Image: "The Simpsons Game"
In "The Simpsons Game," players can control the whole Simpson family in a variety of missions to save Springfield.
By AP Technology Writer
updated 10/31/2007 1:58:16 PM ET 2007-10-31T17:58:16

Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie once again try to save Springfield — and themselves — from all sorts of havoc in the often riotous, simply named "The Simpsons Game."

This is no shameless product tie-in to last summer's "The Simpsons Movie" — the story is completely different — and it's a must-have for any fan of the TV series.

Tons of insider video-game jokes meld with a spot-on visual recreation of the TV show's bright pastel art style to make this one of the better Simpsons games. (The past is littered with dozens of them).

I tested the T-rated $59.99 Xbox 360 version. The game is available, or coming out soon, for just about every other current platform in existence.

It's a real shame that far too often this game had me screaming, "Doh!"

A hilarious, good-looking video game is nothing without decent controls, and that's where this title regularly fails.

Whether I was flying Bartman on air currents, turning Homer into a giant rolling ball of blubber or using Lisa's "Hand of Buddha" to grab and manipulate the surroundings, the controls were about as inviting as a day-old Krusty burger.

Sometimes, I had trouble getting the characters to climb up poles or slink along the edges of a wall properly.

This resulted in a lot of unnecessary do-overs — and too much frustration for a game with obvious everyman appeal.

The problems are compounded by an unwieldy camera angle that often blocks your view. And more often than not, it's unclear where you're supposed to go next, even if you can see what's in front of you.

The game borrows from games like "Grand Theft Auto" with an open design. As a fan, it's a thrill to roam around the city and chat with the many denizens who make the show such a wellspring of biting humor.

Yet even this open-endedness gets ruined by forced camera angles. The iconic Simpson home, for example, isn't a place where you can just freely explore, because the camera angle forces you into seeing the pink day-glow rooms from a forced, specific perspective.

All that said, these aggravations were just another obstacle to surmount in my quest to see more of the included animation sequences, which advance the game's goofy story. They look every bit as good as any Simpsons episode you've seen on TV.

Two-and-a-half-stars out of four.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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