The Simpsons: Minutes To Meltdown

It's taken a helluva long time for The Simpsons to reach the big screen, but if anything, the wait has only heightened the anticipation. And judging by the clips that have emerged of The Simpsons Movie, it won't be a disappointment.

EA Mobile's Minutes To Meltdown isn't, as such, the official game of the film. However, the timing of its release, and the prominent role played by Spider-Pig, are clearly meant to tempt movie-goers into paying a fiver for what might be their first mobile game download.

Which, sadly, is a shame because, in those cases, many people will go away thinking that mobile games are a waste of money.

Here's why: the first time we played Minutes To Meltdown, we completed it in 19 minutes and 20 seconds. And that includes a bit of aimless running around, as well as dying twice on the third level. When we played through a second time, we finished the game in 10 minutes and nine seconds.

This game is way too short. Effectively, you're paying £5 for a game that you can finish in less time that it takes you to watch a Simpsons TV episode. Having complained about games lasting less than a couple of hours recently, we can't really let this one slide.

Anyway, while it lasts, you play Homer and try to save Springfield from nuclear disaster – with the twist being that you've only got 30 minutes to do it – the game is played in real-time.

There's just three levels to play. The first sees you running around your house looking for your car keys; the second involves legging it through the streets of Springfield avoiding cars and Krusty the Clown; the third has you scooting through the nuclear power plant to find a valve to shut it down before disaster strikes.

The graphics are neat and isometric, boasting an authentic The-Simpsons-meets-The-Sims feel. Visually, it certainly won't disappoint Simpsons fans. The developers at EA have also put some effort into the design, replacing text-based instructions with Homer's thought bubble icons, which indicate the object you need to find next.

Yet Minutes To Meltdown is far too easy, with relatively few enemies to avoid and boasting predictable attack patterns when you do encounter them. There are no puzzles to speak of, and interaction with other Simpsons characters is limited, to say the least – if you blink, you'll miss the cameos from Bart, Lisa and Maggie (although Bart plays a bigger role in the Nokia 6600 and 7610 versions, according to EA).

There's annoying glitches, too, like the way cops run into flames and then just lie there twitching, or the skateboard sections that can be negotiated on foot if you don't bother getting on the skateboard.

But ultimately, it's the longevity (or lack of) that condemns Minutes To Meltdown. Once we completed the N73 version, there was absolutely no replay value beyond the 'Can I really complete it in ten minutes?' factor – not even a higher difficulty level to try.

This isn't kicking licensed games for the sake of it. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix showed true craft, while the last FIFA game was near-genius. EA can do big branded games really well on mobile, which makes it even more baffling that one as big as The Simpsons has resulted in a mobile game as limited as Minutes To Meltdown.

Sounds harsh? We're Simpsons fans – exactly the kind of people who've been rushing to download the game from operator portals since it went on sale a couple of weeks ago. We were hoping this game would be great, but having played it, we're simply gutted.

This is a wanton waste of a great licence.

The Simpsons: Minutes To Meltdown

This tie-in is far too easy and far, far too short
Stuart Dredge
Stuart Dredge
Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)