The Simpsons Arcade Game Review
Game: The Simpsons Arcade Game
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network (Reviewed via Xbox LIVE Arcade)
With the side-scrolling brawler experiencing something of a renaissance this generation (Castle Crashers, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, etc.) it has been a real pleasure to see Konami delving into their early 90’s arcade vault to bring back arguably some of the best examples of the genre.
After the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and X-Men; there have no doubt been thousands of requests for that last piece of the brawling Holy Trinity – The Simpsons Arcade Game. Finally, after over 20 years, this piece of arcade history has been converted to a home console; Let’s see if it’s aged well.
Well, this is an arcade game from the early 90’s, so let’s just say the story is thinner than the hair on Homer’s head. After Smithers robs a jewellers (?!) and bumps into Homer, a jewel stolen from the robbery ends up in Maggie’s mouth instead of her usual pacifier. Maggie is kidnapped, prompting our favourite Springfield residents to mount a rescue attempt, battling through 8 levels of arcade brawling action.
As early 90’s arcade games go, The Simpsons is a bit of a looker. The attractive in-game visuals and cut scenes show big, bold cartoony images that are incredibly good representations of the source matter. Everything is bold and colourful, with chunky sprites over wonderfully drawn backgrounds. Everything is drawn and animated fantastically, and suits the source matter perfectly; the whole package still holds up surprisingly well.
There is the choice to put a smooth filter over the pixel-based graphics, but honestly there is nothing wrong with the rough look of the game, so you are better off staying well away from the filter, and set the screen size option to be as zoomed in as your TV allows. My main criticism with the visuals is that throughout the entire game, there really aren’t that many kinds of non-boss enemies; there are probably only less than ten different kinds of enemy, and most of those are palette-swaps of each other.
Like the graphics, audio-wise the game is faithful to the cartoon, with a number of sampled sound bites taken directly from the show. These digitised samples are surprisingly clear, considering that most speech in games of the time were muffled and sometimes unintelligible. In terms of music, it’s a bouncy exciting soundtrack, full of tunes that have that familiar Konami arcade sound, while calling upon the Danny Elfman theme tune for inspiration. It’s as frantic and as animated as the action that takes place on screen, if a little unmemorable.
As a brawler, The Simpsons is incredibly simplistic. After selecting your character from four of the basic Simpsons clan, you are greeted with a simple two-button control scheme, with one button for jumping and another for attacking. Special attacks are performed by pressing both buttons and if more than one player is present, double-team moves are enabled by standing still when close, until both players link up. It falls into the normal trappings of the genre, with the game being quite repetitive for those who aren’t used to the style and it doesn’t help that the player controlled characters don’t seem to be any different from each other.
The gameplay department is where almost any brawler shines. Much like Konami’s similar arcade titles, The Simpsons offers up to four players the chance to get involved. The more players in the game, the more enemies the game throws at you; creating a blissfully chaotic game that is a whole heap of fun when you have a few mates to play with. Multiplayer can be enjoyed both offline and online, but there’s something so great about playing the game with your friends right next to you. In terms of online play, it’s still great, although there were a few occasions where lag reared it’s ugly head, but it didn’t get so bad that the game was unplayable.
The main issue with any arcade game is that they aren’t made for extended play sessions and The Simpsons is no exception. The entire game can be breezed through in under 30 minutes (which just so happens to be one of the prerequisites in earning an Achievement/Trophy). To Konami and Backbone Entertainment’s credit, there are a lot of configurable options, as well as there being two different versions of the game available. The USA version is available from the start, with the Japanese version unlocked after finishing the game. The Japanese version differs in that there are more power-ups and more health can be collected, making for a much easier experience. Ironically, the Japanese version adds an atomic bomb item that can be used to obliterate enemies. There are also modes that effect the number of credits, from Free Play (infinite credits, which honestly shouldn’t have been available from the start), Quarters (10 credits), Team Quarters (there are 40 credits, shared by all players) and Survival (1 life, no credits). Finally, there are also a few difficulty settings.
While the game is quite short, it does mean that it could potentially be the kind of game where you keep coming back at it for a quick playthrough every once in a while. There are 12 Achievements/Trophies, that are pretty easy (I got them all in about 2-3 hours, but admittedly I was using the far easier Japanese ROM for most of the time) so this might not be the game for you if you are looking for a huge gameplay experience. Get some friends in an offline/online game and you are guaranteed a good time for 30 minutes or so, just don’t expect to be glued to the screen for hours at a time.
VERDICT: If you are looking for one of the best examples of the arcade brawler (and you already have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men), then The Simpsons is worth a go. Those not used to the genre might be soured by the game’s repetitive gameplay and short lifespan, but those of us who pumped so many 50 pence pieces into this mechanical monstrosity back in the day, might find a good few hours of enjoyment here. Get some friends round with a few beverages of your choice, and you are bound to have a good time for as long as the game lasts.