The Simpsons Arcade is the very definition of a pick up and play video game. Without any real depth to the side-scrolling gameplay, you're never likely to want to spend too long in Springfield, fighting off enemies as Homer, the TV show's lovable idiot. Smart presentation and a collection of familiar characters will give this wide appeal, but the game's not nearly as impressive as its looks would suggest.
What The Simpsons Arcade isn't is a remake of the classic four-player beat 'em up that many gamers will have fond memories of, with the cabinet often being hugely popular in arcades. This is a brand new game, albeit one designed in a similar way to the arcade classic. Visually this iDevice game is leagues ahead of the now dated original, with bold character designs, detailed environments and more complex animations, but combat is very much a throwback to the past.
Homer has somehow managed to get a USB stick containing top-secret info into a doughnut, so a load of agents are after him. Your only means of defence is to go on the attack, using Homer's fists to fend off the suit-wearing enemies. The touch screen displays a virtual control stick and two action buttons, and they work surprisingly well. It might be due to the game's simple combat that relies heavily on button mashing, picking up and using weapons and wandering about a simple side-scrolling play area, but for once virtual on-screen controls don't feel like a terrible mess.
As well as being a dab hand with his fists and a couple of wrestling-like slams, Homer can occasionally get assistance from his family. By running over in-game power-ups that display his family members, they enter the game to provide combat support. Bart will leap onto his father's shoulders, pelting enemies with his catapult; Lisa uses a skipping rope to slam the ground and clear the enemies; and Marge and Maggie send Homer into an arm-flailing spin, which can then be guided around the level by tilting the handheld.
Sadly there are only six levels to play through here, Homer is the only playable character and there's no multiplayer support at all. Part of what made the original arcade game so memorable was its four-player support, and its omission here is rather disappointing. Even being able to play through again as a different character would have given you a reason to come back once you'd seen the game through to its conclusion the first time.
The Simpsons Arcade is good fun, but it's short-lived in the extreme. While £2.99 might not seem much, other App Store games offer far better value for money, making it feel like you're paying a slight premium for the license. A decent arcade beat 'em up, but not something you'll remember in years to come.
Version 1.0.0 tested