I generally don’t watch too much television, firstly I find it a bit too hypnotic and don’t want to end up turning into a couch potato and secondly there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of good stuff on anyway. One of the programs I do always try to tune into though is The Simpsons which in my almighty opinion, is the greatest TV show of all time. I have series one to ten on DVD and I regularly watch the repeats on Channel 4 weekdays at 6PM (thought I’d get a plug in there somewhere). All in all I’m a bit of a Simpsons fan! When I heard that the latest Simpsons Game for the Wii was being co developed by EA and the writers from the show I actually got slightly excited about it. I purposefully didn’t set my hopes too high (I’ve been scarred by too many awful Simpsons games in the past), but I was quite optimistic that this would be a good game and worthy of the TV show. So now having gotten hold of The Simpsons Game for Wii and played it through, was I right in being optimistic about its chances or should I have known that the dream of a great Simpsons title would turn into a nightmare?
The Simpsons Game is a 3D platformer featuring most of the main characters from the show as well as many of the locations. From the outset there isn’t one particular story to speak of; the first four or five missions in the game are sort of extended training episodes, getting you used to all the characters and their special moves. To start with you take control Homer in the classic Land of Chocolate scene, following a white rabbit that teaches you the basic methods of manoeuvre. It’s quite a stale beginning for such a nice looking level; I would have preferred this location to be used as a proper stage and not just for training.
It’s only when you finally get back into Springfield and inside the famous Simpson house that things start to take a bit more shape. The house acts like a central hub which you can run around in whilst checking out your current status, such as how many bonuses you’ve unlocked etc. When you’re ready to start a new level you have to find the glowing orange field (which is usually by the front door) and step into it. Before each level starts (and when it ends) you are treated to some very good looking cut scenes, unlike the game itself these are in 2D and look very similar to the actual TV show. In the next set of levels you get to control the five Simpsons (Bart, Homer, Lisa, Maggie and Marge) usually being able to switch between two at a time for some basic puzzle solving. For example; in the level where your aim is to stop Mr Burns from eradicating Springfield forest, you control both Bart and Lisa who both have different abilities which you need to use to be able to progress further. When standing next to little Buddha statues Lisa can perform great acts of strength using a giant spiritual hand, this is helpful for making bridges or moving rocks to find hidden items. Bart on the other hand can slide across ropes and shoot his slingshot at baddies and switches. This method of puzzle solving continues throughout the game, sometimes you’re controlling Bart and Homer and others it’s Marge and Lisa etc. As you’re playing you’ll notice many references and nods to other classic video games such as: Zelda, Sonic, Mario, Street Fighter, GTA and many more. These range from subtle things like posters on the walls to lookalike cameos and even some actual game moments to play. One of my favourites is when you have to cross a stream, jumping onto logs of various sizes and speed without falling into the water, classic Frogger action. But enough of the small talk! How does the game actually fair?
To start with the game feels a bit bland; the first level is a bit sparse of personality and enjoyment. But as you get further into the game when can use multiple characters it feels much better and some of the puzzles are actually quite good, a couple being quite tricky even. The graphics are superb, sharp, colourful and really do look Simpsony, no other Simpsons game has ever looked this realistic (if you can call a cartoon world realistic that is). The game is also full of speech recorded by the original actors for the game, thankfully not ripped from the archives of the show; it’s usually really funny but can sometimes get a little repetitive if you are stuck on the same level for a long time. So far so good but what are the downsides to the game? Well firstly the game camera is awful, and when I say awful I mean really bad. It can take an age to move it into a comfortable position only to have it automatically yanked and moved away after moving a few steps towards something. As you can probably guess, this makes jumping (which there is a lot of) quite difficult. You can be running towards a platform and find the camera move just as you’re about to jump, sending you off miles off course or you can have a totally fixed camera which doesn’t give you a decent view of the jump you need to make at all. The constant re-spawning of generic enemies is also a pain; they should’ve added more puzzles to the game to make it harder not make us have to beat up wave after wave of baddies. Not only does hitting the punch button get boring very quickly, but most of the time it’s totally out of character making you fight other characters from the show that are normally friendly.
This game is fun, looks great and makes a good job of feeling like the TV show. It has its flaws but will certainly entertain fans of the program for a good few hours. There isn’t much replay value apart from collecting every item in each level to unlock little gifts. The Wii exclusive food eating mini games are as dull as wallpapering and single player only to boot. The controls could be much better and only token use of the motion abilities of the Wii controller (such as shaking it to make Marge shout in her megaphone) has been added. If it wasn’t for the dodgy camera and unenjoyable fighting, The Simpsons Game would gain a higher mark, but when push comes to shove I can only give this 6 out of 10.