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January 31, 2014

The Simpsons Game (DS) (Part 2)

Part 1 can be read here. Please, go read it first if you haven't, or else you won't understand a damn thing in this article. Trust me, it gets REAL weird. In fact, I think I still need to get back into the normal mindset.


Dunno if that'll do the trick, but I guess it'll be just fine.

But if you don't want to read through 2,000 words, here's a short recap: In The Simpsons Game, the family finds out that they're characters in a video game and they all have superpowers. First they use the superpowers to stop regular crimes, until aliens decide to invade Springfield. Bart and Lisa go looking for help inside their own game's circuits, and come back with the strategy guide. They kick some alien ass, but that's not enough to force the aliens to retreat. As a result, the family goes into cyberspace to find a way to cease the invasion.

Told you it was gonna be messed up. Well, it gets even worse this time around. When we left last time, it was in the Bargain Bin, and we were about to save a pixelated version of the Simpson family stuck in a NES cartridge on its way to a furnace.


Homer and Bart work together to remove the traps getting in the way of the NES cartridge, and finally manage to stop it from falling into a furnace. The good-rendered Simpson family helps the pixelated family out of the cartridge. All hope seems lost for Springfield, as even the creators of the game don't seem too eager to help, so Homer starts moping. However, there is still ONE possible way to save Springfield. The Simpsons must ask the Creator of their world to end the alien invasion. But how can he even be reached? The pixelated Simpsons explain that, in order to get to the Creator's mansion, they first need to go into other planned-but-now-cancelled spin-off Simpson games and collect four key cards. Only with those key cards can the Simpsons hope to meet their maker and save Springfield. Jesus, I've seen this so often, it's practically a game cliché. No, really! It's one of the collectible clichés in the game!

Aaah! It's a Pattyselma! Kill it with fire!
Or with your lipid ball attack!
The first spin-off game is set in the Medieval times, in a world that has magic and monsters. Homer and Marge are alone in this little fantasy universe, the kids aren't with them, so Homer starts thinking dirty... until two elves (Rodd and Tod) pass by, screaming. They are followed by a two-headed dragon. And who are the two heads, you may ask? Patty and Selma, of course! Eh, from that point on I just tell myself that the end of the story is coming, so I'll endure anything. (Heh, Pierule.) First, outside of the Sisters Dragon's lair, Homer must use his bloating abilities to knock it down and weaken it enough. This will cause a door to open. Marge and Homer must then make their way through a dungeon until they reach the Sisters Dragon's lair. Homer finally lives one of his dreams, beating Patty and Selma senseless (though he never thought they would be a dragon for this to happen), and recovers the key card.

Use Super Summon FOR MASSIVE
DAMAGE!
Next, it's Homer – AGAIN! – teaming up with Lisa in a parody of crazy Japanese games. Sumos, elemental monsters, sushis and Pokémon parodies await in the Big Super Happy Fun Fun Game! In this Japan-styled game, the enemies are all Comic Book Guys dressed as sumos, with changing colors as you progress in the levels. What obligatory reference must we get here? Why, Mr. Sparkle, of course! As Homer and Lisa progress through the level, Lisa discovers another power coming with the Buddha's Hand: She can shoot freaking lightning! Tap a villain and it'll be electrocuted. After a bit of traveling, the two reach the boss of the level. none other than Jimbo turned into a Pokémon. How are this level's three bosses fought? In a parody of RPGs, of course! You can't take out the last enemies except through crazy means, such as summoning the epilepsy robot from the Japan episode. Second villain? Ralph Wiggum as a Blastoise parody. Last enemy? Sheri and Teri as a unicorn creature, on top of a flying ship. Sorry, Poké-jokes, but... All your base are belong to us!

The Simpsons now have collected all the key cards and are ready to enter the big great mansion. But what's in there exactly? Come on, take a wild guess. This game has been meta and self-referential for the past 80%, surely it can get even worse! Well, if you think that mansion is Matt Groening's... Well, you're totally right! Homer and Bart make their way through the mansion, and I have to tell you right away, this level is the most difficult one in the game. One damn level. First, the father and son battle against lawyers outside the mansion. They then make their way through the mansion, which is filled with platforms made out of drawings, with lots of spike traps and pencils that come in and out, which is really difficult... When you'll play the game, you'll probably hate this level as much as I do. Get ready to lose over thirty lives in your first playthrough, and maybe 10 if you've become very good. It is that hard. It is impossible to finish without losing lives. Still, at the end the Simpsons meet their maker, quite literally... And Groening still tries to kill them by summoning an army of Benders and Zoidbergs. He does realize he's already losing, right? Hey Groening, if you wanted to have a chance, you shouldn't have given your characters infinite lives!

