May 13, 2007 – The Simpsons are arguably America’s favorite family, animated or not. Even recent cartoon battles with Family Guy or South Park haven’t derailed Homer and company, with a new movie slated to release later this year. We can now add a new video game to the list of upcoming Simpsons experiences, as EA has recently announced The Simpsons for all next-gen platforms.
Strangely enough, this game about the Simpsons will not be based on the movie at all, apart from the fact that both are obviously based on the animated family. The game will feature an entirely new storyline, penned by the actual show’s writers. The twist to the gameplay is that the Simpsons become aware that they are in a game, which paves the way for a host of “fourth wall” jokes and parodies of the gaming industry at large. EA promises that the game will poke fun at various elements of gaming and hinted that even EA wouldn’t be safe from the Simpson’s unique brand of satire. Some other examples included an in-game video game outlet entitled SequelStop in an oddly familiar signage, and posters with titles like Bartman Begins and Medal of Homer.
The gameplay of The Simpsons has a cooperative element, which has two characters aiding each other to progress throughout the various stages. Each Simpson character has different abilities, such as Bart using his Bartman cape to catch updrafts, allowing him to float to places that the other characters can’t reach. Lisa has the ability to “meditate” at certain points, which allows her to transcend her boundaries, which translates in gameplay as a giant hand that picks up and releases objects, which is crucial for certain puzzle elements. Marge can spur other NPC characters with her nagging, and Homer can become a giant ball of fat capable of breaking through obstacles. The co-op allows another player to join in the game at any moment, and whenever the player isn’t controlled directly, the A.I. handles the player’s controls. Sadly, however, there are no plans for online co-op.
Some of the early stages that were shown previewed the cooperative elements. One stage showed Bart and Lisa working together to stop a logging company. Lisa used her meditative abilities to grab boulders and drop them on the various loggers attempting to attach them while Bart, controlled by the A.I., fought some of the loggers by himself. Lisa’s boulder dropping uncovered an updraft, and the player switched to Bart, who used the draft as Bartman to float up to a previously unattainable ledge, where he found the controls to open the gate blocking Lisa. The game will apparently include a lot of this back and forth switching between characters to emphasize the familial teamwork that the television series is known for.
The visuals at this point are true to the appearance of the cartoon. EA also is emphasizing that the visuals are consistent from any viewpoint, maintaining the look of the animated show from every angle. In previous Simpsons games, when viewing Lisa from the back, the player would observe her pointy hair as it would appear in reality, which could be disconcerting. The game now maintains the look of the cartoon no matter which angle you approach the game from, so there aren’t any funky 3-D translations that aren’t in the show.
While not much else is known about the game at this time, we do know that the game has been confirmed for Xbox 360, Wii, and the PlayStation 3 and will also have later versions on the PSP and the DS. The next gen versions will be available in fall 2007.