For nearly three decades, The Simpsons have been at the apex of pop-culture, with their fractured take on everyday characters winning the hearts of millions. It would be redundant to list their achievements and the countless franchising opportunities that have presented themselves. In 2001 an opportunity arose to match the dysfunctional hallmarks of the Simpson’s cast to the organised chaos of backyard wrestling while providing a 3.D. debut known as The Simpsons Wrestling.
You select your favourite Springfieldian, and then take on the town in a best of three wrestling match. Your objective is to render your opponent unconscious enough to pin him. It is up to you to use your attacks to work the crowd, build momentum, and use the variety of items you can find in the ring to your advantage, à la Celebrity Deathmatch. If you fill-up the taunt meter, you can be made temporarily invulnerable, leaving you with an ample window to land a crushing strike.
The PlayStation is a fitting console for The Simpsons Wrestling. The primarily 2.D. characters have been given a 3.D. render for the first time (second if you do not count Treehouse of Horror episodes) and it feels symbolic to gaming’s transition. The multimedia-based possibilities of the PlayStation’s Compact Disc allow more content than cartridges ever could at the time. Each fighter has a unique line or two depending on their opponent, along with every match being commentated by T.V. anchor Kent Brockman and it is here where the creative sparks fly as the writers bring their all from around the undisputed height of the show’s creativity, all voiced by the stars of the show. Those expecting the musical stylings of Danny Elfman or Alf Clausen might be disappointed to learn he has been replaced here with Christopher Tyng. Tyng brings an interesting style to The Simpsons Wrestling; it has a noticeable blend of Electronica, Ska, Funk and more that puts it at home in the unique period of the early 2000s.
In terms of the actual gameplay, the wrestling feels fun, frantic, and balanced. No one character feels like they have the upper hand over another, or at least in the hands of skilled players. Each playable character has three types of attack that map to one of the face buttons on the controller, with the aforementioned stamina bar means you can’t rely on one deadly blow exclusively. The roster includes fan favourites from over the previous 20 years of the show’s development, The Simpsons family, of course, Bumblebee man, Groundskeeper Willie et al. with four unlockable characters to coax you in. They each have an assortment of special moves that fit with established canon, though Homer Simpsons syndrome does not make him impervious to blows.
The Simpsons Wrestling puts fun at the forefront with its recognisable brand of merchandise mayhem. The potential of the powerful premise is fully realised, along with the technical capabilities of the PlayStation bringing a whole new dimension to a Simpsons video game release, much closer to the show. Settling who would win in a Homer vs Flanders beat down has never been so much fun, doubly so if you have a buddy. If you need an icebreaker for your neighbours, or a brawl to pass the time, The Simpsons Wrestling is a good bet.
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