If you are a fan of the Simpsons and don't hate platformers buy this game.
Why are you still here? Go buy the game! You still don't believe me do you? I know, I know games based on movies and TV shows have a terrible history. For years game companies have churned out all kinds of swill that we have lapped up based on us being fans of the shows. Thankfully The Simpsons Game is actually a good game.
What kind of game is The Simpsons? The Simpsons is a platformer at its base. Double jumping, coin collecting and progressing from level to level. But also, just like the TV show, The Simpsons Game rips off every video game that ever came before. If you are an long time video game player like myself (yes I remember going to the arcade in the mall when my parents went shopping) you are going to recognize a lot of old games parodied in this game. Joust, Gauntlet, Space Invaders all get covered in all sorts of different ways. And great new funny ways. The game starts with Bart finding a copy of the game manual for this game in an alley. He starts reading and discovers that each of the family has their own superpowers.
You end up controlling the entire Simpsons family. Each of the characters has their own special set of abilities. Homer has his belch cloud that will stun enemies and when powered up becomes a flame thrower. Homer also, being the rotund fellow that he is has the ability to fatten himself up and roll around like a large beach ball. His speed burst and bounce can break some items and knock heavier items out of the way. Later in the game he is able to turn himself into some kind of gummie slug that can has a shooting ability. Bart the family bad egg has his sling shot as his main weapon, but is also able to use his Bartman cloak to glide. Making some of those far off ledges reachable later in the game. This is one of those things that happens with platormers and those coin collections. You will have to come back to some earlier levels once your character have unlocked some of their later powers if you want to collect all of the coins.
Lisa has her stunning saxophone ability that does a AoE group stun which really helps in taking out some of the larger groups you encounter in some of the later levels. She also has a stun ability that causes the enemies to attack each other. Marge has a bit of a different power than the rest of the family. She has a megaphone that she can use to incite the other characters into a raging mob. She then goes around collecting NPCs into her mob and then uses them to attack enemies or to build up certain areas around some of the maps. Marge also carries Maggie on her back. The smallest Simpsons family member can be put into small holes and passageways that the other characters cannot travel through. When you finally are released around Springfield and go on a coin collecting spree it isn't about each character but more about how each of the characters work together to get to some of the more difficult coins to collect.
On most of the levels you will be controlling only two of the characters. You can switch back and forth between them as you please in each level, but unfortunately each level will pre-select the characters you have to use. Later on your coin collecting spree in Springfield you will be able to control two of the character at a time, but you will be able to switch them out at any of the bus stops around town. Tapping the D-pad will let you switch between your characters as you wish, or scroll through your characters if you are controlling more than two on your current level.
Coins. They are not the normal generic kind in this game, but each character has his/her own set of character specific things to collect. Homers beer caps, Lisas Malibu Stacy stickers, Marges Saving Coupons and Barts Krusty Stickers are a bit of a twist that makes some of the collections areas a bit more difficult. So each character specific coin is only collectable by that character. Running over one of Homers beer caps with Bart doesn't collect it. Not only do you have to get to that high ledge, but you have to get there with the right character to pick up the coin that is up there. This is sometimes frustrating as you run across a coin for one character but aren't playing with them at the moment. As well as the usual collectables there are Video Game Cliches. It is nice to hear the comic book guy point out that Lava certainly isn't the most original setting in a video game or that Escort Missions aren't the most enjoyable part of the game but always appear anyway.
The graphics in this game are a very sweet looking version of the TV show. The cut scenes are very well rendered and look stunning. The gameplay part of the game, while not at the stunning resolution of the cut scenes still does look good. The movement is the right in character from the show and you certainly feel like each of the characters has their own way of moving around. The shorter in game movies however look awful. And we are not talking just a little bit worse than the rendered cut scenes, but is this really finished kind of ugly. They obviously used the in game engine to do those movies, but you would think they would be able to clean them up at least a little bit. For some reason they look worse than the regular game play part of the game looks. I don't know if that is just a feeling you get after you have just watched a great looking cut scene or if it really does look worse. Springfield however is there in all of it's cartoon glory. There are all sorts of other areas from the TV show that are the sites for many of the levels. The level design in this game is very well thought out and the levels feel very cohesive and give each level a tight look.
What is the number one problem with third person games? Yep, the camera. Each third person game always seems to have trouble getting the camera right and The Simpsons is no exception. This time the camera runs into walls and other things completely making it impossible to get the view you really need to make this jump or fight this next mob. It also seems to kick around to the most inappropriate angles and the absolute worst times. It just makes you want to snap your controller in half at some point, but good thing that we are getting used to it by now isn't it? Also, while there is co-op play, there is no co-op play over LIVE? What is this the stone ages? You expect my friends to go out of their houses and risk having their pasty white nerd skin scarred by the horrible ball of fire they call the sun? Come on guys, you have the resource, please put it to use.
From the bad bits to the best bit. The writing. I know you don't here that mentioned as a real high point in a video game very often, but this is just a long, playable Simpsons episode. The humour laced throughout this game from start to finish is classic Simpsons. I don't normally laugh out loud while playing a video game (with the hilarious Voodoo Vince and Psychonauts being the few exceptions). You defiantly can tell the the regular Simpsons writers where the ones that were responsible for the writing. It has exactly the same version of irreverent humour fans of the show have come to know and love.
Bottom line is like I mentioned at the start, if you like The Simpsons and don't hate platformers then you will enjoy this game. The humour that is all throughout this game is well worth a play through. I am sure that only the most silly and dedicated fans will go through and collect all of the collectables in the game. That reminds me, I only have one coin for both Bart and Marge left to find to get all the coins in Springfield. Back to playing for me.
Suggestions: Guys, you have Xbox LIVE as a resource, please use it for online co-op play.