I’ve been playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out for a couple of weeks now and I’m on the fence about this type of social gaming. In true Simpsons fashion, the premise for the game is a parody of Smurfs’ Village, a popular iOS game, that infamously cost a parents around the world thousands of dollars of accidental in-app purchases. Homer has inadvertently blown up Springfield due to his own negligence while playing a Smurfs-esque Happy Little Elves Village game instead of watching the reactor core. Thus, you have to rebuild Springfield in an alternate universe. Yay, multiverse theory!

doughnut screen

Seriously, $99 virtual doughnuts

The game play is pretty simple, collect money and XP through “taxes” or activities in order to buy buildings and level up. Donuts are a significant mechanism as they can speed up activities or can be used to buy premium buildings like Frink’s Lab or Scorpio’s Volcano Lair. Donuts can also be traded in for cash so you can buy more buildings, etc. The necessity of donuts are where my willingness to play starts to wane since it takes a really long time to collect them and the financial reality of the “freemium” game model starts to become apparent. The game really does drive you to buy virtual donuts and it’s depending on impatience or fandom to make the purchase. For example, the Volcano Lair costs 200 donuts and you can buy 300 of them for $19.99. And honestly, I don’t find that very fun. Clearly it’s engaging enough for me to keep tapping away but if it wasn’t The Simpsons I doubt that I would have kept going.

premium item menu

Premium items

I was also annoyed that I accidentally spent a bunch of my donuts through errant taps. It’s understandable that a game would want to avoid confirming actions since it would bog everything down. However, it happened to me enough early on that I was irritated. My other complaint about errant taps was that there was no backing out of a character’s activity without spending donuts. And since I sometimes committed to a 6-hour activity (real time) when I didn’t want to, it meant that I had to change what my strategy was going to be.

warning menu

You’ve been warned, about what? No idea.

The weirdest thing about the game is that it sometimes tells me that there’s been a saving error on my other device. This doesn’t make sense since I’m only playing it on my iPad. And to top it off, the options “OK” and “Play Now” don’t make sense either and I feel like neither option is going to get me back to my game. At one point, the game just restarted on me and I had to wait until it gave me a chance to log back in again. Thankfully my progress wasn’t lost, but this is a nominee for worst dialog menu ever.

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