Version tested: PlayStation 2
Let's not beat about the bush and get straight to the obvious: Simpsons Skateboarding is diabolical. It doesn't take a genius to work out that licenses like this are hacked together in fifteen minutes by marketing 'geniuses' just before they all knock off to some seedy club for the evening. As a fan of the Simpsons for as long as I can remember, it irritates me that some fabulous characters have to be put through the mill like this - just leave it alone.
'First of all, we'll take Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and ruin it.' And they have; using the RenderWare engine, the designers have proceeded to suck the basic - and I mean basic - mechanics of THPS and present them to the unwitting audience with all the style and grace of Liam Gallagher taking ballet lessons. On each level there are the usual assortment of objectives required for unlocking subsequent levels like letter collecting and object locating, although unlike THPS there is no clock for the session, only for individual challenges. Accompanying each level is a trick tutorial and a competition round, although the latter is unreasonably hard due to the former's complete inability to be of any use to anybody whatsoever, only teaching you the simplest of grabs and grinds which are printed in the manual anyway.
The stages are huge, but perversely this is another down point as timed challenges (e.g. find five kids skipping school) become ridiculous goose chases trying to find objects in the over-large levels. Despite the enormous working space, the level designers also seem to harbour a complete inability to create a decent skating line and so interesting combos are an extreme rareity. However, even if the developers had been able to design properly, the controls are so damned unresponsive that you'll be hard pressed to pull off even the most rudimentary of lines, particularly with a mysterious manual function that seems to make its own mind up as to whether or not it's going to work.
As if the gameplay weren't bad enough, it's coupled with some of the most truly abysmal graphics we've had the misfortune to see moving in a long time, and a whimsical non-event of a soundtrack - why couldn't they have incorporated the proper Danny Elfman theme and elements of a decent comedy cartoon score instead of shoving in some dodgy pieces of synthetic Ska crap which sound like they were hashed together in five minutes with Dance eJay? The voices are the game's only saving grace for about five minutes, until the spot comments from your boarder and the constant repetitive quips of commentator Kent Brockman begin to grate as much as the rest of the game.
Make it stop!
It's a simple conclusion really: avoid at all costs. Simpsons Skateboarding is a cash-in in the purest sense of the term. There are barely any redeeming features, it's practically devoid of any humour, the graphics, levels and physics are terrible, and it simply exhausts any entertainment value it does harbour in about five minutes flat.
2 / 10