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Platforms: PS3, PS2, PSP, DS, Wii, Xbox 360 - PS3 version reviewed.
It's a sad fact that most critics have a love/hate relationship with the public at large. You can see it every time a band like Coldplay releases an album and the critics sulk that people who aren't really music fans are picking it up when they do their weekly shop at Tesco. You can see it every time some broadsheet film critic goes to see something like Transformers. The critic can't help wishing the crowds would go and see or buy something more worthy, but at the same time they know that whatever they say isn't going to make a damn bit of difference.
You can see the same thing when games reviewers look at a game like this one. We know it's going to sell millions, and many of those to people who buy two or three games a year at the most. Those people could be out buying The Orange Box or Metroid Prime 3 or Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. Or they could or saving their pennies for Super Mario Galaxy or Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction. Instead they buy The Simpsons Game because they know the name and they know the characters. Twisting the knife for us is the fact that it comes from EA; a company known for producing licensed games with high-production values, but occasionally with little regard for originality, quality or the original source material. Frankly, the fact that The Simpsons Game is selling huge numbers at this moment should make me want to vent my spleen all over this page. Trust me, it wouldn't be pretty.
However, this time it doesn't, and I won't. Yes, The Simpsons Game has some really horrible flaws, and I can't say that it's consistently great throughout. It is a game where you can see the missed opportunities, and where it sometimes tries to be too clever for its own good. On the other hand, I have to admit I've enjoyed it. In fact, I've loved big chunks of it. I suspect that if you love the show, you might have the same reaction.
OK, so it's fundamentally a 3D platform adventure game - the weakest and most obvious choice for any licensed property with family appeal. You'll be playing as all four speaking members of the Simpsons family, and Springfield itself provides a free-roaming environment through which to wander and collect bonus items. Disappointingly, however, this is little more than a framework for a selection of themed and rather linear levels. In these, you can only play as one of two family members, switching between them at will in order to solve puzzles or use particular abilities.
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