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Simpsons Wrestling | review | game | Lollipop
The Simpsons Wrestling
(Activision for the PlayStation)
by Shane Yeager
Worthy of the Krusty brand trademark, The Simpsons Wrestling trades on the popularity of the TV icons with an unremarkable product with little appeal, other than the lovable characters themselves. Stuck somewhere between the fighting game and wrestling genres, Activision faithfully reproduces The Simpsons characters, while failing to ground the country's favorite cartoon family firmly in a solid game. The result is an interesting diversion for an afternoon of catch-phrases and animated violence, but once the thrill of seeing Homer throttle Bart dies down, it's just another cheesy slugfest.
The whole premise is based on Kang and Kodos (the aliens for the less knowledgeable in Simpsons trivia) coming to Springfield and demanding a wrestling match against a champion equal to Jebediah Springfield, "or else!" Strangely enough, all of Springfield's regulars feel they should be the natural selection, so a tournament ensues. The lucky winner gets to square off against the alien's contender. At the beginning of the game you can choose to play any of the Simpsons (excepting Maggie), Apu, Krusty, Willie, or Barney. Once opponents are defeated in the single-player game, they then become available for you in the two-player mode. Residents from Ned Flanders to Professor Frink make appearances, and the whole thing is announced by Kent Brockman. On the bright side, each voice is performed by the same voice actor as in the series, so there are no "Doh"s that don't sound like "Doh"s.
Each "wrestler" has particular moves that vaguely resemble wrestling holds, assuming you're allowed to use gardening rakes, saxophones, and skateboards on your opponent. Additionally, each player can throw items at his opponent, like Homer's bowling balls or Krusty's cream pies. Power-ups randomly appear, and range from donuts (increase the health of the wrestler) to special taunts. The taunt system is a unique little added feature that allows a wrestler to become invulnerable for a period of time, once a series of power-ups has been collected. The character says a few derogatory lines, and is a great deal more effective at handing out punishment for about thirty seconds. The problem is that this little gimmick becomes so effective in two-player games, that the wrestling match is put off for a while as the players learn that the winner will be the one who can taunt the other more frequently. Sounds good, but sucks in execution.
The first few matches are great; Barney belching at Homer, Apu throwing Squishees at Groundskeeper Willie. After that, the big question ends up being, "Is that it?" It may be a little naive of me to expect a decent base system under the candy coating, but hey, maybe I'm not 100% cynical yet. The Simpsons Wrestling is probably something die-hard fanatics of the show might want to pick up, but unless you know what the "J." in "Homer J. Simpson" stands for and can quote Bumblebee Man from half a dozen episodes, make sure you rent this before you buy it. It isn't enough of a fighting game to be good at satisfying fight fans, and isn't enough of a wrestling game for those gamers who want to be on Monday night TV. The beginning and end of the appeal rests in The Simpsons trademark.