SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - In the latest antics of “The Simpsons”, Bart chases a giant ape through a video game factory, Lisa destroys a logging camp and Marge storms city hall with an angry mob.
But don’t look for those episodes on TV.
They are levels in “The Simpsons Game” that hit stores on Tuesday amid praise from critics for its faithful recreation of the hit TV show’s look, feel and humor.
“That was one of the big design challenges on this game, to make each of the levels feel like episodes. We wanted to make the game feel like a fully playable season of the show,” said Hans Tencate, lead producer on the game at Electronic Arts Inc ERTS.O.
Several writers from the TV show injected the game with the irreverent wit “The Simpsons” is known for, coming up with some 8,000 lines of dialogue — enough for a full season.
“Few games embrace their license’s soul so well — ‘The Simpsons Game’ nails the show’s trademark humor, in-jokes, and social satire, plus it features impressive cartoony graphics and the real-deal voice actors. This is total fan service, meaning Simpsons fans — and apologists — will be pleased,” gaming news site 1up.com said in its review.
The new game is the latest addition to the already large catalogue of more than 20 “Simpsons” titles, which range from 1991’s arcade machine to 2003’s “The Simpsons: Hit & Run”.
But this appears to adhere most faithfully to the show.
Developers came up with a way that let them create Homer, Bart and other characters in 3D yet retain a look that is remarkably like the cartoony visual style of the show.
“It’s actually much harder to do than you would think partly because ‘The Simpsons’ is hand-drawn. We came up with proprietary technology ... that gives the game a little more of what the TV show would look like,” Tencate said.
The game hopes to build on two other milestones this year: the 400th episode of the TV show and the long-awaited movie adaptation that has pulled in more than $500 million at the box office worldwide.
In the game, the Simpsons discover they are living inside a video game and have powers matching their personalities. Bart, for example, can turn into the superhero “Bartman” while Lisa can activate the “Hand of Buddha” to move large objects.
Just as the show used a pop culture medium to skewer pop culture, the game is peppered with parodies of an industry still struggling to shed geeky stereotypes and win mainstream acceptance.
“There are not many video games to my recollection that do full-blown multilayered parodies of the video game industry. We make fun of everything from ‘Pong’ to ‘Tomb Raider’,” Tencate said.
While the humor has won praise from critics, some reviewers said they were disappointed with some of the actual gameplay, the lack of online features and for limiting cooperative play to two people.
The game had an average rating of 69 on Metacritic.com, which creates a weighted average of reviews from gaming Web sites and publications.