Bob Mackey over at 1UP's Retro Gaming Blog has just finished a long slog through the many games based on The Simpsons that have been released over the years. Spanning the original Bart vs the Space Mutants up through 2007's The Simpsons Game, the ongoing series of articles spawned from exploring some of the worst that the franchise has to offer mixed in with the occasional bright spot led Mackey to come up with three things learned from the experience. Here's a taste of the first lesson.
It's Okay to Steal
The two best Simpsons titles--in my opinion, anyway--didn't just borrow a few genre conventions; they completely ripped off other games wholesale. To be fair, Konami was stealing from itself in borrowing so much from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game for their Simpsons coin-op romp, but they knew that particular formula worked. And in pilfering so much from [Grand Theft Auto] with Hit and Run, the Simpsons were working within an established set of mechanics that put billions of dollars in Rockstar's pockets. The hardest part of creating a Simpsons game seems to be deciding on what the characters are supposed to do; such dialogue-reliant source material is difficult to extrapolate into a video game context without some awkwardness. In stealing from other games, developers can instead concentrate on applying established mechanics to interesting and Simpson-y situations.
Don't miss the complete fifteen-part series, as your time is better spent reading about the awful games rather than playing them. Escape from Camp Deadly? Really? Please. Personally, my favorite game to come out of the franchise has to be last generation's Hit and Run thanks to its familiar Grand Theft Auto-inspired gameplay, sense of speed, and authentically detailed take on Springfield. Check it out sometime if you've passed it by based on your unpleasant memories of, say, Virtual Bart.