I’ve had a tablet for quite some time now, but for gaming, I’ve been pretty much restricted to the various versions of Angry Birds, playing solitaire and mahjong and the like. It’s not that other things didn’t interest me, but for the longest time, and still to some degree today, my tablet time was restricted to when I was sitting in front of the TV in the evening so having something that took up a lot of time or took my attention away from the boob tube for a long period of time didn’t hold much interest.
I was poking around the Google Play store and came across The Simpsons: Tapped Out. It was described, in what little I read about it, as Sim City meets the Simpsons. Now I don’t really give a damn about the Simpsons, I haven’t watched a single episode since maybe the second or third season, but a town-building game sounded like fun so I downloaded it. This started me on the long road of app building and breeding gaming and I want to go through each game, in the order I started playing it, and review, compare and contrast them all.
The plot is simple, Homer does something stupid and blows up Springfield. He then has to start putting it back together, one building at a time. You are in complete control of where you place the houses, shops, roads and decorations and the game can get quite complex. You buy these components, either by earning in-game money by performing tasks or by spending “donuts”, the game’s premium currency that you spend real-life money for. You do earn a certain number of donuts while playing the game, but to be perfectly honest, I haven’t spent more than a handful of them and I still have less than 100. That means there are many buildings that I will never, ever get for my town, but that’s okay, it’s just there to have fun with.
As you continue to place buildings and level up, you unlock other characters. I started off with just Homer, but soon had Lisa and Apu, etc. In fact, you unlock so many characters that eventually, it becomes rather unwieldy. You have to tap on each and every character and assign them some kind of task which earns a certain amount of money and experience once completed. Which tasks depend on the kind of town you’ve built, the more different kinds of buildings and the more different kinds of decorations you supply, the different kids of tasks that become available. There are tons of quests that occur as well, with rewards for finishing them, either XP and cash or unlocking new buildings, characters, decorations, etc. There are also a number of categories that gauge how you’re doing and those categories, in turn, give you bonuses to your earnings. You have to build houses, government buildings, restaurants and stores, you have to have plants and trees, all of these better your potential income.
They also have a regular stream of special events and expansions that change the basic gameplay. Earlier in the year, they had “snake whacking day” when Homer led the movement to emulate the Irish and whack all the snakes in the town. You earned special prizes based on how many snakes you whacked. Right now, they have a summer expansion which added a seaside boardwalk to the town, called Squidport. It also opens the beaches for building, something that you couldn’t do before. My only beef, to be honest, is that I had a river that flows through my town and my ultimate goal was to have it run off into the sea. I could never get it onto the beach, but now, with this expansion, I can, but it still stops just shy of the shore and I think it looks awful. It’s a minor beef to be sure, but still something I hope they correct.
This is definitely a fun game and you don’t have to know anything about the Simpsons to play, although they do have the show’s voice actors doing all of the vocals and they do often refer to the show. It also has a social component where you can make “friends” and visit other versions of Springfield, although it doesn’t really do a lot for you. You can click on three buildings in the other towns once a day, get a little money and XP and hopefully attract people to come to your town to do the same. The more people visit your town, the more things you can tap on to make more money.
Pros: One of the characteristics that I find most valuable in this game are the time-specific tasks that you can assign. You can tell everyone in the game to go do a 60 minute task, then come back in an hour and they’ll all be done. You can set them all up for an 8 hour task before you go to bed and be ready for something else to do when you wake up. There are usually enough options that you can schedule the game around your free time quite easily. The game also doesn’t take itself all that seriously, Homer often complains “those guys? We must be running out of ideas!” They do update the game often as well. When I started, the highest available level was 26, now they’re up to 30 and just about ready to release level 31. It doesn’t really matter though, you keep earning XP even if you’re at the top level and that gets translated when they do the next update.
Cons: The flip-side to the pro is that you have to pick each and every single character and tell them what to do. This is fine with a handful of characters, quite a chore when you have 30 or more. I’d like to have seen a “make everyone do a 12 hour task” button to make life easier. By the same token, harvesting all of the money you’re making by tapping on every single building and character in town is a pain too, how about a “harvest all” button? I don’t think it really adds to the experience by scrolling all over town, especially when town gets huge, and tap-tap-tapping everywhere. For people without deep pockets though, you have to understand that you can’t do everything. These games exist to convince people to pay for an upgraded experience and that can get expensive. People who were buying donuts for the Squidport expansion were paying $100 or more to place premium buildings and speed up development. You don’t have to pay, but expect to spend a lot of time waiting if you don’t.
Fun:Obviously, this is how fun the game is. The higher the number, the more you’ll want to come back to the game. In this game, for example, there’s such a creative component, you’ll come back just to rearrange the town, place trees and roads and all the decorations you can find and those, in turn, increase how much money and XP you can earn.
Frustration:This is how frustrating the game can be in game play. While you can, indeed, rearrange as many times as you want, if you set your characters on a long-term task, there really isn’t much to do until they’re done. These kinds of games are built around waiting and hoping people get impatient and spend donuts to speed up tasks. For those who aren’t going to do that, it’s a whole lot of waiting and then brief moments of excitement.
Reliability:How crash-prone it is. Tapped Out hardly ever crashes, at least in my experience.
Wallet-Drainer:This is how much the game wants you to spend money at every turn. This can be a big deal, especially for people who are not going to pay big bucks to buy premium content. I suppose it depends on how important that is to people, I find Tapped Out moderately wallet-draining because you cannot earn a lot of donuts without a credit card but if you’re patient enough, you can earn a few here and there. If it’s not important to have everything, if you have patience, you can play this game entirely for free, which is what I’m doing.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out
Written by EA/Fox
Cost: Free/Premium content available.
Requires Internet connection to play.