The problem with too many movie tie-in games is that once the lawyers have come to an agreement and the large pot of money has been handed from the game publisher to the film producers, there's usually little time left to actually turn out a good game.
Now, we're not saying that will be the eventual fate of EA's The Simpsons Game (although we certainly weren't impressed by the mobile version), but we were surprised by the unfinished quality of the DS version, which was on public display on the company's impressively designed spiral-ramped stand at the Games Convention.
Perhaps the most obvious issue was the opening splash screen, which read 'EA legal text goes here'. More worrying, though, were the placeholder graphics in the game, with what looked like big bottles labelled 'EA' placed around the levels. We think they were supposed to signify save points – either that or developer Amaze is subtly suggesting the game's external producer needs to enrol for AA meetings.
The final 'D'oh!' was the cinematic intro to the second level, which sees Bart and Homer breaking into the Springfield Museum of Natural History. Instead of a proper coloured animation, we were presented with a selection of hand-drawn static images (also known as an animatic), of what the finished article should look like.
Of course, with a November release date pencilled in, there should be plenty of time to fix what should be considered relatively minor issues. What surprised us more was that EA decided to publicly show such unfinished code, especially as it inevitably overshadowed what appears to be a solid platformer.
Following the trend of DS games such as New Super Mario Bros, The Simpsons DS uses 3D characters within a side-scrolling 2D world. Cleverly, there are various layers of 2D artworld, which helps generate a feeling of being within the environment.
And as you'd expect, the artwork itself is of a high standard, so after we'd played around, Nintendogs-tummy-tiggling style, with a reclining Homer – feeding him a bar of chocolate by picking it up with the stylus and dropping it into his mouth – he fell fast asleep and entered the dream ChocolateLand.
Apeing the style of a Nintendo platformer (it actually reminded us a bit of Yoshi's Island DS), you move Homer around, collecting chocolate bars and Duff bottletops, jumping on what look like marshmallow pipes to bounce over gaps in the scenery, and fighting mean attack-rabbits as you go. The game uses the full height of the DS's two screens, with biscuit elevators being used to get Homer up to the higher levels.
In the second level, Bart was added to the mix, with a buddy gameplay mechanic seeing control being automatically swapped between the two characters so their different attributes were used to overcome obstacles. For example, Bart is the more mobile option, and when performing a double tap jump, he transforms into Bartman, who can glide long distances thanks to his cape.
So playing The Simpsons DS certainly wasn't all doom and gloom. Still, there should be some red faces at EA due to the unfinished nature of what's such a high profile licence for the company.
The Simpsons DS is due to be released in November.