The one kind of interesting thing The Simpsons Game does from a gameplay standpoint is that it constantly pairs you with another Simpson. You actually have the option to play cooperatively with a friend at any time, but when it's just you all by your lonesome, your cohort is a computer-controlled tagalong. Nearly all the game's puzzles involve the two characters working together, and for the most part, the artificial intelligence holds up its end of the bargain, rarely lagging behind by much. Plus, you can switch to the other character on the fly, which is helpful because you often have to use the special powers of both characters in somewhat rapid succession.
The powers themselves aren't terribly interesting, but at least they add a bit of variety to the proceedings. Bart can use a slingshot to hit enemies from a distance, as well as nail various targets. He can also get all Bartman and use a cape to float while jumping. Homer can turn into a morbidly obese ball that can be rolled around to attack foes using dash and slam attacks. Plus he can also turn into gummi Homer and launch gummi balls at enemies. Lisa can use her saxophone to turn enemies against one another, and at specific checkpoints in levels, she can use her Buddhist powers to bring a giant arm down to either attack foes or pick up pieces of the scenery then drop them into other spots to use as platforms or bridges. Marge is equipped with a megaphone and can use her powers of moral persuasion to get any passers-by to form a posse to do her bidding, which usually involves destroying things, building things, or beating up bad guys. As amusing as these sound, they're rarely used to especially interesting effect within the game itself. Most of the level objectives are pretty simple and it's plainly obvious in most cases which powers you need to use when. A few of the puzzle-solving sections are kind of neat, but that's about the extent of it.
It won't take you long to best The Simpsons Game. The main story mode will probably run you around six to seven hours, if you don't stop to smell the roses and collect every little random item the game throws at you. In the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, you could wander around Springfield and collect even more scattered items hidden about the town, but no such luck here. All the various episodes are locked into the Simpson household, and you can't wander anywhere else. Still, even just within the episodes themselves, there is lots to collect, and after you beat each level, you can go back and play it as a time challenge, which unlocks even more crazy stuff. The Wii version of The Simpsons Game also includes a few level-specific "Wii moments," which are just random minigames that loosely fit the theme of whatever stage you're in. They're an OK distraction from the general game, but nothing you'll find yourself wanting to play much after you've tried them once.
Given that this is a game based on a cartoon, it would have been exceedingly easy for the developers to quickly slap together some lousy-looking cel-shaded graphics and call it a day, but that isn't the case in The Simpsons Game. This game does a solid job of emulating the look of the show on which it's based. The colorful graphics are made better by a steady frame rate that rarely hitches, save for in split-screen mode. The PS2 version obviously doesn't look nearly as good as the PS3 or Xbox 360 versions of the game, or even the Wii version. But at the same time, the excellent art style still shines through, even if there are more jaggies to deal with.
It's not quite as sharp looking as the other versions, but the PS2 game does a pretty good job of capturing the look of the show.
Audio is equally impressive. The entire voice cast from the show is on hand, and they deliver their lines with the same sort of comedic enthusiasm as they do on the show. Even the guest stars are on point, and there are some hilarious guest stars to be sure. All the other areas of sound design are excellent too. Great sound effects pepper each level, and the music is always appropriate for the scene, from the weirdo jazz music that plays as you fight on an airship in the Japan level to the bombastic score that layers over the raid dungeon action of the EverQuest level. It's great stuff all around.
In the end, The Simpsons Game is one of those weird cases where a recommendation of it is based less on its merits as a game and more on its merits as an experience. The things that make this game are its sense of humor, sharp writing, and excellent presentation. The gameplay isn't awful or anything, it's just unmemorable. It's something that's more to be put up with while you appreciate the many other things going on than enjoyed on its own merits. That might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but The Simpsons Game is absolutely worth playing. Games this spot-on in the humor category don't come along too often. Considering what a fantastic job it does spoofing the variety of clichÂ£s and crutches our favorite pastime relies upon, that's got to count for something.