The Simpsons: Tapped Out
The Simpsons have enjoyed a rocky relationship with the videogame world, from the brilliant The Simpsons: Hit & Run to the god-awful The Simpsons Wrestling. But as the show continues to plunge to the very depths of television’s rock-bottom, it’s reassuring to know that the franchise is still capable of moments of genius in this industry.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a city-building simulator like fellow EA staple Sim City but it plays more like Facebook favourite FarmVille. It was initially released in late-February on iOS but was withdrawn from the App Store a few weeks later after users reported a multitude of bugs and connection issues. Apparently having got to grips with the teething troubles, EA have now re-released Tapped Out and it plays superbly.
The premise is typical Simpsons: Homer makes the mistake of ignoring a huge meltdown at the nuclear plant (ironically because he was too busy playing a village-simulator on his “myPad”) and the resulting explosion destroys all of Springfield. Your job is to rebuild the Simpson’s hometown from scratch, unlocking characters and buildings from the show along the way.
The resulting experience is a hugely satisfying one as you reconstruct Springfield to your liking, from laying the foundations of the Simpson house to building your first Kwik-E-Mart. Through purchasing land, cleaning up nuclear waste, planting trees and building homes and businesses you can expand your town from a humble area of nothing to a vast, populated cartoon-world.
The overriding objective in Tapped Out is to build a town with an overall five-star rating. This is achieved by attaining ratings in subcategories such as “righteousness” (keeping criminals off the streets) and “consumerism” (building a capitalistic haven of Krusty Burgers and Moe’s Taverns), with each in-game character setting you different tasks to help accomplish each one. Tasks take a certain amount of real time to complete (though you can speed up proceedings if you’re willing to give up some precious currency) and range from growing Tomacco on Cleetus’ farm to feeding Apu’s octuplets; each one rewarding you with XP and money to spend on upgrading your burgeoning civilisation.
There are two main currencies in-game: standard cash and donuts. While cash can be earned as easily as collecting the income tax off each property you build, donuts are a lot harder to come by and, predictably, are the most valuable. The majority of the items you will want to buy for your new Springfield (and I know that any hardcore Simpsons fan will want to build the Duff Brewery and Hank Scorpio’s volcano lair) cost hundreds of donuts each, meaning if you truly want to rebuild Springfield you’ll have to spend a lot of real money purchasing more, testing EA’s assurances that Tapped Out is completely free. Donuts can be found and saved, but be prepared to wait a long time before you have enough to buy Grandpa Simpson’s retirement home.
The game is classic Simpsons in everything from design to humour. Homer will bemoan the lack of “shooters” available in the game whenever you send him to do a menial task and the sight of Ned Flanders powerwalking around town is as hilarious as you’d expect. The animation is smooth and sleek and the game world looks absolutely stunning on the iPhone’s retina display. Disappointingly, there aren’t many voiceovers save for a few soundbytes whenever you tap on a character but the captioned conversations more than make up for it with their subtle humour.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out is everything that the television series sadly no longer is; satirical, subtle and enjoyable. While the premise is a bit farfetched and questions can be raised over EA’s “free-to-play” claim, the game itself is undeniably addictive. You will find yourself opening the Tapped Out app every couple of hours to collect money, complete tasks and send your characters on jobs. Seeing a thriving Springfield emerge from practically nothing is extremely satisfying, and the gentle humour of the characters and their interactions with you will keep you entertained as you play Groening.
It may not have the depth of Sim City or the dedicated following of FarmVille but Tapped Out is still a thoroughly entertaining and addictive experience; arguably the best videogame based on The Simpsons yet.