I’ve recently been playing my share of free iPad games, but none have got as strong a grip on me as The Simpsons Tapped Out. The app sees you create your own Springfield following a nuclear meltdown, building all the classic buildings and controlling beloved characters. Send Homer to drink at Moe’s, have Krusty take his monkey for a walk, or make Lisa meditate at the Buddhist temple.
As a long term Simpsons fanatic I suppose my addiction to this game was kind of inevitable. But what has truly held me for so long is the constant updates, adding new characters for free. When the game began there were only 20 levels to work through, since then this has grown to 30, adding new characters like Lenny, Carl and the mafia. The game doesn’t look set to slow down anytime soon much to my delight.
Tapped Out is what they call a freenium game, essentially meaning that while it is free, to have everything in the game you have to spend real money. In the game this exists though the form of donuts which are used to buy premium characters, decorations or buildings. You do earn donuts occasionally through the various tasks in the game, in fact if you’re a new player you can tap Homer 10 times in a row to get 10 donuts and a free decoration, but to earn all the premium items you’ll need to spend real money. I’ve bought my share of premium characters, because as I said I’m crazy for The Simpsons and I love having some of the more obscure characters running around my town as well. You can get through the game just fine without these characters, they’re just there to add a little bonus.
About every other month a limited time event takes place, allowing you to earn a special kind of in-game currency to buy exclusive characters. The first such event was centred around Halloween and the fan-favourite Treehouse of Horror episodes. Treehouse of Horror also introduced the idea of costumes for characters and façades for buildings, giving you a new way to dress up the familiar people and locales. Since then a similar event takes place around special occasions like Christmas or the Simpsons’ created holiday, Whacking Day. These events are great fun, amping up the gaming addiction as you try to earn all the new characters and decorations before the event ends.
In addition to the events, throughout the year there are promotional items released related to new episodes of the show. Generally these promotions offer an item, building, costume or character for just a few days with a brief storyline encouraging you to watch the episode. The great thing is often these incentives are free, giving you a new way to brighten up your town, while also being able to show them off to your friends should they miss the promotion.
The game has been prone to a few glitches during its lifespan, in fact when the game first launched last March it was damn near unplayable due to how often the servers were down. The same issue reared its head again earlier this year when the Whacking Day event proved more popular than expected due to the recently added Android users. One slightly annoying constant about the game is that it must be played while connected to the Internet. This makes playing it on the go a bit of a hassle; especially if you’re on a train, damn tunnels! It is also sometimes quite obvious that they save the best characters – like Kang and Otto – for premium, meaning that you have to pay out to get them.
Playing The Simpsons Tapped Out is a totally addictive experience. The addiction can occur so gradually that you may not even notice, but trust me you will be hooked.