An eight year old boy asked me a few years ago whether I was able to watch The Simpsons. I said to him that The Simpsons were made for me – when I was about his age. The same can be said for The Simpsons Arcade game, a title I used to relish playing on consoles and arcade machines. I never knew what an arcade game had to do with The Simpsons but with most if not all Simpsons games, you really don’t know why they tied things together other than it was convenient or it was easy to slip in some The Simpsons franchise artwork.
Electronic Arts’ version of The Simpsons Arcade is based on some hokey story of Homer trying to get a donut and having to crash through every single character in Springfield from Mayor Quimby to Mr. Burns. Needless to say, they’re just a set up for Homer having to beat up a thousand characters. The action itself is pretty good in the vein of Golden Axe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Streets of Rage. Stages take place in various Springfield environments, separated by mini-games for bonus rounds and boss encounters. Succeeding at the game means prioritizing the thugs on screen so that some of them stay stunned and dazed while you work on the others. Projectile and melee weapons help even up the odds and there are power ups called Family Frenzy, which introduces Marge, Maggie, Bart or Lisa to come on screen to take out huge swaths of enemies.
For a game with on screen controls, I really like the accuracy. I never really ran into any problems with the controls being stuck or causing me to miss that critical hit on a boss. The plugs from The Simpsons are spot on. My only lament is that the entire game is revolved around Homer; a real bruiser of a character. The original game had you take control of all the family members except Maggie, and each had a different playing style. Once you finish this game, there’s not much more to go back to.
What’s the popular word these days for remaking an old game in a completely new vein? A re-imagining. This is what The Simpsons Arcade aspires to be but one thinks the dream was aborted a bit short because it could be a lot more. I can’t help but think this is like most Simpsons games where it smells like The Simpsons, it looks like The Simpsons, but for whatever reason, it feels like a gimmick for a game. Tread lightly, Simpsons fans.