Usually, we start these reviews with an introduction to the game and its history... but we don't think we need to bother this time. We all know who the Simpsons are, and we've enjoyed their humour on more than one occasion. There have been some good games (Hit N' Run), some average games (Road Rage), and some dire games (Wrestling). So without further padding to achieve the ideal-word-count, lets get on with the review...
Contrary to what many people may think, this game is not based on the recent movie. Instead, it is an entirely new chapter to the seemingly endless Simpsons saga. More surprising than hearing this game is not a shameless cash-in on the movie, is finding out that the voice cast are the actual ones from the series. And, even better than this, the content is not recycled from previous episodes- its entirely new and is just as good, if not better, than your average Simpsons episode. So; original material, not a shameless cash-in on the movie, and the actual cast... things are looking promising already!
For those interested in what the game is about, the premise is simple: Springfield has been invaded by aliens who are destroying the town. The ever courageous Simpsons clan decide to put a stop to this, and embark on their most perilous mission to date. Somewhere along the way they come to realise they are part of a video game, and conveniently find the cheat-guide. This enables the loveable yellow family to gain super powers, which help them on their quest to see 'The Creator'.
In total there are 16 levels to the game- taking you about 6 hours to get through. Each of these levels has their own theme- usually a parody on some video game or another. To name a few, there are; Medal of Homer (WWIII spoof that really rips it out of the French), Big Super Happy Fun Fun Game (which features Katamari's King of the Cosmos, and some Pokemon-esque battles), Grand Theft Scratchy (GTA, Itchy and Scratchy Style), and Never Quest (Everquest, like you've never seen it before).
Even embedded within these levels are countless parody's that avid gamers will instantly pick up on.., you even play a short Chip style section! Reinforcing this top quality humour is the games ability to mock itself- thirty one times no less! This is done through the 'Worst Game Clichés Ever', which you unlock by performing, or witnessing, the typical video game clichés that appear through the levels. These range from the simple double jump, to how convenient it is that you always find ammo when you need it.
I can honestly say that some of these had me in hysterics, especially the levels which appear in the last half of the game. We must admit, the first few levels barely forced a smile from me though. So, thankfully, once you complete the game you have the option to choose whatever level you want to play- skipping the boring ones.
Right, we think we've gone on enough about how witty and well written this game is. Time to examine how this baby handles...
Unfortunately, we've got to be brutally honest here and say that the whit and charm of The Simpsons Game is seriously undermined by what can, at their very best, be described as clunky, awkward, irritating controls. Within the first few seconds of the game, we suddenly found ourselves drowning in a river of chocolate after failing to make the very first jump... several times. This stuff can usually be put down to the initial learning curve, but when we found that the plight of poor jumps followed me through this game, its needless to say that we felt disappointed. And its not just the jumping that's clumsy either- the camera in the game is utterly useless; we've never experienced such an unnatural camera that seems to try its best to make life hard for you.
We must admit that if it weren't our job to complete the game, we would have given up after the very first level. The beginning was just so awkward and monotonous that we dreaded going through the remaining 15 levels. But we stuck with this one to the end, and you know what? We're glad we did. Because the further we got through the game, the more we enjoyed it; the quality and humour both seemed to rise with each passing level. And when, after about we hours, we did get to the end, we put the game down feeling quite pleased and well-entertained. Somewhere along the line we had forgiven the continually unreliable controls, and accepted the clumsy camera. That is to say, we actually enjoyed this game, despite faults of which we are usually highly critical.
Also worth mentioning are the Wii-specific parts to the game. These are known as Wii moments (using the Wii's dynamic controls), and there are two of them; Bite Night (think Fight Night, but no boxing, and lots of eating...), and Bart Wings (Sky diving through rings and chasing parachutes). These games appear dotted about some levels, and while they don't offer any rewards for completing them, they do provide a nice break from the gameplay (but you will get bored of Bite Night quite quickly). There are also the usual collectable items throughout the game, which unlocks some trophies as your reward- pretty standard stuff really.
The Simpsons game is far from one of the best controlled games out there. It's about on par with the time we tried to navigate our way through Mario 64 using just our feet (we gave up when the Z trigger proved too inaccessible). But underneath the layer of bad controls is a game of such well-thought-out whit and entertaining parodies that acts as the games saving grace.
Simpsons fans are going to love the material contained within this, especially those who appreciate video game references. Sure, the controls are certainly going to get on your nerves at times, but at the end of the day you, like me, will probably look back and say, 'You know what, I actually enjoyed playing this'.