The Simpsons have had spotty success in video games, most recently going mad with a Professor Frink cloning device and only doing what the most popular franchises wowed us with years earlier. In a sense, the cheesy Simpsons game knock-offs became what the show's writers must hate: Family Guy. For the family's latest virtual outing, however, Electronic Arts is putting together a more original Simpsons title that can stand on its own, and it's aptly named The Simpsons Game.
From the E3 07 demo, it's obvious that The Simpsons Game is dripping with hilarious show references. All members of the family are playable from Bart doing the Bartman to Marge nagging Springfield pedestrians with a megaphone (and no, it's not the Rapmaster 2000, we checked). Even little Maggie Simpsons was crawling through some filthy vents as if she didn't have responsible parents watching over her or something.
Lisa finally puts her boring saxophone talents to use by stunning enemies and moves objects through otherwise useless meditation. Homer, on the other hand, swells up three times his usual mail-order-only pants size and rolls around like a ball straight out of Katamari Damacy. Not only does Homer do a lot of damage as Homberball, but its visual effects demonstrate a good sign that the developer is taking the proper time to make this Simpsons title something special. As he throws his obese weight around, his fat is manipulated as it presses up against the ground instead of just floating or gliding.
The cel-shaded graphics don't skimp on the detail and they do closely match the animated show with a cartoon style. The entire presentation comes off as if the game is completely hand drawn. All of the 16 levels feature two character combinations that players can switch between and plenty of non-playable cast members to interact with. Additionally, secret areas within the game spoof the other classic video games like Frogger and Wolfenstein with the developer's take on each.
In addition to dressing up Homer and Bart in army fatigues to spin-off Medal of Honor with Medal of Homer and having Marge rally against Grand Theft Scratchy as if she's the next Jack Thompson, the game takes a few jabs at itself. In fact, the entire premise is that the family realizes they've been licensed out to yet another video game (this would make the 22nd, if you're counting).
The Simpsons Game doesn't play like another cheap licensed TV tie-in or look like a GTA, Tony Hawk or Crazy Taxi knock-off. Its cartoon look captures the show better than any of those 3D rendered clones and comes prepared with comedy that's actually funny after five minutes. Of course, the game is doing what any licensed merchandise would do by releasing on every system possible. But, don't let that throw you. Don't even let the obvious tie-in with the The Simpsons Movie DVD release throw you, either. From everything we saw at E3 07, the game has more lasting power than Bart's career as the ?I Didn't Do It? boy.