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PSP  header logo

The Simpsons Game

For: PSP   Also on: DS, Mobile

Best... Simpsons game... ever?

Product: The Simpsons Game | Developer: In-house | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: PSP | Genre: Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
The Simpsons Game PSP, thumbnail 1
Genuine humour is a notoriously difficult thing to carry off in a video game. The fact that the player is in control of the pace means the all-important element of comic timing is utterly compromised. As a result there has been only a handful of games blessed with the ability to make you laugh out loud. Thankfully, it's now possible to add another to that elite group.

The Simpsons Game is funny, then. As you might expect, much of the humour relies on the player having some familiarity with the TV show, but the vast majority of the gags will amuse even if you've been locked in a time capsule for the past two decades and have bypassed The Simpsons craze altogether.

Rather than take the easy option or creating a game that sticks slavishly to the plot of the recent cinematic outing, EA has wisely decided to create a unique experience and has packed the product with a quite frankly insane amount of fan service. If you're a passionate gamer, you'll lap up the sharp observations and satirical comments featured within The Simpsons. Fun is poked at high-ranking mascots, game designers and general video gaming clichés (predictable 'weak spots' on end-of-level bosses, for instance), all in the typically cutting Simpsons style.

Although other companies have taken similar steps and produced knowingly 'post modern' hits (such as Nintendo with its WarioWare franchise), the acerbic humour seen in The Simpsons is head and shoulders above anything that has been before. EA is arguably the last company you'd expect to encourage this kind of wonderfully anarchic mickey-taking, but it should be commended for not pulling any punches.

The publisher also deserves praise for acquiring the services of not only the original voice actors, but also the scriptwriters who make the TV show such a riot. Couple this with several minutes of animated cut-scenes and you have an experience that is faithful to the source material in a way few other licensed games have ever managed.

It's a bit of a shame, then, that underneath these wonderfully polished trimmings the actual core game itself isn't tremendously arresting. Unlike the DS version – which was rather hampered by the modest hardware – the PSP edition takes direct inspiration from the home console versions of the game. It's best described as a 3D platformer, although there are brawling elements included as well.

Each member of the Simpsons family possesses two standard attacks and a variety of different abilities, each ideally suited to overcoming the particular problems and obstacles that litter the levels within the game. Sadly, you can't tackle the stages with a character of your choosing but some missions do involve another family member, which adds a much-needed touch of diversity to proceedings.

Presentation is somewhat inconsistent. The graphics are obviously scaled down from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, resulting in some rather angular-looking character models, but everything moves along at a fair old pace. Level designs, meanwhile, range from decent to downright ugly, but much of their appeal lies in the fact that they reference familiar locations in the TV show. Lastly, the 3D camera is prone to causing some serious headaches during play and cannot be relied upon to always give you the best view of the action.

The sound fares better. As previously mentioned, several members of the original cast have been drafted in to provide their vocal talents exclusively for the video game and the sheer amount of spoken dialogue contained within the game means you don't get annoyed with any constantly repeating phrases. The music is also extremely faithful to that heard in the show.

When we reviewed the DS edition a while back we were a little disappointed by the rather slim play time. Alas, the same criticism applies to this version, too. With a few days' solid play you'll breeze through the game quite easily, and there's precious little here in terms of replay value.

One can imagine that when EA decided to snap up The Simpsons video game licence, it set itself the task of making the best piece of software ever based on the animated family. Thanks to the humour, above-average gameplay and incredible authenticity, it's undeniably succeeded. But, of course, you have to put things in perspective and consider the generally awful standard of past Simpsons games. Nevertheless, EA's effort comes with a cautious recommendation.
 
The Simpsons Game
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 26 November 2007
Fantastically funny and an unwavering faithfulness to the source material help make this rather average 3D action adventure worth a furtive glance – it's just a shame that it's over so quickly
 
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