The Creator is not pleased. ...Also, it seems like he didn't think the whole thing through.

At the end, Bart defeats Matt Groening, and the family tries to reason him into ending the alien invasion. They also tell him how awful it is to be video game characters, destined to do so much exercise and die constantly... Sadly, Groening pretty much says that he doesn't care for his creations and that's why he has put their faces on everything, as if all that counted was to make money with them. And he's not gonna stop; In fact, as the ultimate act of betrayal, he presses the Game Engine's self-destruct button and then escapes with a helicopter. Damn! He really doesn't care what happens to his creations, as long as he still makes money! (Now that I think about it, that kind of sentence does get used a lot when discussing the newer seasons...)

Okay, this time it's pretty damn clear. Springfield is doomed. The alien invasion hasn't ceased. Oh wait... Do I sense an idea? Yes, Lisa has an idea! ...But what is it... Dang, I don't remember... Wait a second, my subconscious is slowly reminding me of it... My subconscious always remembered! Unknowingly, I was referring to it from the beginning!

“Ask the Creator.”
“The Simpsons meet their maker.”
“Good Lord, this is getting violent.”
“Thanks God this statue is dead.”
“A gamer's Heaven.”
“Oh God.”

HOLY COW. THEY'RE GONNA GO THERE. THEY'RE GONNA FREAKING GO THERE.

Lisa takes, one by one, the buildings around Springfield, and starts piling them up until it forms a gigantic tower of Babel that rises up to the Heavens. The Simpsons family hurries up, until they truly reach Heaven. ...Um, wait a second. If there is an alien invasion, that means that such a tower would only reach the stratosphere and then space, because of the science-fiction setting of aliens that imply Heaven isn't up in the air, but no, the tower doesn't reach space, it goes to Heaven instead, and... Wait. This makes no sense. I'm flabbergasted. What the Hell – er, I mean, what the Heavens is going on? Look, I'll try to turn my disbelief off for the moment, but I can't promise a thing. Let's just keep watching the story and see where it goes.

This is the final level, so all the Simpsons are used at one point or another. Thankfully, the developers seemed to notice that Homer was overused in the past levels, so he's not used as much here. This is Heaven with all the enemies you've killed and all the possible puzzles you can solve. It starts with Marge, who can use her megaphone to control the angels of dead Homers, the lives he lost during the game, to help the family cross through the first part of Heaven. I'm not kidding. Next is Homer, who's back in a splice between Heaven and Chocolate Land. Then it's Lisa, who has to climb a giant Tetris tower all while placing platforms and blocks so that she can keep going up. And finally it's Bart, who reaches a grassy area... among the clouds. And there, he fights... Benjamin Franklin. I feel like repeating myself, but seriously, this makes no damn sense. How to beat Franklin? You use Buddha's Hand to protect Bart from the thunder, and then Benjamin will raise his kite. With Bart's slingshot, shoot the kite so it reaches a storming cloud. Yep, you defeat Benjamin Franklin by electrocuting him. Huh. Bart continues onto his part of the level, swings back and forth in an area filled with villains, and finally reaches the stairway leading to God. Don't spit down, Bart! Not this time, anyway! When the Simpsons son reaches God, what happens? We find out that God is a gamer. And we find Him, the giant Him, playing a Nintendo DS. With a target at the end of His stylus. Bart must climb up the giant couch and attack the stylus when he gets close enough; after which God slaps him back down from the couch, and it gets a little harder to reach Him and His DS, with more hazards showing up, and more dangerous enemies. After the target was hit thrice, Bart has won.

The Simpson family pressure God into stopping the alien invasion immediately (by menacing to erase His save file, which just so happens to contain the entire Simpsons universe – Holy cow! Bart menaces to destroy the universe!), and God does... Or does He? We never see Him do that as, before He even begins, Lisa asks the meaning of life. God replies that the Simpsons Game is nothing but a mini-game inside the great game of life, also known as Earth. And therefore, everything that happened in the Simpsons Game is absolutely unimportant, as mini-games are of so little importance to the characters of the Earth game. In case your mind isn't screwed enough, Lisa then asks God a question: What if He, too, was a character in a video game? God cannot find an answer to this, and then the screen zooms out to reveal that all this was a game played by Ralph Wiggum. After hearing the discussion, he walks towards YOUR screen, knocks, and yells “Daddy! Someone's looking at me!” ...The end, roll credits.

What. The. Hell?

