EA’s description of The Simpsons Arcade is a perfect summary of what to expect: ‘Classic arcade game action’. An exciting statement for anyone looking for some old-school gameplay but the downside is how it also reveals the negative aspect of what could have been a superior game. It’s not bad by any means but to me, calling this classic is a kind way of calling it old.
Considering The Simpsons is over 20 years old with some fantastically quotable lines, the story is more like a set of bookmarks than a progression of levels. The intro shows some of Springfield’s nasties hiding a memory stick full of secrets into a doughnut. Smithers is tasked with taking care of said dessert but bumps into Homer who becomes obsessed with eating the doughnut – as only Homer could. The powers that be have other ideas making Homer punch and body-slam his way through Springfield. There really isn’t a great deal more of the story revealed until the end but when characters do speak, they do so with the kind of humour expected from the great cartoon. For example, acne-faced Jeremy Freedman (the squeaky voiced teenager who represents all nerdy teenagers in Springfield) is a mid-level boss who yells “minimum wage, maximum rage” at you before attacking. Brilliant!
The visuals really make The Simpsons Arcade shine because they’re almost spot on to the now HD show. A few anti-aliasing issues aside, the brawler is another impressive showcase for Apple’s handheld.
As I just mentioned, this is very much a side-scrolling brawler and doesn’t deviate much from the tried and tested formula. Button mashing on the virtual controller will become your best friend but you will see the same animation of Homer punching over and over again. He does have a couple of other moves like sucker punching stunned enemies or belly-floping his way to victory but little else. Weapons do become available such as a satisfyingly large mallet or a handy taser gun which can be found in crates or dropped by enemies. After too much use they will brake so enjoy them while they last! Family members also lend their talents now and again in the form of power ups equally scattered in crates across the environments.
The enemies themselves are mainly service men in suits which differ in colour depending on their threat. Grey suited guys are the basic cannon fodder, white suits tell you they can jump and kick while brown suits indicate their ability to charge. More bad guys are met as Homer journeys through the levels but they soon became boring to fight. Once you work out a formula to beat them, it’s just case of repetition. Thankfully, levels are broken up with minibosses and things like herds of stampeding cows which do a great job of changing the pace, keeping interest levels just high enough to continue. Minibosses and end-of-level bosses are characters plucked from The Simpsons much loved cast. Krusty, Bumblebee man and Kent Brockman are just a few of the authentically voiced residents that try to cause grief for Homer. It’s just a shame that more characters weren’t used throughout the levels rather than the unknown suited chaps. Fighting a horde of Itchys or the even show’s loveable mafia would have made for a truer Simpson experience.
I initially had a lot of fun with The Simpsons Arcade and found the £2.99 price to be quite fitting. After some time of continuous button mashing, repetitive enemies and slightly frustrating controls at times, my experience was dampened somewhat. It’s a good game and a beautiful side-scroller but the action isn’t quite as classic as it could have been.
Worthwhile and fun but still room for improvement.