For me, mobile games offer a concentrated dose of appeal with fleeting interest. There are few I come back to time and time again, with Pokémon Go being a notable exception. My partner has recently been playing Disney Magic Kingdom and I was feeling left out not having a world to care for day-in-day-out, which is when I remembered The Simpsons: Tapped Out.
When it first released in 2012, a bunch of my then university friends and I got super competitive at building the biggest and best towns. None of us spent any actual money on Donuts, the game’s premium currency (clearly micro-transactions on a mobile game were a far cry from the hundreds we spent on FIFA 13’s Ultimate Team), but I remember extensive planning of the tap-and-wait tasks, aiming to squeeze the most out of each day. I’m pretty sure it got to a point where we would set alarms in the middle of the night to reset resident’s tasks - my time at uni was wild, as you can tell.
Eventually, we all stopped playing and moved onto something else after we got bored of the game gulping down battery life like a limited edition Squishee. Plus, one friend’s town was wiped for some reason after he changed his phone – cloud saves were flaky at best for mobile games back then.
I was pleasantly surprised to come across my old town after signing into my EA account when reinstalling TSTO a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve noted that the charm of the game is still very much still there and, upon first glance, almost nothing has changed since 2012. It’s a VERY generous free-to-play game if you have the patience to wait for tasks, with plenty of reason to check on your town throughout the day to collect income from buildings and shorter tasks. From what I could tell, most of the main changes were more like reworkings as opposed to experience altering overhauls. Mystery boxes - that were rewarded after five days of logging-in - have been scrapped in favour of daily tasks. Krustyland, that used to be a separate game area, is now incorporated as part of the main town. There are new additions like the Squidport, the Monorail, and what looks like an abandoned shopping mall on the edge of town; something I’m yet to officially unlock/discover.
If you link your game to Facebook, you can go and snoop on the towns of all those friends you forgot about and earn some extra dollars and XP for your trouble. Steve, GameGrin’s founder, has a town so big that the game struggles to maintain a consistent framerate when scanning around his town. It’s quite impressive, if not a little bit sad at the same time.
As I mentioned, it’s surprising just how little has changed since its original release, including the still dreadfully buggy building selection problems (where tapping a certain building often registers the one beside it). Most games that are supported for this length of time tend to have some sort of change in their HUD, graphics, or core mechanics, yet everything in TSTO is effectively the same, despite it still being supported with new events by EA. I suppose that’s a testament to just how well designed the game was at launch and how much money it’s still making. The story missions are fun, engaging, and never unfair or needlessly lengthy. There’s also the added charm of almost every Simpsons character, big or small, being featured; many of which are voiced with familiar and unique catchphrases.
I’m chuffed to have reinstalled TSTO. I’ve not been playing long enough to discover whether what new special events will be available, or just how many people are still playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Whether you’re a fan of The Simpsons or not, you have to give Tapped Out a first try or a reinstall: it’s funny, enjoyable, generous, and charming even all these years later. If you don’t want to, you can eat my shorts.