Currently scheduled for release next month, The Simpsons Game from Electronic Arts is a story-driven 3D platformer in which you'll assume the roles of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and--just occasionally--baby Maggie. Each member of the famously dysfunctional family has acquired super powers courtesy of a video game instruction manual that fell from the sky and, surprise surprise, your mission is to put those powers to good use to save the world. The Simpsons' adventure will span around 16 distinct missions in total, and we recently had an opportunity to spend some quality time with a work-in-progress version of the game that included nine of those missions. Not all of the levels that we got to play were new to us, of course, but this is certainly the first time that we got to play so many of them through to completion.
If you've been following our previous coverage of The Simpsons Game, you'll know that each mission takes the form of a different episode, many of which reference other video games in the same way you might expect the TV show to make references. But before we talk about the specific levels that we played through, there are a few things that they all have in common.
With the exception of the very first level, which is little more than a tutorial, The Simpsons Game invariably has you alternating between two characters who must work together to stand a chance of succeeding. You'll be able to play cooperatively with a friend, or if you're playing solo, you can simply tap the D pad in any direction to switch characters. The objectives vary wildly between levels, but there are a number of bonuses to find that are consistent throughout every episode. Character-specific hidden items scattered throughout the environments are worth looking for because they permanently improve the family's attributes. Game clichés, amusingly pointed out by Comic Book Guy, are also fun to find, if only because they come out and make a mockery of the kind of video game conventions that are laughable in their own right. Some of the examples that we've stumbled on thus far include double jumps, obvious boss weaknesses, temporary power-ups, and the inability to swim--at least not until the sequel. Invisible walls that prevent you from exploring locales as much as you'd like to are another one that we're hoping Comic Book Guy recognizes in there somewhere because there are plenty of them in The Simpsons Game.
Without wishing to give too much away--consider this your spoiler warning--here are some brief descriptions of the levels that we played through:
The Land of Chocolate is The Simpsons Game's tutorial level that tasks Homer with following a chocolate white rabbit through a town made entirely of chocolate and other confectionery. You'll be afforded plenty of opportunities to play around with the double jumps and basic attack moves that are available to every character, as well as a couple of Homer-specific moves. Specifically, you'll learn that Homer can stun or kill enemies with belches of varying strength and that he can become more or less spherical to roll around levels when necessary.
Bartman Begins sees Homer and Bart attempting to foil thieves who have broken into a museum. Bart's trusty catapult gets plenty of use, but it's when donning his Bartman mask and cape that he really comes into his own. Bartman can glide through the air, float on updrafts, climb certain walls, and slide along wires while hanging from them. You'll get to chase bad guys through all manner of museum exhibits as you progress through the level, and when equipping a Bart-specific power-up, you'll gain the ability to fire lasers that pass through glass.
Around the World in 80 Bites is a bizarre eating contest in which competitors are tasked with eating their way around a huge studio set with areas themed after different countries. Homer's role is essentially to roll around and hamper the progress of his opponents, while Bart is tasked with solving simple puzzles to unlock gates into new areas. The level is played against the clock, and you'll add two minutes to your remaining time whenever you get into a new area.
Lisa the Tree Hugger sees Lisa and Bart going up against a large-scale lumberjacking operation that's working on a new toothpick for Montgomery Burns. Lisa's special abilities include being able to stun enemies with sounds from her saxophone, transforming into the superpowerful Clobber Girl, and meditating on prayer mats to invoke the Hand of Buddha. The Hand of Buddha is named quite literally: You'll take control of a huge hand reaching down from the heavens and use it to move large objects or to mess with enemies.
Mob Rules is a level that plays out a little like Nintendo's Pikmin games, although the subject matter could hardly be any more different. Marge and Lisa are doing their bit to get the violent video game Grand Theft Scratchy banned, with the help of anyone that Marge can convince to join her angry mob using her megaphone. En route to the mayor's office, Marge will be instructing her followers to attack advertisements for the game and any police officers who get in their way, as well as children who are running around in masks attempting to emulate the fictional game's antiheroes. Lisa assists the mob by dealing with obstacles that hamper its progress through the town, while Maggie does her bit by crawling through an air duct that's too small for anyone else.
The Day of the Dolphin tasks Bart and Lisa with battling Snorky the dolphin, as well as his minions. Sea Captain Horatio McCallister accompanies the pair as a non-playable character for much of the level, which includes some tricky puzzles to solve and plenty of combat. The level also incorporates a "Giant Ancient Crab Exhibit," which you're unable to visit because it's closed due to "massive damage." You see what they did there?
Shadow of the Colossal Donut, as you might guess from the title (if you're familiar with the TV show), sees the Lard Lad statue coming to life again and wreaking havoc in Springfield. Homer and Bart are Springfield's only hope, so it's fortunate that both have new moves in their arsenal. Bart has a grappling hook that he can use to navigate the large locale more quickly, while Homer can inhale enough helium to float for a time.
Invasion of the Yokel-Snatchers is another combat-heavy level, in which Homer and Bart take on tentacled aliens on the ground, as well as inside a UFO. Numerous anal-probe references aside, the most memorable feature of the level is undoubtedly a Space-Invaders-style combat sequence.
Medal of Homer is set in World War II, when Grampa Simpson was serving alongside a young Montgomery Burns on a tour of duty in Europe. Homer and Bart parachute in to assist the pair by removing white flags of surrender from the French townsfolk. There are platforms and puzzles aplenty in this one.
None of the levels that we played through are 100 percent finished, but we still had fun playing through them, thanks in part to gags and referential humor that wouldn't be at all out of place in the TV show. We look forward to bringing you more information on The Simpsons Game just as soon as we get our hands on a more complete version of it.