meter is extended. It’s all good unchallenging fun, although what’s even more fun is exploring the levels, not only to seek out the parodies, but also for the take or leave collectibles. There’s a differing number of these to find on each level for each character, and we found short levels lasting much longer as we sought out their hiding places.

As we also tested the Wii version you may be wondering how it controls. Sadly the motion control isn’t anything special (basically a shake of the remote brings into play the special attacks of each character), although it does have the obligatory and exclusive mini games (or Wii Moments as they are titled here) that can be found on your travels, which are pretty good fun, particularly in multiplayer.

The Simpsons Game certainly has plenty of things that should drive you forward, particularly if you are a fan of the show or enjoy gaming parodies, but we do feel that the game itself could have been a better one. Don’t get us wrong it’s entertaining enough, but it’s greatest strengths lie in all the wrong areas.