There’s been a long history of fairly good videogames over the decades based on “The Simpsons” TV show. Now, for the first time, an original game is being developed at Electronic Arts that will ship for high definition consoles PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this fall. I had a chance to check out some of the Xbox 360 game at a recent press event in San Francisco and it’s pretty amazing what this partnership between Gracie Films and EA is crafting.
Rather than basing the game on the summer movie or any particular episode of the TV series, which enters its 19th season this fall, the game is completely original. Some of the writers of the show creating the game’s story line and show creator Matt Groenig has worked closely with the development team. He also made sure all of the voice actors from the show came aboard for the game.
What you can’t tell from early screen shots of the game is how cool it looks. In the past, games based on this license either did 2D characters (back in the Konami arcade days) or 3D versions of them (like Vivendi Games’ “The Simpsons Hit and Run”). Thanks to next gen technology, The Simpsons characters always appear to be in their 2D cartoon environment regardless of which angle you look at them. It’s pretty cool to see the characters remain 2D as you zoom around them. It creates an authentic look, yet one that’s clearly advances in new technology.
Each Simpsons character has unique abilities and powers in the game, as well as levels designed with tongue firmly in cheek. Marge is out to ban a violent Itchy & Scratchy videogame that’s being sold at the Sequel Shop called “GTS: Blood Island.” Maggie is out to save the trees, literally, as she tries to stop Mr. Burns loggers from destroying the forests. Homer’s level that was shown takes place in the Duff Beer factory, where each room has a themed country and plenty of areas to explore. Even the name of the level, “Around the World in 80 Bites,” keeps the humor alive. Homer’s special ability is to turn into a huge ball of fat and roll over enemies. Lisa has the Hand of Budha, which comes from the sky and can drop rocks on loggers and move things around in the environment. Bart turns into Bartman and he can fly for short stints.
The game has 16 episodes that tell a cohesive and humorous story. As an added bonus, there’s 60 minutes worth of new animated story built into the game. The gameplay that I saw in this still-early version showed enough variety to appeal to both the hardcore and casual gamers. The developers at EA said they’re focusing on parodying games in this title, which was showcased in the demo room with posters for games like “Neverquest,” “Medal of Homer” and “Bartman Begins.”
From the cool visuals to the fun, and funny, game environments, I’m looking forward to seeing what the world’s biggest game company can do with one of the most succesful TV franchises of all time.