Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Simpsons Game

Early hype for The Simpsons Game promised it would be a clever, Simpsons-style satire-from-within about the game industry. Instead, it's blunt, dumb, ridiculous, and almost never funny. Never mind that this action platformer is buggy, dull, and handles like wet cardboard, or that the faces look like they were drawn on an Etch-A-Sketch. A weak game could pass, if only it had some good laughs.

On television, The Simpsons appeals to all ages: 2-year-olds can dig the slapstick while their great-grandparents catch jokes about the Hoover era. Yet The Simpsons Game aims for the preteens, with aliens probing anuses, stock character dialogue (Lisa "likes homework"), and tired pop-culture references, like a movie marquee announcing Siskel And Ebert: The Movie. (Who'd play Siskel?) The characters admit the story makes no sense, which doesn't give it a pass, and the running gag about "videogame clichés" doesn't excuse designers for leaning hard on every one of them. It's hard to laugh your way through a disaster if your jokes aren't funny, and when even Ralph Wiggum can't get a good line, you know they should have killed this turkey at beta.

Beyond the game: The game takes endless potshots at its developer, Electronic Arts. It's a good premise: EA, like Simpsons broadcaster Fox, is a bloated trough of pop dreck. But the satire only runs as deep as making fun of the marketing department, and it paves the way to extensive product placement.


Worth playing for: Rare flashes of in-game satire. For example, the Xbox 360 achievements give you five points just for hitting "Start," and a zero-point award if you die 10 times.

Frustration sets in when: The co-op mode encourages players to work together by keying the puzzles to their separate powers. But this gets annoying for single players, who have to keep switching characters to clear arbitrary hurdles.

Final judgment: Bart endlessly disses the industry for making crappy games, yet he never apologizes for this one.

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