Omigod omigod omigod! There's a new "Simpsons" game, and it's better than anything that's been on the actual TV show in years. (That's right, I said it.)
The Simpsons: Tapped Out turns your iPhone or iPad into a Springfield-style SimCity. Or maybe that's a SimCity-style Springfield. Either way, it's a city-building and management game, which is a lot cooler than it sounds.
The plot unfolds (hilariously) with an animated clip showing Homer wreaking nuclear-plant destruction on Springfield. (Really, it was just a matter of time.) Fortunately, everyone survived, but the town needs rebuilding.
You start with the Simpsons' house, then add Evergreen Terrace, the Kwik-E-Mart, and so on. A lengthy tutorial guides you every step of the way, which is a good thing--Tapped Out is a complex game, especially if you've never played SimCity or anything else involving building, resource management, and the like.
The main goal here is to accrue money, experience points, and, especially, doughnuts, which can be used to accelerate certain aspects of the game. See, the tasks that earn you money and experience take time--in some cases several minutes or even hours of actual, real time. By "spending" some doughnuts, you can zip through those tasks in seconds.
And this is where the freemium nature of Tapped Out comes in. The game itself is free, but doughnuts will cost you--that is, if you're not patient enough to earn them, find them, or spend Springfield dollars on them. You can use the in-game store to buy a dozen donuts for $1.99, 60 for $4.99, and so on--all the way up to 2,400 for $99.99. Parents, keep an eye on your kids!
Electronic Arts bills the game as "life-ruiningly fun," and that it is. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I'd spent half an hour playing the tutorial and expanding my Springfield--and loving every minute of it.
However, there's one fairly major irritant here, and it's not how unfunny the "Simpsons" TV show has gotten in recent years. (That's right, I said it again.) Tapped Out requires an Internet connection, even though its only real multiplayer option is visiting your friends' Springfields. So much for playing on that long flight.
I should also add that Tapped Out feels pretty cramped on an iPhone or iPod Touch, so I definitely recommend playing it on an iPad if you can. Either way, this surprisingly deep, frequently hilarious, and thoroughly addictive sim will keep you tapping happily for hours. Probably days. Possibly months.
Heck, you'll probably get so caught up, you'll forget to watch new episodes of the show. Don't worry--you're not missing anything. (OK, I'm done.)