Hearing that the Simpsons Arcade Game was coming excited me a lot more than a classic game release normally does. As a huge Simpsons fan, and someone who has been watching since the beginning, playing the game in the arcade is a special memory for me. partly because it was the first Simpsons game I ever played, and partly because I never had enough money in my pocket to actually finish the game. Fortunately, Backbone Entertainment has done a great job bringing Konami’s 1991 classic to XBLA and PSN, so for $10 (or free if you have Playstation Plus) everyone can play with an endless supply of quarters.
The game starts with Smithers kidnapping Maggie during a jewelry store heist. The player takes control of one of the remaining family members in a quest to get their baby back. The Simpsons Arcade Game is a sidescrolling brawler that plays almost identically to the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game (the games are both built on the same engine). You’ll fight your way through eight levels in and around Springfield, using each character’s unique attack along with rocks, mailboxes and slingshots you happen to find along the way to take out legions of Mr. Burns’ henchmen.
You will pass through familiar locations like Moe’s Tavern and The Nuclear Plant, taking a break for the occasional between-level minigame. Familiar Simpsons characters (and even characters from Matt Groening’s Life In Hell comics) will make appearances, sometimes as background characters, other times as enemies. The original arcade cabinet supported 4 players, and this version does as well, either locally or online. When I played online, I found a match within a matter of seconds, and it ran perfectly with 4 players. The game is really more fun with a group, and there are even special attacks that two players can do together.
The game allows you to select the difficulty and start from any level that you have unlocked simply by reaching it in a normal game. You have the option of Free Play (unlimited continues), Quarters (each player has a set number of continues) and Team Quarters (all players pull from a combined pool of continues). Finishing the game unlocks a bonus depending on which family member you play as. Bonuses include a visual list of notable background character locations in the game, promotional material and some audio tests. They are neat unlockables, but I was a little disappointed by the promotional stuff – you can’t zoom in, so there’s no way to actually read them. Finishing the game under any configuration of settings unlocks the Japanese ROM, which includes a few tweaks like a different scoring system, extra health items and a nuclear bomb as a weapon.
The Simpsons Arcade Game is a real treat for anyone who has fond memories of the game from their youth. It looks and plays exactly like the original, and has enough fun extras to encourage multiple plays. Getting a group together to fight your way to Maggie is as fun as ever, and it works great whether playing with friends on your couch or online. If you enjoyed the original, or are a Simpsons fan who wants to unlock an achievement or trophy named “It tastes like burning,” then this game is for you.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.