Review: The Simpsons: Tapped Out

the_simpsons_tapped_outreview


If you don’t understand my review scheme, you may find an outline of it here.

Introduction

Tapped out is a mobile app created by EA and released on iOS devices back in March 2012. It was more recently made available to android users on February 6, 2013. I discovered this game four months ago, and not a day has gone by in which I haven’t opened the app at least once.

IMG_0647[1]
Familiar characters are unlocked frequently.

Tapped out brings players into Matt Groening’s world of The Simpsons. The story begins with homer blowing up Springfield and wiping it clean of its residents and infrastructure. The player is then given control over Springfield’s development, your task is to help Homer rebuild the city from the ground up. You will gradually earn buildings and come across characters from the show as you progress.

The game is tailored so that each player can create their own custom Springfield. You are the architect, and you are granted a sandbox (well, more of a grassbox since the default tiles are fields of grass) to place each building as you desire.

Some Tasks
Some Tasks

The characters appear in the game to perform tasks that to gain income and experience for the user. These tasks will lock each character out for a chosen interval of time that can be anywhere from 6 seconds to 90 days, the money/exp gain is higher for the more time consuming duties. Quests also appear from time to time, giving bonus income and experience for placing a building or doing a specific task.

Technical

The mechanics of The Simpsons are not new by any means. Customizing your own city and watching it grow as you play is a concept that appears frequently in today’s casual game market (think Farmville). The game is instantly familiar and boasts a small learning curve like most games on the app market.

Look Familiar?
Hmm….

Tapped out doesn’t push the graphical capabilities of its platform. Similar to the television series, the game is very simple and clean. In terms of sound, all the characters are instantly recognizable and the voice acting sounds as if it were pulled straight from the show. The background music is very generic, which is expected from this type of game. There are a few cutscenes in which you see the animated characters interact, they’re a nice little addition to the game, but tend to be unnecessary and forgettable.

Mmm… Cutscenes…

The app requires an internet connection to play and encourages social interaction. Players may add friends and visit their cities, trashing or cleaning it as they see fit.Visiting other cities plays a big role during seasonal updates, for example, the Winter update allowed players to collect special tokens from others which were then used to purchase Christmas-related goodies.

Presentation

Tapped Out is extremely refined and polished, glitches are a rare occurrence and the touch interaction feels smooth and seamless. The game is gorgeous and fully captures the essence of the Simpsons Universe. The opening tutorial is fluid and adequately guides the player through the core concepts of the game. I was taken aback by the sheer amount of care and detail that was put into each character and building. The characters sound authentic, from Homer’s trademarked “D’oh!” to sarcastic remarks of The Comic Book Guy. The buildings replicate those from the show down to the smallest detail; the sign on Moe’s Tavern flickers on and off while El Barto decals decorate properties that have been vandalized.

Notice how the decorations on the Simpsons' household are scattered compared to Ned and the others?
Notice how the decorations on the Simpsons’ household are scattered compared to Ned’s and the others’?

Heart

I’d imagine that the developers at EA are huge fans of the show. Everything about the game is tuned to perfection with a loving hand. EA Mobile’s recreation of the cartoon is fantastic and any hardcore fan of the series will no doubt drool at the references and subtle hints alluding to the Simpsons episodes. Tapped Out is most definitely an attempt to give players a complete Simpsons experience in mobile game format, and it has successfully done so in what I believe to be the best way possible.

Value

The game is free on the app store, so it’s already off to an amazing start. The real cost comes in the form of Donuts. This is a type of special currency in the game that is difficult to come across, on average, you’ll get fewer than 100 on a given playthrough. Donuts are extremely rare, they are also required to purchase certain buildings and characters in the game. The fastest way to get Donuts is to pay real money.

Some Donut Prices
Some Donut Prices

With that said, you can complete the game without Donuts, most items purchased using them are aesthetic and not required to progress further into the game. The experience is not diminished if the player does not purchase the currency.

The game doesn’t have much to offer in terms of replayability, but it is updated fairly consistently. Each update adds something new for players to strive for, whether it’s another level (currently at level 25), more characters to obtain, or a seasonal treat for its players. The themed updates specifically are huge additions to the game, adding multiple buildings, characters, costumes, sidequests and decorations, but they are temporary and only last the span of the holiday itself, so players are often scrambling to get as much as they can before Springfield returns to normal. The patches will continue to appear in the coming months, rumors tease an Easter and Summer update to keep players busy.

Loading screen for the Valentines patch.
Loading screen for the Valentines patch.

Final Thoughts

Simply put, this is personally my favorite Simpsons game since the PS2 cult hits, Hit and Run and Road Rage. It feels like The Simpsons, sounds like The Simpsons, and would probably taste like The Simpsons given enough licking. The best part? You are given free reign to tailor Springfield in your own custom fashion!

Take a look at IGN editor Brian Altano’s Mario and Link done with some of the in-game dirty washing machines, newspaper stands and plants.

The game is updated frequently and appeals well to a casual audience, you can play as little as 10 minutes a day and still make some good ground in progression. Interacting with other players is also cleverly implemented, it’s really interesting to be able to observe how your friends have built their own Springfield.

Some Pros: Addictive, great take on the Simpsons universe, extremely polished, shallow learning curve.

Some Cons: Linear path of progression, rearranging props can be a pain as selecting objects is not precise, no function that cleans the map to redesign your Springfield.

Mandatory personal rating: 9/10.

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