The Simpsons has always been a clever, self-aware cartoon, so it shouldn’t be that surprising that the franchise’s world-building app, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, also features meta-humor prominently. But given the limitations of a Sim City-lite take on Springfield’s favorite family, does the game risk overexposing its own flaws?
In the early going, it certainly feels that way. Tapped Out opens with a fun cartoon vignette and then a lengthy tutorial that welcomes the player into the virtual, multi-dimensional (more on this later) Springfield. The tutorial is well-paced and informative and packed with jokes that any longtime fan of The Simpsons should appreciate. But it also goes out of its way time and time again to point out how weird games like Tapped Out are, or how monotonous they can be. And while Tapped Out is a fun game, it can feel monotonous. Pointing it out half a dozen times in the game’s opening prologue is a bit much.
Luckily, Tapped Out uses its license to the fullest. The game is so packed with fun Simpsons lore and oddball bits that recall the shows best moments that it never quite feels like you’re just tapping away endlessly to complete the various errands that the characters have created just to give you something to do.
The other bit of frustration I had with The Simpsons: Tapped Out is its insistence you have an Internet connection to play it. The proper game shouldn’t require this at all. But the other half of Tapped Out is the idea that players can visit other virtual Springfields in order to collect more of the game’s virtual loot. To get you started, Tapped Out offers one additional faux-Springfield and then asks you to invite your friends to create any additional towns for the burgeoning multiverse. I can understand why you’d need an Internet connection to link up towns, but there’s no good reason the entire game should require one. All it serves to do is make Tapped Out difficult to play when you’re in an area with poor cell service.
Although I’m not generally a fan of this genre of game on a mobile platform as the gameplay always feels overly simplified until I’m just tapping to get to the next task, I really like how much of The Simpsons universe is incorporated into the game. It took real effort to make The Simpsons: Tapped Out, and it’s more fun to play because of it. A few issues remain that make it a less than stellar experience, but it’s still worth checking out for fans of the show.