Oil up your vocal chords for your best Homer shriek: The Simpsons are now starring in their very own social game. America’s favorite yellow-fleshed family has been in our videogames for almost as long as they’ve been on the air (hint: 20 years for the former, 22 for the latter) and few of their games have been especially good. We’ve fought space mutants, gone after Bart’s wayward homework in the land of dreams, and even done a little backyard wrestling. But The Simpsons: Tapped Out scores a rare success simply because it lets the Simpsons be themselves as they trundle around a version of Springfield that you build to your own tastes.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out begins with Homer playing a Happy Little Elves social game on his myPad instead of monitoring the nuclear power plant’s core temperature. After spending about a thousand dollars on microtransactions (Homer sensibly decides he’ll blame his kids for the purchase and get his money refunded), the core reaches critical, and the plant explodes, taking all of Springfield with it.
Thank you, come again.
If this were a game about lesser people, everyone would be dead, or at least irradiated to the point that they wished they were dead. But Springfield’s denizens are a hardy bunch. They’re all alive and well, and simply waiting for Homer to rebuild their homes so that they can return. Of course, Homer is not America’s poster child for Getting the Job Done, so rebuilding Springfield is pretty much up to you.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out functions much like any city-building social game (the Happy Little Elves parody at the start of the game kind of says it all), but with a definite Springfield twist that’s impossible not to love if you’ve ever been a hardcore fan of the show– and that includes people who are hardcore fans now, as well as those of us who swear to Jeebus that the show lost its soul after season nine. In The Simpsons: Tapped Out, you don’t simply build houses and businesses. You build Ned Flanders’ house. You build Springfield Elementary. You build the Krusty Burger. You can even build Hank Scorpio’s volcano hideout, but that’s where the game treads into premium content (awww).
And then there’s the citizens of Springfield, who slowly return as you rebuild. Each man, woman, and clown can earn money at a series of jobs that relates to their character. Krusty can walk his pet monkey, promote a new item at the Krusty Burger, or “inflate his self-worth.” Lisa can read a book or practice her sax. Homer can lounge in Maggie’s kiddie pool and drink beer. That’s where he’s a viking.
Duffman says a lot of things!
Springfield’s citizens earn cash and experience, as does each establishment in the form of “income tax.” It’s actually a little disappointing that EA doesn’t ask you to collect Homer’s infamous “bear tax,” because The Simpsons: Tapped Out typically doesn’t miss a chance to make any reference to the show, be it large or small. Every job that you give to a citizen elicits the perfect reaction. When Homer’s drinking in the kiddie pool, he wears his umbrella-hat. When Apu feeds the octuplets, he straps on that horrendous mechanism that grants him eight fake teats, and wanders around miserably while his brood feeds.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out does have one or two D’ohs, however. There are tons of original voice clips, but no way to turn them off. Sure, it’s fun to hear our favorite characters talk to us from our iPhones, but the voices get repetitive– especially when they’re used incorrectly. A character typically grouses in some manner when you send him or her to do a job, but sometimes the reaction doesn’t add up. Why would Lisa groan after you instruct her to go read a book?
The touchscreen controls can also get a little finicky at times, especially when you’re trying to move objects around. If your fence, house, tree, etc, is near a street, the game will often assume that you want to edit the road (“Woohoo, lookit that pavement fly!”).
The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a pretty standard social game, with two big differences: it’s incredibly polished, and it knows its audience inside-out. It’s a must-play for fans of the show, past and present. Its charm and style will embiggen your heart and soul.