Two years ago it was the French using video games to make fun of video games. Now the Simpsons are joining in.
Video game publisher Electronic Arts and some of the top creative people behind "The Simpsons" announced Tuesday that this fall's game based on the cartoon will be a wild send-up of 20 years of video games.
"Anything from 'Pong' on has been looked at to be made fun of," Scott Amos, executive producer of "The Simpsons Game," told MTV News at a yellow-carpet celebration of the new adventure and the cartoon's 400th episode (see " 'Simpsons Movie' Cast Discusses Green Day's Appearance In Film").
Not since 2006's French-developed "Asterix & Obelix: XXL2" has a game been made to parody other games (see "Lara Croft Grows A Gut, Becomes A Man In Video Game Spoof"). And it hadn't really been done before then.
But the cartoon's producers and video game writers Tim Long and Matt Selman said parody was key to their reboot of the "Simpsons" gaming franchise. The plot, Long said, is that Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa "become aware that they are in the game, which allows them to exploit all kinds of crazy new powers and to deliciously lampoon all sorts of video games people might know." He said this while standing in front of posters of Homer dressed as Link from "Zelda" and a Rockstar-style collage for "Grand Theft Scratchy: Blood Island."
"The title 'The Simpsons Game,' although not particularly hilarious, I admit, is sort of meant to signify that we're restarting the 'Simpsons' gaming franchise," Selman said. "This is a big, new, fresh game that takes on video games and hilarious things of all time. That's why we didn't feel the need, as of yet, for a hilarious subtitle like 'Extreme Action' or 'In the Mix.' "
Series creator Matt Groening has left others to handle the details of the game but has liked the bits shown to him for approval. Has he played it? "I'm not quite good enough," he said. "It's hard. It's not an easy game, but I'm hoping that with practice I'll get to play my own game."
The game might not be so hard for more experienced gamers. EA showcased some levels — called episodes — that flesh out a game-long season. Graphically, they looked like a three-dimensional version of the hand-drawn Springfield. As for gameplay, the members of Homer's nuclear family could run through episodes two at a time, with the second player dropping in or out on the flight to provide cooperative support, as in the "Lego Star Wars" games. Some of the sections shown had Bart donning his Bartman costume and using a zip-line to span rooftops. Homer inflated himself into a ball and rolled through the Duff Beer brewery.
The game opens like it's an ordinary "Simpsons" game. But then the famous family realizes what they're a part of. "It's like, 'Oh my gosh, we're actually in the video game of our life,' " Amos said. "They actually have this transcending moment that, 'If we're in a video game, then we can do things. What are our powers?' And they have to discover who they are and what they can do as characters. In Homer's case — being true to his personality — the more food he eats, he turns into this giant, fat, blubbery Homer-ball." Marge has the power to nag large groups of people into doing what she wants. Bart can be a superhero.
Selman, Long and Amos wanted to keep a lot of their game secret, but they did let out a few secrets. The game will have an hour of non-interactive storyline scenes written by show writers. It will include 200 characters, 100 from the show. Selman said the Wii version will include a speed-eating contest, which he generated by holding an imaginary fork and making rapid shoveling motions toward his mouth.
"The Simpsons" TV show often has celebrity cameos. EA often puts celebrities in the games. But no one would admit if celebrities will appear in the EA "Simpsons" game. "I might be in the game," Groening said.
"He's not in the game," Selman retorted.
There have been "Simpsons" games before — the "Crazy Taxi"-style "Simpsons Road Rage," the arcade beat-'em-up from the show's early days, to name just two. How is this, the first one from EA, truly different than the ones made with other big game companies? "It's a completely different corporate monolith to deal with and all the problems that go with that," Selman joked.
The game, which everyone at the event seemed quite happy about, all jokes aside, will be released for PS2, PSP, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS and Wii this fall.