While there were some home computer ports, The Simpsons Arcade Game hasn’t been available on home consoles until now, which is pretty unfortunate given just how popular this 2D side-scrolling brawler was back in the early 90s. Lots of people have great memories of working with up to three other players, using famous characters from the TV show, and plowing through hordes of enemies. This makes for a rather simple game experience that wouldn’t hold up as a full-budget title today, but it makes a lot more sense as a ten dollar Xbox Live Arcade download and this port hits most of the right notes.
Played in the style of games like Final Fight and Double Dragon, The Simpsons lets you pick from Homer, Marge, Bart, or Lisa (who have minor differences in abilities, but are mostly interchangeable) and fight through various locations from the show in a quest to rescue Maggie. The plot is very basic, and that’s fine since it’s just an excuse to beat up dozens of enemies per stage. You have simple arcade style controls, consisting of moving in eight directions via the d-pad or analog stick plus a jump and attack button. Using them in basic combinations allows you to do a few special attacks, but by and large this is a very easy game to learn.
Much of the fun lies in the characters and how they fight. Plenty of famous lines are heard, voiced by the original actors. Even as you’re enjoying that, you’ll be jumping around and plowing through enemies, throwing bowling balls at them, doing special team-up attacks (a different one for each Simpson pair!), and otherwise working together in ridiculous ways. The inherent charm of the Simpsons setting thus does a lot to cover for the basic game mechanics, even if some of how this game uses it may not make much sense to those deeply familiar with the series and its lore.
This is best experienced with other players, something the online play and its generally low lag in decent conditions will make pretty enjoyable. People can join and leave as they please, and the host has the choice of either letting each player have ten credits apiece to play on or a shared pool of forty; either way is probably sufficient to let any decent group beat the game within thirty to fifty minutes. Yes, that is minutes and not hours; this was an arcade game, so getting your full value from this purchase will require multiple play-throughs. If you’re someone who has a need for several easily agreed upon co-op games, this fits nicely.