Critiquing The Simpsons Arcade Game in All the Wrong Places

GameSpot’s official review score for The Simpsons Arcade Game is a 3.0/10.

Not to take away anyone’s right to dislike a game, but this flimsy text shows a wild divergence in how games are critiqued in modern game media. It is a misunderstanding about the intent of the product or what it set out to do. Stating that Simpsons is “only” 30 minutes and simple is missing the point. That is breaking Game Boy Tetris from classic consideration because of its simplicity in having few block types.

Simpsons is, was, and forever will be an arcade game. Why it was designed, brief quarter sucking sessions, it does exactly what it should. No one sat at an arcade for an hour unless parents were compulsive shoppers. There were two options: Hoping you had enough money to finish the game or hope you can reach completion within the time allotted. GameSpot’s critic doesn’t grasp those design ideals. Long arcade games turned people away, not to mention most beat-em-ups which wander past 45-minutes begin to show an greater repetitive hand.

To say it’s simple is to ignore complex arcade games never work. They’re ultimate pick-up-and-play experiences, something a customer needs to grasp within seconds of quarter insertion and glossing over a manual scattered around attractively colorful glass. They are the ’90s equivalent of today’s $1 free-to-play games, and expecting multi-button attack patterns because modern games do so is naive.

Simpsons entire appeal is that it’s both short and simple. To miss something on that scale is to botch the entire critique process.

Tom Mc Shea may be right: Simpsons is not a great game. It’s arguably not a competent game either; it is shoveled somewhere in the lower echelon of Konami beat-em-ups. Yet, Mc Shea never never considers Simpsons’ broken collision, a lack of basic combos, and banks survival on license alone. That is where this Fox-infused brawler goes wrong.

Instead, paragraphs of his review are dedicated to how this 1991 release does not hold up to modern Simpsons lore, because clearly, nostalgia junkies will find outdated references detrimental, right?

There is more to a video game design than surface level length and date considerations. Sometimes you have to consider why a developer made key decisions, and in this case, Simpsons choices should be staggeringly clear. This is an easy one, and yet it seems critics, at major sites no less, cannot seem to look further. Imagine watching Ryan Gosling’s movie Drive, only to complain the camera was not mobile and edits weren’t fast enough. If you’re critiquing film, you understand the basic presented concepts.

If The Simpsons is any indication, many of those looking at video games don’t.