Given the generally bad time IP tie-in games get, The Simpsons has generally provided passable or at least not entirely awful video gamed, Virtual Bart not withstanding. So to see a Cityville esque title launch in February, it was interesting to give it a spin.
The premise of the game is pretty much in line with Simpsons-grade writing; Homer opts to play a Farmville expy on his tablet rather than notice an imminent nuclear meltdown, causing the town of Springfield to be wiped off the map, leaving Homer alone in a field riddled with wreckage. Homer, and by consequence the player, are tasked with rebuilding to find all of the missing residents of Springfield. This is introduced with a brief, Simpsons quality video. Thereafter, it is evident that the writers assigned to this project were not sure how to apply the Simpsons humor formula to this, and merely proceeded to be snarky while hammering home old comedy tropes.
Visually, the title is spot on. Opting for an isometric view similar to the many 'X-Ville' titles Zynga currently uses to butter its bread, the title manages to fit much of the Simpson-esque art style into the title, cramming small nods and jokes to fans in where it can. As is the issue with this perspective, seeing space between buildings for careful placement of resource boosting decorations is often a challenge, and usually involves dismantling a carefully arranged area to place an item. Tedious, but worthwhile for those that enjoy it.
Audibly, the title is fair. An entirely unremarkable score is accented with unique recordings for the title itself. That these recordings are also used for the titles notifications, and we'll touch more on this later, is also of benefit for those who do not mind having normal life interrupted by Dan Castellaneta shouting things in Homers voice.
Gameplay is where things start to fall apart. The intro video is classic Simpsons material, squeezing every bit of comedy out of the scenario before moving on; the rest of the title is less than satisfactory. Play is similar to Cityville, with one important exception; rather than limit your interaction by energy units, the title uses real time to manage your interactions. Opening the app to manage things three or four times a day is not uncommon. Unfortunately, this is by dint of the title requiring that much micromanaging instead of any real desire to observe this particular iteration of Springfield.
Tapped Out spends a lot of time decrying the 'freemium' genre of games, that being where the game is free but necessitates, or at least very nearly so, a real world purchase of in-game currency. The intro does naught but mock 'freemiums' via Homer purchasing $1000 worth of in-game currency; it is entirely right to do so. Freemium titles are, at best, obnoxiously reminding players of its in game store every so often. This title, however, immediately starts hitting the player up. It isn't particularly clever to heap insult upon a practice while doing it as intensely as it has ever been done; a morbidly obese man preaching the benefits of a carb-free diet, for example, does naught to instill confidence on the weight shedding power of eating only meats. So for that same man to snark about how terrible baked goods are whilst consuming an endless pile of cinnamon rolls is extremely confusing and a little insulting.
Tapped Outs initial release on iOS was so plagued with bugs that it had to be removed from the Apple Store until its problems were sorted out. The bugs persist with the Android release. Certain buildings and decorations, namely the bonus and seasonal additions, disappear entirely for lengths of time, rendering the quests impossible to complete until their spontaneous return. Further, during this Examiners playthrough, a quest asking solely for building a level 10 building cannot be complete because the building itself is not unlocked, despite having the quest and the prerequisite level. This, coupled with the lack of any noticeable social connection, is a deal breaker.
Overall, The Simpsons Tapped Out is more of a statement of quality than a clever play on its touchscreen play style. The title is not entirely workable, it does not feel like anything genuinely Simpsons related, and without those, it just feels like any other mediocre freemium title. Tapped Out is not quite worth the download.