It has been a little more than two decades since The Simpsons Arcade Game debuted in arcades and threatened to siphon the quarters out of our pockets. Konami graced us with a fun beat ’em up starring one of television’s most beloved dysfunctional families back then and now it’s finally available to play on our consoles. Is nostalgia enough to grant the game some staying power or do we have to make it write “I will not be a sucky game” over and over on the blackboard?
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Genre: Familial Bonding Beat ‘Em Up
Release Date: February 3, 2012 (XBLA), February 7, 2012 (PSN)
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
The Simpsons franchise is a juggernaut when it comes to merchandising. The television series has spawned clothes, toys, accessories, and all kinds of miscellaneous doo-dads, so it was unsurprising that one of the first products the producers licensed was a video game. Development began in 1990 and The Simpsons Arcade Game was released (in arcades) in March 1991. Now the game has made the jump as a downloadable game for the PS3 and Xbox 360. For a one time fee of $10 (or 800 Microsoft Points), you can enjoy an arcade classic with your loved and liked ones. That’s only 40 quarters!
The story is simple and is only loosely tied to the series canon. While out in Springfield for a day, the family literally bumps into Mr. Smithers in the middle of a jewelry store robbery. Little baby Maggie is knocked into Smithers’ hands along with a huge diamond. Smithers runs away, effectively adding the kidnapping of an infant to his list of nefarious activities for the day. The players then take on the role of the members of the Simpsons family and fight their way through Springfield to save Maggie. It’s short, it’s sweet, and lays the groundwork for about an hour or so of wacky vigilantism.
If you’ve played a beat ’em up before (like Konami’s other early 90s classics such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or X-Men), then you know what’s in store. If not, then just know that you’ll be walking around different scenes and beating up wave after wave of dudes who all look alike. It’s terribly fun in short bursts. There are seven levels and two bonus levels. Each level has a boss and a mini-boss or two. The bonus levels task you with mashing buttons to inflate a balloon or slap your character awake. And we all know that everyone has dreamed of slapping a Simpsons character or two. The game lets you cut a swath through the baddies and then assault the level’s boss until he starts flashing red and dies (or dissipates into the ether).
Voila. Sounds simple, but you’re doing all of this as the Simpsons, so it’s a little cooler. As for the controls, you only have to worry about jumping and attacking. Homer uses his fists and legs, Lisa whips people with a jump rope, Bart bashes them with his skateboard, and Marge perpetuates the homemaker stereotype by toting around a vacuum cleaner. You can even stand still next to another character for unique paired combination attacks. It’s cool seeing Marge throw Bart across the screen only to have him fly back, like a boomerang. There are also random objects littered throughout Springfield that you can use as projectiles, like bowling balls or rocks. And every once in a while, a character like Nelson pops in for a cameo and offers you a slingshot to use.
Nothing much has changed from the original arcade game, but there is an unlockable bonus in the form of the Japanese version of the game. The only major differences are that in the Japanese version, you can add health past a full life bar by eating food, there are mini atomic bombs scattered in some levels, and weapons seem to be available more frequently. There are a few modes that allow you to play freely with infinite continues, a survival mode, and online play. Unlockables include a gallery of all the character cameos in the game, music from the game, and some images.
All in all, it’s the same game you remember. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’ll have to weigh out whether or not you want to spend $10 (800 Microsoft points… or 40 quarters!) to play through about 40 minutes of nostalgia. For the uninitiated, it’s definitely a fun ride, especially if you’re a Simpsons fan. If you want to relive the glory days of arcades or just be introduced to what you missed, it’s a fine title. If not, you could pass on this and never have to wonder why Mr. Smithers carried all of those bombs inside a cloak with an atom emblem.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of The Simpsons Arcade Game was provided by Konami for the purposes of this review.