We are pretty psyched for the Family Guy/The Simpsons crossover episode that’s going to air later this year. Yes – in a special episode of the former, the Griffin family will travel to Springfield and encounter Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie – all (except for Maggie) voiced by their regular artists in special guest appearances.
It’s a moment of unity that confirms that behind years of cheeky quips at each other’s expense, there’s a real mutual respect between the makers of each show. Something that’s pleasing to fans of both shows… like us.
But while on screen harmony is one thing, it remains each man for himself in the dog eat dog world of merchandising – and app gaming has become the latest opportunity to enter that multi-million dollar arena.
In 2012 Fox, which is responsible for commissioning both shows, teamed up with EA to launch The Simpsons Tapped Out. The playable app tasks the user with rebuilding Springfield after Homer (in a moment of classic Simpsons self-referential humour) gets engrossed in his “MyPad” game at the expense of his nuclear power plant safety duties and the town is wiped off the map.
Launched earlier this year – also by Fox, but this time in conjunction with TinyCo – Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff has a similar premise: Quahog too suffers a fiery destruction although this time it’s due to a catastrophic fight between Peter and his nemesis, the chicken.
So what is our verdict? Let’s quickly look at them individually before we draw comparisons.
Tapped Out is a must have for any Simpsons fan – the structures which you are tasked with placing are all lovingly created replicas of the onscreen originals, down to some of the tiniest details. Although one minor criticism here is scale – of course we realise that it might be unfeasible to do everything to scale, but that the Springfield Mall is not much bigger than Principal Skinner’s house looks a little odd.
Speaking of Skinner, he – along with his Mum – is one of a huge cast of characters. And that is one of the greatest charms of Tapped Out – bringing all of Springfield’s citizens, major and minor, to life with their own set of bespoke tasks. The makers have rolled the characters out cleverly to keep people interested – on starting you unlock the likes of Cletus and Groundskeeper Willie before Marge enters the fray to complete the eponymous family. Others who make up the population of our now bustling town include Chief Wiggum, Lenny and the ghost of Maude Flanders.
That’s right – Ned’s deceased wife haunts the town and she was introduced into the game via another feature, one of its seasonal themes (Halloween in Maude’s case). These are pretty cool and get you in the spirit of the season – Halloween saw the town go all misty with a creepy soundtrack, while Springfield became snow covered for Christmas; this year so far we’ve gained an Irish pub for St. Patrick’s Day and a colourful Easter float.
The Quest for Stuff is the relatively new kid on the block so our Quahog is nowhere near as developed as our Springfield, but we’re off to a good start. Again there’s no immediate splurge on the family at the heart of it – at this time we’re still to unlock the all-important Stewie and Brian, yet we’ve got peg limbed Seamus and money obsessed Mort wandering around town. The scenery and buildings seem a little duller than in Tapped Out but that is probably as much to do with the shows as it is with the games – Matt Groening’s universe has always been a little more colourful and off the wall than Seth Macfarlane’s which, despite the insane storylines, has always had relatively conservative backdrops.
So far all characters on The Quest for Stuff are voiced – and you realise again how funny the characters are through the fact that even the shortest grunt from one of them can raise a smile. It’s also pretty funny to lift one of them up off the ground and hear them protest as their legs dangle in mid air. In Tapped Out it seems that only certain actors signed up to allow their voices to be used and so there are a lot of mute characters – particularly where women and children are concerned.
To look at the games’ other features we look at the things they have in common. Both are free to download and free to play – considering the quality of the animation that is exceptionally good value. They need to make money somehow however and that is done through the sale of premium currency – donuts in Springfield and clams in Quahog – which are in turn redeemed for certain buildings, characters and decorations that can only be acquired by paying for them. It’s fair enough given what you get for free, and to date there’s been no instance of either game meanly making you pay for something before you can proceed any further in the game. The problem arises though if you’re someone who likes to complete things – a virtual Springfield without the Krustylu Studios for example may well be like a football sticker album with empty spaces and that is where the money begins to be spent…
So the verdict at the moment is a seal of approval for both games. As we mentioned, we’ve only been playing The Quest for Stuff for a few weeks but so far it has kept us interested. Tapped Out’s longer history tells us more – we’ve downloaded other games in the 12 months since we first started building Springfield, but we’ve since deleted many of them. After the time spent lovingly creating our own unique town we’re not about to put Tapped Out to the side, and if The Quest for Stuff can keep up its initial good form we’ll be obsessed with our big old Quahog this time next year too.