Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone






With all of the hype and fixation on the 21st century production of console gaming, many forget that there are still quite a few gamers and consumers out there that have yet to jump on the proverbial bandwagon of the latest generation of gaming hardware. Activision happens to be one of the gaming companies out there that hasn’t ignored this fact, and is continuing to work with game developers to create titles for the Playstation I. Their continuing support for the aging console can be seen with their latest release, The Simpsons’ Wrestling, a title that at times can be as entertaining as the TV show itself, but also one that contained too many problems and letdowns to ignore.

Developed by Big Ape Productions and released jointly by FOX interactive and Activision, The Simpson’s Wrestling for the Playstation I takes the popular animated TV show family on yet another journey into the video gaming world. As seen in the title of the game, the theme of this particular Simpsons outing deals with the high action world of ‘Professional’ Wrestling. Instead of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin battling out for the glory of the Title Belt, we have the denizens of the small town of Springfield entering the ring in an all out battle royale to see who’s the last man, woman, child, or clown standing.  Though the theme of the game was truly within the sphere of humor and sheer wit that makes up The Simpson’s TV show, it still wasn’t enough to keep The Simpson’s Wrestling major flaws in check.

The gameplay of The Simpson’s Wrestling (SW) takes place in 10 different locations found throughout the town of Springfield USA, ranging from such well-known locations as the Kwik-E Mart, Moe’s Bar, and even the infamous Nuclear Power Plant. The plot and storyline behind the game are simple, but still true to the comedy styling of The Simpson: Aliens from another world have challenged our world to a bout of Wrestling, with the winners taking all the glory (and earth as well).  The citizens of the Springfield must now battle it out among themselves in various no-holds barred and fevered matches for the right to wrestle the large headed, one-eyed monstrosities from the outer reaches of our universe. 15 characters from the Simpson’s universe are available for play within SW, ranging from the Simpson family (Marge, Homer, Lisa, and Bart), to other feature characters, such as Krusty the Clown, Barney Gumble, Ned Flanders, and Moe the bartender. Other popular but less than prevalent characters are also available to play later on in the game, including the Bumblebee Man, Groundskeeper Willie, and the nerdy Professor Fink.

The game controls for SW are rather reminiscent of other third person character battle titles and were easy to learn and utilize. These consisted of low, medium, and high power attack buttons, a jump function, two ‘pin opponent’ buttons, and two ‘taunt’ buttons. As was expected, differenct combinations of these buttons produced different actions for each character during the game. Quite a bit of experimentation was needed in order to learn specific moves for each character, but more often button mashing would take precedent during most situations. Gamers will also find several different ‘power-up’ items available throughout that game that are common in titles similar to SW, including health boosts, speed enhancers, and invulnerability, among others. Three different versions of the game are available for play, including a Circuit Tournament (with two higher levels of challenge available upon completion of the initial game), a practice game that gives you a single round of play utilizing your own picks, and a two-player version.

Though most of the action within the game is standard for the genre, what makes SW different are the specific moves that each Simspon character possesses. Each happens to have several specialized and unique wrestling moves that are uniquely Simpson-esque and extremely humorous in their approach. Among several of the more entertaining actions were Marge Simpson’s full hair swat and her ‘Maggie Release’ move, which allowed the youngest Simpson family member to cling on to the opposing character, slowing them down considerably. Barney Gumble’s noxious belches had this reviewer laughing out loud on several occasions, as did the Bumblebee Man’s release of a non-stop yapping and biting Chihuahua dog that would continually chase the opposing character within the ring.  The various taunts and ‘Smack-Talk’ that was available to the characters in the game were also quite humorous as well, and definitely kept the theme of the Simpson’s throughout. Homer’s chant of ‘I am so great!’ could have been taken right out of a Simpsons episode, as was Barney’s drunken lines of ring-side domination, and Groundskeeper Willie’s odd threats in the familiar Scottish brogue.

It seems very obvious that Big Ape Productions went to great lengths to gain the full Simpsons license from FOX, allowing them to utilize the same voice actors that star in the TV show of the same name, giving the game an authentic sound and overall feel of quality. What the game designers didn’t do is put as much effort into the overall visual aspects of the game as they did the quality of the sound and theme. For the lack of a better descriptive term, the graphics in SW are just plain awful.  Even for a Playstation I game, the characters were blocky and extremely 2-dimensional, which may not sound as bad to some, given that the Simpson’s is a 2-D animated television series. At first, we thought that the console we were playing the game on had some sort of hardware problems, but after testing the title on several other systems we learned the ugly truth of the matter. Given the quality of previous Simpson based titles, the effort by Big Ape was sub-par, to say the least. Even the early 1990’s Simpson Arcade game put the graphics in SW to shame. It was only the other previously described aspects of the game that this title was able to find any sort of redemption in this reviewer’s eyes.

In the end, The Simpsons Wrestling was able to capture the essence of what has made the TV show the game is based on so popular these past 11 years. True to form characterization, authentic voice-overs, witty writing, and some rather off-beat game attributes were quite entertaining, but were all only fresh icing on a stale and dry cake. The poor graphic design of the game seemed ill conceived and rushed, detracting from what could have been great Simpson title. Only the most devout fans of the TV series will be able to get past the below bland presentation and flaws to enjoy the game beneath.