This is the first, and probably the only time, I will rave about a mobile title. I am actually a little against mobile gaming, to be honest. I find that the varied attempts to put decent games onto the mobile gaming platform are usually let down by shoddy controls or a lacklustre episodic set-up (among other things). Cases in point being the incredible Chrono Trigger, which was released on mobile devices, but has been let down by terrible touch-screen controls. Then there is the Number 1 Most Ported Title, Resident Evil 4, let down by both the controls and by an awful version of the original’s well-paced, level-based structure.
However, this particular mobile title has me entirely hooked, to the point that I play it pretty much every day. The main reason for why it has grabbed me so easily is because it isn’t trying to be a massive epic title, it has been constructed as an almost perfect pick-up-and-play. The basic premise is that Homer, whilst playing around on his MyPad (get it?) at work, inadvertently causes a meltdown that wipes Springfield off the map. So Homer, after regaining Lisa to help, begins rebuilding Springfield.
This is executed in quite a simple set-up that plays a little like games such as Civilisation. You can build Springfield with whatever layout you wish (I am actually currently re-building everything with a new layout), using the touchscreen. You can place houses, restaurants and shops wherever you please (once you have bought the land to build them on), all you need is money.
Money is where your characters come in, you can assign them activities to do that relate to that character (such as ‘Playing The Sax’ with Lisa) or those that relate to a particular building (such as ‘Shop At Quik-E-Mart’). These activities each take a set amount of real time (usually a few hours) and, upon completion, earn you both money and XP (which leads to levelling up, unlocking the ability to have more buildings / characters). Occasionally, your characters will have a speech bubble above their heads as they wander around. Tapping this will add a new Task to your Taskbook.
Tasks are the only real way to progress through the game. They give you a larger rewards for completing them, and usually revolve around unlocking a new character or locked building. For instance, one of the earlier ones asks you to build the Quik-E-Mart, which gives you Apu as a character and also gives your existing characters the activity of shopping there, increasing your opportunity to earn more money and XP.
With this being a social game, you can also add your friends on the game too. The benefits of this are that you can visit their versions of Springfield and earn a little XP and money by helping their town (or placing graffiti on certain buildings), as well as watching your friends’ progress. It’s also fun to visit your friends just so you can see how much of a organised or messy town they are keeping. For the record, mine is quite regimented and organised, whereas one of my friend’s town is a total mess with buildings everywhere.
Another feature of the title is that the developers have released seasonal patches relating to North American holidays. The current one is Valentine’s Day, but in the past there has been Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each of these bring their own new tasks and features to the game, giving additional challenges to be overcome (such as collecting ‘Hearts’ in the current patch to collect a range of exclusive Valentine’s Day items and buildings). It adds a new fun twist onto the game play and stops it from becoming stale.
One big problem I have with this game is one that I have a similar problem with across the mobile gaming platform, micro-transactions. There is one item in the game that is hard to come across organically but makes the game a lot easier, and that item is a ‘Donut’. These are very hard to obtain in game (I think you earn either 1 or 2 each time you level up), but can be bought in game using micro-transactions of actual money. However, what they do is speed up activities and buildings (which normally take around 24 hours to build), making the game easier and quicker. I personally despise micro-transactions as they are, no matter how you rationalise them, are a complete rip off. I can’t believe that is how low certain aspects of gaming have sunk.
All-in-all, The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a very addictive and fun little game. It may not go down in history books as a gaming classic, but it is all too easy to lose yourself in it for several hours. I would urge anyone to at least give it a try, especially as (last time I checked) it is currently free to download from Apple’s App Store. Do you have Tapped Out? What do you think? Drop me a comment at the bottom or @reubenmount on Twitter.