Love them or loathe them, you can’t deny the incredible staying power of The Simpsons. This popular TV series has now been on air for almost two decades and shows no sign of running out of ideas – an incredible feat when you consider most programmes are past their best after only a handful of years.
The recent cinematic outing of America’s favourite dysfunctional animated family has unsurprisingly resulted in a flood of video game releases, most of which revolve around a fairly conservative 3D game world concept. The DS version – due to the constraints of the host hardware – deviates from this rather tired blueprint and amazingly offers a far more enjoyable experience as a result.
Although it’s been released to coincide with the aforementioned Hollywood outing, the game doesn’t actually follow the plot of the movie. Instead, it gleefully pokes fun at the videogame industry; everyone is a target, from Mario to Sim City and Sims creator Will Wright. It’s here where the game truly shines, and if you happen to be a keen videogamer as well as a fan of the show then you’re in for a treat of truly awesome proportions.
The in-jokes will have you laughing out loud and it’s quite amazing that some of the more cutting and satirical gags actually made their way into the final product – it’s refreshing to see that the no-holds barred attitude of The Simpsons TV show has been transferred so accurately to the game itself - but then there’s little wonder when you consider that the show’s scriptwriters also penned the dialogue for this release.
The gameplay itself focuses on several missions set within the town of Springfield. You get to play as every member of the family, and each character has special abilities that are applicable to the missions they are given to tackle. Bart, for example, can assume the role of his heroic alter ego Bartman, which obviously grants the unruly fellow considerable super powers.
The missions themselves don’t really bring anything new to the table; they’re fun to play but there’s little in the way of innovation here. This is more than made up for by the aforementioned jokes and zany humour that seems to drip from every digitised nook and cranny; you’ll want to traverse each level with your eyes wide open in order to pick up every obscure reference.
With a show as artistically vibrant as The Simpsons you’d quite rightly want the graphics to be as close as possible to the source material. While the DS can’t offer the same lush 3D visuals as the console versions – or even the PSP edition – the graphics are still eminently likeable and appealing. Most of the game is displayed in 2D, but the sprites themselves are rendered in 3D. Amazingly they look detailed and lack any of the usual jagged edges you’d usually expect. They also animate incredibly well and overall the game is extremely close to the ‘look’ of the show.
Sonically things are excellent, too. The music is an almost direct lift from the TV programme, but it’s the speech that really impresses. There’s loads of chatter in this game, from the ramblings of Homer as he skips through one of his chocolate-fuelled dream levels to the wisecracking comments dispensed by the mischievous Bart. Peripheral characters also have plenty of amusing lines to deliver, although many of these will be lost on people who don’t watch the series religiously.
The Simpsons is amazing fun from start to finish – but sadly, it doesn’t offer enough play time. It’s possible to complete all the missions within five or so hours and although there’s the ‘Virtual Homer’ to experiment with (a parody of the ‘digital pet’ craze), once you’ve seen everything you’re unlikely to want to play through it again. It’s a fun game to show to friends but the gags lose their appeal when you’ve seen them more than once.
It’s a shame that more content couldn’t have been included here, but we can’t imagine it was easy to pack the game with this much humour. Adding a few more mini games or additional modes might have helped and although the multiplayer aspect is fun, it could have been a little more substantial. But these seem like trifling issues when you consider just how entertaining this The Simpsons is. Obviously being an admirer of the series is a big help – possibly even a requirement – but the gameplay is so engaging most people will get plenty of enjoyment.