Version Reviewed: 1.0
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Many people remember the classic Simpsons coin-op game where up to 4 players could play as the cartoon family in a beat-em-up quest to save baby Maggie. EA has now brought a completely new game to the iPhone that looks to relive some of that classic action, but they left many of the core features on the cutting room floor. The actual gameplay does an admirable job, but this time around you can only play as Homer and there is no multiplayer, both of which severely limit the replay value of the title.
In The Simpsons Arcade, the evil Mr. Burns has gathered most of the side characters of the show for a top secret plan to steal all of Springfield's natural resources. They proceed to download the specifics of the scheme called "Project: Operation Mission" onto a USB drive, and then implant it into a rather tasty looking donut. When the donut accidentally falls into Homer Simpson's hands, it is promptly stolen back, and Homer decides that he must get his hands on this exceptional donut that people are willing to kill for.
Once you get past the nonsensical plot, the core fighting gameplay is simple but effective. Homer is controlled via a responsive joystick, and has an attack button that strings together a combo of moves when tapped repeatedly. He also has a jump button that can be combined with the attack to unleash a belly flop that knocks down nearby opponents. Homer can also sit on downed opponents, as well as grab someone who has been stunned. The game has a handful of suit-wearing enemy types with different attack patterns, as well as weapons such as baseball bats, tasers, and oversized mallets that can be picked up to deal some extra damage.
The other Simpsons family members do appear in the game, but only as the occasional power-up. Bart jumps on Homer's shoulder and shoots a steady stream of slingshot fire, Lisa just clears the screen, and Marge triggers a berserker Homer that you can tilt around the screen.
The game itself is spread across six levels, which include Downtown Springfield, Springfield Mall, Channel 6 Studios, Krustyland, GOP Headquarters, and the Burns' Mansion. Each stage is made up of a fighting segment, mid-boss, some more fighting, and then an end boss, with a load screen in between each. The fighting segments can get repetitive and boring at times, but the boss battles bring a wide variety of characters into the mix. In between levels, you get to play one of two mini-games that can win you an extra continue. They are a tilting game where you use Homer's mouth to catch donuts and avoid broccoli, and a button-tapping game where you have to inflate a balloon the fastest. A rather nice touch is the interactive continue screen that is displayed when you lose a life. Homer is sprawled on the floor and you need to slap him back to consciousness by swiping back and forth across his face.
Once you finish the game, you get a very brief scene of Homer eating the donut (spoilers!), and that's about it. You don't have the ability to play as a different character, let alone a choice of alternate difficulty levels. Combine that with the lack of multiplayer, and The Simpsons Arcade leaves you with very little reason to come back. The action, while not the most exciting in the genre, is pretty solid, but the game just does not lend itself to repeated play. This feels liked a missed opportunity, and really stalls what was shaping up to be a quality package. The colorful graphics are worth mentioning, but the music is exceedingly annoying. Luckily, there is the option to adjust the sound in the game, as well as use your own music.
The Simpsons Arcade is a decent side-scrolling brawler, but there's no getting around the fact that it is sorely limited by having only one playable character and no multiplayer options to speak of. Games in this genre are generally short in length, and are meant to be replayed multiple times using different characters or with friends. While The Simpsons Arcade is a respectable effort, it's lacking both of these qualities, making it pretty much a simple one-and-done experience at this point.
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