'Simpsons' game leads EA summer preview

Video game giant showcases 13 new titles, including a deeply layered game based on the popular TV show.
Written by Daniel Terdiman, Contributor
SAN FRANCISCO--What would happen if Bart, Lisa, Homer and Marge Simpson were the main characters in a video game?

That's the scenario that Bart, Lisa, Homer and Marge Simpson are presented with in Electronic Arts' forthcoming The Simpsons, a new video game based on the hit TV show that is slated to come out this fall on PlayStation 3, PS2, PlayStation Portable, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and DS.

The conceit is just that: the Simpson family finds that, without its advanced knowledge or consent, it has become the basis of a new video game.

The story evolves from there, said Scott Amos, the real game's executive producer, at a press event here Wednesday evening to announce the title, as well as 12 other new EA games.

The crowd at the event laughed as posters were put up, including one for a fake game within the Simpsons game, Grand Theft Scratchy: Blood Island, with art clearly based on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Amos said that though the timing of the new Simpsons game is coincident with the forthcoming Simpsons movie, there is in fact no relationship.

"There's 8,000 lines of dialogue written just for the game" by the TV show's writers, Amos said.

He then explained that the game is built around 16 "episodes," through which the overall story arc develops. He would not elaborate on that larger plot line, but did explain the beginning of an early episode, "Tree Hugger," in which Lisa gets to play the role of eco-terrorist as she and Bart discover that evil nuclear power plant owner Montgomery Burns plans to cut down all the trees of Springfield, their town, with the goal of making a single luxury toothpick out of each tree.

As part of this short storyline, Bart gets to indulge one of the wishes he has long expressed on TV: being a superhero.

"Bart has always wanted to be Bartman," Amos said, "so we let him live out this fantasy."

Amos also said that the game within a game would be typical of The Simpsons in that it would include endless numbers of inside jokes and lots of social critique, including parodies of many popular real-life video games and even the video game press.

Along with the new Simpsons game, EA also showcased a number other titles at the event Wednesday night.

Among them were NASCAR '08 for Xbox 360 and PS3; NCAA Football '08 for Xbox and PS3; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for just about every existing video game console and handheld device; Tumble Bees, a PC spelling game in which players try to make a honeycomb of letters that spells as many words as possible; Skate, an Xbox skateboarding game; MySims for the Nintendo DS; The Sims 2 Pets for Wii; SimCity for Nintendo DS; The Sims Pet Stories for PC; and Wing Commander Arena for Xbox Live Arcade.

But all is not well for EA. On Tuesday, it said it had lost $25 million in its most recent quarter and that it would likely be delaying "Spore," its much-anticipated game from Sims creator Will Wright.

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