Reviews: The Simpsons

(arcade game review) What happens when Konami attempts to make an arcade game out of an American animated sitcom?

The Simpsons arcade game is a 4-player beat-em-up. Players assume the role of any of the Simpsons with the exception of Maggie, who has been kidnapped for the most cartoonish of reasons: when Smithers was robbing a jewelry store, a diamond happened to land in Maggie's mouth and replace her pacifier. So Smithers did the logical thing and took Maggie away. Now it's up to you to fight people ranging from firefighters to businessmen to drunks on a trek to rescue her.

Some of the design decisions Konami made are pretty interesting. The cartoon's well-known Danny Elfman music is likely the inspiration for the game's carnival-like background music. All sorts of characters make background cameos, from Principal Skinner, to Patty and Selma. They're just kinda there, often holding food or a weapon for you to take.

You can grab weapons such as a slingshot, or even various things that can be picked up and thrown. But the most fun new mechanic are the team attacks. By standing close to each other, two players can perform a team-up that allows them to do different things. For example, Homer can carry Bart or Lisa on his shoulders to help them whack enemies from on high.

The voice acting provides a lot of charm. Konami was clearly trying to keep the Simpsons in character, by having them use catchphrases and actual dialog from the cartoon. Still, it's funny that Marge's reaction to seeing her baby being taken away on a hot air balloon by Smithers is to shout "Oh, you darn hooligans!" Bart looks at the player, makes a face, and says "Who the hell are you?" I find it particularly funny how Marge says "Alright, now play friendly," when lifting a kid on her shoulders, considering that her team attack is to throw her kid like a weapon.

The game is loaded with humor, and not necessarily humor in the style of the show, either. Matt Groening's Life in Hell rabbits make many appearances, including inside trees that drop life-giving fruit. Shake the tree enough and you get a sign saying "All gone, beat it!" The final boss fight is Mr. Burns in mech armor. The ending has Maggie stick her pacifier in his mouth. Marge's weapon is a vacuum cleaner. When Bart respawns, he flies in wearing his Bartman costume.

It's a weird Japanese take on an American animated sitcom, and it's a lot of fun.