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Videogames-To-Flix #46

12.24.2007

VIDEOGAMES-TO-FLIX is a JoBlo.com column showcasing reviews of videogame translations of Hollywood films (or games soon-to-become Hollywood movies). With both industries getting closer and closer, and videogames, in general, getting so much more popular, you knew it was just a matter of time before we hit that stuff!

THE SIMPSONS GAME

BUY THIS GAME AT AMAZON.COM NOW!!!

Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Systems: XBOX 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PSP, DS, and PlayStation 2

INTRODUCTION:

With THE SIMPSONS in theaters this past summer, EA appears to have picked the perfect opportunity to take a pre-existing license and deliver the game fans have been dying for. Long gone are games like BART SIMPSON'S ESCAPE FROM CAMP DEADLY, THE SIMPSONS: BART VS. THE SPACE MUTANTS, and THE SIMPSONS WRESTLING. Now we have THE SIMPSONS GAME!

Who do I think I'm kidding? This travesty of a game is a screw up of the strangest kind. It delivers what is perhaps one of the funniest stories, rife with inside jokes about video game cliches and shitty gameplay, while at the same time delivering those very same cliches and shitty gameplay. It makes you feel like you're in some kind bizarre contradiction within the space-time continuum. Or maybe, I'm just thinking too hard.

This review is of the XBOX 360 version of the game.

GAMEPLAY:

It pained me to play this game. While the gameplay isn't broken, it does break. On multiple occasions, things like collision detection, invisible walls, and a poor targeting system ate away at the fabric of my brain. Here's a simple example of this game breaking: I'm playing as Bart Simpson. I jump down off of a ledge onto a gap next to a different ledge. Instead of Bart landing on his feet, he appears to continue falling (even though he is on a surface). He looks like a bug flipped on its back kicking feet into the air. Events like this are commonplace enough that it makes me wonder who was in charge of testing this game. Perhaps lemurs?

Even when I thought that the breaks were enough of a problem, the real gameplay came along to make me hate this game even more. The (working) gameplay is the lowest form of design possible. This is a low rent collection platform game. You use a pair of the Simpsons clan to traverse a variety of super easy missions while collecting Duff bottle caps, coupons, and dolls along the way. While Marge has some enjoyably unique gameplay elements, Bart and Lisa are purely paint by numbers for this genre. From a gameplay perspective, Homer is also interesting, but fails to deliver more than a fleeting twinge of uniqueness. The platform design of this game would be perfectly acceptable in a game designed for the PlayStation 1 or GameCube; however, in the modern era of gameplay, jumping from one ledge to the next seems archaic.

The irony in all of this is that the characters within the game make fun of crappy gameplay. The writing of THE SIMPSONS has the characters commenting on crappy gameplay while providing them with more of the same. This might have been more entertaining as an episode of THE SIMPSONS rather than an actual bad game. It is a shame that such quality writing, animation, and voice work were straddled with such an awful game. A lot of good work has gone to waste.

Gameplay: 4.9/10

GRAPHICS:

Graphically, THE SIMPSONS does a lot of things right and just one big thing wrong. Throughout most of the levels, this game looks like playing an episode of the show. The art design is straight out of Matt Groening's sketchbook and includes some clever homages to other games. The fake game art is a must-see element that represents that best in a not-so-great game.

The cut scenes are animated just like an episode of THE SIMPSONS. I really appreciate that the game allows you to go back and view the animations in succession. That way I can share the joys of the storyline without the expletives attached to the gameplay.

The only major issue I had was with the 3D cut scenes. While the 3D art during gameplay never stood out as awkward or out of the ordinary, when the 3D graphics engine was used for cut scenes, the art design look incredibly outdated. Selling a 3D version of 2D art is not an easy task and vividly apparent when dealing with an icon like Homer Simpson. Perhaps EA ran out of time gathering animations and was forced to use their engine instead of real art. If that is the case, then these scenes (and the broken gameplay) make a strong case for companies focusing on quality and not a pending release date. Gamers would rather wait for a great experience (how many times was GOLDENEYE64 delayed?) than get force-fed crap like this.

Graphics: 8.0/10

SOUND:

A license like THE SIMPSONS lives and dies on the voice work of the cast. Despite the breaks in gameplay and despite a strange art direction decision, the voice work of these characters, and the story that they tell, is hilarious. As I mentioned before, the highlight of this game is watching the cut scenes and feeling like you're watching a real episode of THE SIMPSONS. Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer, do what they're know best for - being the Simpsons and being funny. There isn't a weak performance in the game and they're only held back by some repetitious elements.

In regards to the soundtrack and the effects, this game sounds like it should. The theme song is appropriately tied in and the Foley work never appears out of sorts. The inclusion of a Scorpions during the final boss battle was a stroke of genius and made the gameplay just a bit more bearable.

Sound: 8.9/10

FINAL VERDICT:

As a game, THE SIMPSONS flat out stinks. As a television episode, it shines. This conflict makes the game impossible to recommend; however, interesting to watch. Perhaps, you should buy it for a friend and let them struggle with the gameplay. Wait for them to beat the last boss and ask to see the video clips. This game is indicative of the careless management of a license. It is obvious that Matt Groening's people delivered their end of the bargain, while EA shipped the game engine design to someone far under-qualified and over-matched.

Final Verdict: 6.9/10

STATUS OF THE MOVIE:

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE came out this summer and generated excellent box office ($500 million worldwide!). A sequel in the future makes sense but the last news was a big negative. Check out what the Executive Producer said back in September: Link.

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