And there's parodies of famous arcade
games in there somewhere.
There's no direct indication that the plot has been resolved! We never see whether or not the alien invasion was really stopped! The plot, the very end of it, was sacrificed to make more jokes, more meta comedy! Screw this non-resolution! However... I'll say it immediately: The story, in its entirety, is really not that bad. Hear me out. Yes, I know that it's a mess, because it constantly changes. Yet... Keeping in mind that this is an extremely meta story, the team at Electronic Arts really went all the way through. They literally make every single damn joke they could think of with this crazy scenario. They also explore every single possibility in terms of plot. The Simpsons find out they are in a game? They have powers? They use the powers to stop what they believe to be crimes. Things get weird when the Rigelians attack? They use their powers to try and stop them! They fail, however, so they go look for the strategy guide. THE STRATEGY GUIDE! When THAT fails, they return inside the Game Engine, and decide that the only one who can stop that is their maker himself, Matt Groening. MATT FREAKING GROENING! They also visit OTHER Simpsons games at the same time! And when that extremely meta solution doesn't work, they go even more meta, they go to Heaven to ask directly to God. I'd say they really did do everything they could with that idea. No opportunity has been wasted. Except the one to have a real ending to the story, but eh. In other words, this story is actually great. You can see they've put thought into it. You can see they've also put a lot of thought in all the video game shout outs, because there's so many you'll keep searching for days until you get all the references. And that's not even mentioning the references to The Simpsons' TV show!

Now, the gameplay. It's really cool that you can control the four main Simpsons (even though I believe Homer and Bart were overused; a problem not unlike a particular critique of the recent Simpsons), and each one of them has different abilities. The controls are simple, and the switch from one Simpson to the other is automatic in levels where you control two Simpsons at once. The level design is very well thought out, with no level being too easy nor too difficult. Except Groening's mansion, which is WAY difficult in comparison to what comes before and what comes after. The levels themselves are also a lot of fun, many of them are very detailed. The result is quite beautiful in some cases. The mini-games are also very good, the little there are.

Now, the collectibles. In every level, each Simpson can collect a number of objects (Homer collects beer caps, Bart collects Krusty Coupons, etc.). What's the reward when you collect every collectible for a Simpson in a level? You can see them at the Android's Dungeon. For Homer, it's different brands of Duff beers; For Bart, it's Krusty posters; For Marge, it's hair styling products; And Lisa gets Malibu Stacey dolls. Also in the Android's Dungeon, you can see the list of clichés you collected. Accompanied by the Comic Book Guy's snarky comments, for extra funny! In the levels, most of the collectibles are very easy to find, some you can't even avoid in your quest; only a select few, at most one or two per level, need you to really search around or revisit previous levels.

Eeyup. Multiplayer. I like this word on
the DS and on the Wii, I thoroughly
HATE it on the GBA.
There's also a multiplayer mode, in which you can access four different mini-games, in which you can control Bart or Homer (all depending on the mini-game). You have the option between playing a single-cartridge game or a multiple-cartridge game. The multiplayer mini-games are pretty fun, but they're also very basic. It's also very easy to become a nasty player during these mini-games, especially after a few games have been played. Also, in the mini-games' levels, you can get power-ups to help you, such as peppers or strange “Infinite” symbols. Still, this is a very fun game when there's another DS nearby. Preferably with someone to play on the other DS. Say, what are these game exactly?
-Hungry Homer: The Homer who eats the most food wins! You can also beat the crap out of the others to make them drop more food. Huh.
-Golden Donut: All Homers must hurry to the Golden Donut! He who catches it can then be chased down and beaten to a pulp to drop the Golden Donut, so another can pick it up. At the end, the one who had it for the longest time wins.
-Bart Match: It's an all-out Battle Royale between two or more Barts! The one who has killed the most Barts wins! Huh, sounds like Sideshow Bob's favorite game.
-Kapture the Koveted Krusty: Same, same, SAME as Golden Donut. Seriously, a bit of creativity would have been welcome. Well, at least you're playing with Bart instead of Homer. And again, the one who has the golden Krusty head for the longest time wins.

In the end, The Simpsons Game is nearly everything a good Simpsons game should be. Good story, lots of jokes, absolutely hilarious concept, very creative, simple gameplay... Yep, it's really great. In fact, I doubt a game that would have followed The Simpsons Movie's story would have worked as well.

Okay, this is no Triangle Wars, but hey, it's still fun.

And of course, I can't talk about the home console versions of this game, as I don't have them. My guess is that they're pretty similar, except in 3D, and with probably more playing time... I guess the story stayed the same almost in its entirety... And also the quality is much, much better... But still, I definitely recommend The Simpsons Game. Regardless of the console. Go buy it and have a mind screw of a time.