The last time I paid a visit to "The Simpsons" in video game form, it was when I reviewed "The Simpsons: Hit & Run," one of the most popular licensed video games of all time, and also one of the most beloved. Despite all of the love the game received, though, I rated it a 6/10 when I reviewed it on Metacritic back in 2017 (my profile on there says 2018, but that's because thank you, grammar errors). I can't tell you if I got backlash on that because...it was Metacritic, there's no comment section on their reviews...but I can only imagine how unpopular my opinion was given that the Internet collectively christened the game among the "as good as it gets" of licensed games. And I totally get that opinion, because it did interestingly take the formula of "Grand Theft Auto" and make it work with "The Simpsons," but to me, when I remove my rose-colored nostalgia lenses, I find that the game has aged poorly in some regards. That, however, brought me to "The Simpsons Game," which I'd argue sits second to "Hit & Run" in terms of popularity and general reception. I wanted to revisit the game to see if I could get more enjoyment out of it than "Hit & Run," and...I suppose I did, but only slightly, and given that "Hit & Run" already wasn't the highest bar to reach, I'd say "The Simpsons Game" merely hopped over the bar.
Now, don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about "The Simpsons Game." Aesthetically, this totally fits the bill as a "Simpsons" game: the cel-shaded graphics capture the look and feel of the show perfectly, the music feels very reminiscent of the show, and the voice work is sharp as usual. I also think the writing in this game is pretty fantastic: beyond how faithful it feels to the show, I love how the game satirizes the show and the gaming industry, the latter of which is so intriguing because much of the commentary still feels relevant to gaming today, even though the game is set to turn thirteen years old later this month. The level design is also pretty clever and inventive, and I also commend the game for having quite a bit of content and plenty of secrets in the game despite its short length, giving you a lot to do and experience, especially as the open world of Springfield can be pretty fun to explore even once you've completed the adventure.
With all of that said, this game is held back in one massive area, and probably the most important one: the gameplay. Very little about the gameplay here is truly special beyond some of the aforementioned level design, and even though it's fun to see the game lampoon and satirize the industry in a way that still feels relevant, I'd argue the gameplay doesn't go with it. In fact, the game kinda gets worse as you get further in. For starters, while I've heard a lot of people complain about the game's length, I'd argue on the alternative that the game's levels often feel too long, especially when you get further into it and story missions start to revolve around repetitive collection, fetch quests, and more. Furthermore, the combat (if you really want to call it that) is extremely weak, which creates a lot of frustration later in the game when the missions become more combat-centric, and also the camera, more often than not, simply refuses to work. As much of the writing has aged well with this game, it's sad that the gameplay hasn't aged well with it.
Overall, "The Simpsons Game" is merely decent to me. It's not all that special in regards to its gameplay, and the main thing that keeps it going is how well it respects the source material, while providing excellent doses of humor that, even nearly thirteen years later, feel timely and relevant. All in all, I think of this game as being the ultimate "for fans only" kind of title: if you're a huge fan of "The Simpsons" and you enjoy a humorous, well-written game, lackluster gameplay be damned, I'd say you'll probably get something out of this. If you're not a huge fan, though, you can skip it with the assurance that you're not missing all that much. It's definitely an interesting experience, but "The Simpsons Game" is definitely a step behind the pack of great licensed games.
Final rating: 6 out of 10 "Decent"