Although The Simpsons one of the most successful TV shows ever their transition to the world of videogames has been less than stellar. Admittedly their more recent efforts (The Simpsons Game, Hit & Run and Road Rage) have been miles better than their earlier offerings (Bart vs. The Space Mutants, Bart’s Nightmare, The Simpsons Wrestling etc,) no game starring the world’s most loved family has managed to capture the magic that makes the TV show so special. Ironically the best Simpson’s game is actually the first one ever released, The Simpsons: The Arcarde Game for (you guessed it) the arcades.
Rather than trying slapping the Simpsons brand on a shitty platformer or creating a brainless spin-off (Simpsons Skateboarding anybody?) for their videogame debut Komani placed Homer and family in a side scrolling Beat ‘Em Up ala Final Fight. Sure in the TV show The Simpsons would never go around Springfield punching residents in the face but for an arcade game released in the early 90’s that was perfectly acceptable. Many have clamoured for a re-release of The Simpsons: The Arcade Game but the change of licence from Konami to EA make such an event highly unlikely. For now us gamers will have to settle for the next best thing, The Simpsons Arcade for the iPhone.
The Simpson Arcade purposely mimmicks the arcade game that we all know and love but EA has cunningly tweaked a few things here and there to keep Konami lawyers off their backs, hell even the first few moments of both games are earily identical. While casually strolling down the street Homer accidentally bumps in to Waylon Smithers, upon doing so Smithers gets knocked out cold and a donut from his pocket flies up in air, naturally catching Homer’s attention. Unbeknown to Homer buried deep within the donut lies a USB Drive containing top-secret plans to rob Springfield’s resources. Before Homer could even get a taste of his new found donut Mayor Qwimby snatches it away from him and a chase ensues prompting Homer to take out the masterminds behind the plans and their seemingly endless stream of goons to reclaim “his” donut. From here on it’s the usual “stroll to the right, beat up everyone in sight” affair that we’re all used to but with a few Simpsons related twists to keep fans happy.
Unlike the original arcade game which let you take control of any family member, here you’re only able to play as a super pissed off Homer. Homer may be a bit of a coward on TV but here he can punch, body slam, shoulder barge and belly flop the ground to floor enemies. Along the way you’ll pick up items such as taser guns, mallets, baseball bats and exploding barrels or collect icons which brings a family member on screen to provide some much needed assistance. Each family member has different abilities but ae all extremely helpful in one way or another. Bart is able to hop on Homey’s shoulders and use his slingshot to shoot powerful projectiles, Lisa uses her skipping rope to administer an earth shaking attack that stuns all on-screen enemies and Marge whacks Homer on the head with a vacuum cleaner turning him to a punching maniac which you control by titling the iPhone.
Like most action games on the iPhone The Simpsons Arcade uses an on-screen control system. A virtual analog stick is placed on the button left of the screen and opposite it are two virtual buttons for attacking and jumping. The controls work as well as expected but the placement of your fingers can sometimes obstruct the action. Making it to the end of the game will take roughly an hour with six stages to plough through each lasting roughly 10 minutes. For £2.99 ($4.99) The Simpsons Arcades gives you a decent account of bang for your buck but it’s slightly disappointing that there’s not much else to do once the end credits roll.
As I mentioned earlier there are a few things which separates this game from the likes of Street Of Rage, however most of which will only matter to serious fans of the show. Regular cast members such as Kent Brockman and Chief Wiggum make brief appearance for boss battles and the wimpier characters such as Flanders and Millhouse will flee as you approach living behind extra lives for you to collect. Extra lives can also be obtained by completing mini games which appear at the end of each level. By now you should already know if The Simpsons Arcade is the game for you. If you like the occasional Beat ‘Em Up and know what Duff Beer is you should not hesitate to download this from the app store. While its far from the Mecca of Simpsons based videogames it’s a nice little romp that will keep you entertained for at least an hour or so. It’s a shame that the TV show can no longer manage to do the same for 22 minutes.