Jake is back! He’s stopped writing about pandemic-related things and moved on to something a lot more lighthearted. So, with more Simpsons puns than you can walk over a rake at, here he is tackling the PS1 “sports” game. And after you’ve had a read of this give some of his retrogaming videos a little look…
You really don’t need an introduction on the impact that the world-famous animated show The Simpsons has had on pop culture, During its prime, back when the writing was just as surreal and witty as it was satirical and genuinely moving, the Western world had an incurable case of Simpsons-mania, which ran well-on through the nineties and beyond into the early millennium. Companies were dead keen on cashing in on the craze, and game companies were no exception.
Anyone who knows their fair share about retro games can probably remember that there were a whole lotta terrible games based on the show, and The Simpsons Wrestling by Big Ape Productions was one of them. The residents of Springfield have gotten into the wrestling craze, and are duking it out in familiar locations around town. This isn’t some WWF clone, though. It’s a rampart, clunky fighting game that’s widely considered to be one of the blurst titles of all time (love what you did there – Ed). But, is it true, or just an exaggerated statement by some senseless dunderpate?
Each wrestling match takes place in an oversized wrestling ring, and is solely made up of one-on-one fights. Naturally, your goal is to beat your opponent into submission for a quick and easy pin – you’ll need to drain their health in order to max out their stun bar for a guaranteed victory. There’s a sizable cast of characters from the show to play as here, including the Simpson family, as well as Barney, Krusty, Apu, and other long-time favourites. There are three circuits, though there’s little to differentiate them, not to mention a lack of bonus game modes.
The combat isn’t simply made up of punches, kicks and grapples. It plays more like a budget beat-’em-up title. For one thing, everyone has their own unique move set. For instance, Barney is slow but powerful, and can belch clouds of Duff to drain health, while Bart is small, quick, and can ride on his skateboard. Most of these moves can be activated at the simple press of a button. It makes it a pretty mindless button-masher, and the fact that you’ll be running around the same wrestling ring at top speed while jumping 10-feet in the air makes combat fairly annoying.
The fighting in general isn’t very well-balanced. You can dish out huge chunks of damage awfully quickly as Homer if you bounce off the ropes and collide with your enemy repeatedly, while Ned Flanders’ ability to let God smite his enemies with lightning gives them no opportunity to actually dodge (stupid sexy Flanders). Willie can place a near-infinite amount of traps around the ring, too. All of these things are easier to tolerate in 2-player mode, but you’ll be crying brassafrax against the bots.
As if that wasn’t already as tolerable as a ride on the Monorail, the power-ups that randomly appear tend to muck things up. Grabbing Homer’s assassin sneakers gives an insanely high speed boost, while swiping all the taunt items will turn you invincible for 30 seconds. Some of the fights simply boil down to running around in circles until you can attack again, as a result.
While it does a decent job at emulating the visuals of the show, the graphics were, and still are, pug-fugly. Plus, the animations look sluggish and janky. The original cast reprise their voice roles for each, though hearing some of the same sound bytes over and over will get on your nerves (well, with exception to some of the noises Apu and Barney make). Still, even though the rock and/or roll soundtrack isn’t very Simpsons-esque – it doesn’t hold a candle to The Be Sharps – it’s actually the best thing about the game. The songs that play during the Kwik-E-Mart or Evergreen Terrace are cracking listens.
So, is The Simpsons Wrestling one of the worst titles of all time? Not really, but it’s still pretty damn mediocre. There’s some fun to be had from the frantic, fast-paced gameplay, so long as you’re not battling against the AI. Otherwise, it’s just another sloppy beat ‘em up masquerading as a wrasslin’ title, albeit with its fair share of Simpsons fanservice. Some proper balancing tweaks would’ve helped embiggen this one, but its visuals have still aged like a Kwik-E-Mart wiener. If you’re gonna yoink this out of your PS1 collection after almost-dickety years, you’ll at least have more fun than watching a post-season 15 episode…