Best iPad games: The Simpsons Tapped Out

CVG hand-picks the greatest iOS games available to download right now

Apple has revolutionised how we consume and play portable games with iPhone and iPad. In this new regular series, CVG discovers and celebrates the most innovative new iPad games on the App Store. Click through the link to find our full list of the best iPad games.


Best iPad games: The Simpsons Tapped Out

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The Simpsons Tapped Out is the anomaly in this series of highlights from the App Store. It barely even registers as a videogame. It requires no skill, and there is no peril or game over screen. It's a city-building game with a social twist, but that's almost beside the point. The pleasure of indulging in The Simpsons' rich folklore is how Tapped Out has earned its place here - every building is familiar, every nuance of character is perfectly captured. The devilish machinery at the core of this game has compelled me to revisit it every day for the last two weeks. The reward? Seeing Krusty walk his pet monkey around, or Ned Flanders go on a power walk. Stupid sexy Flanders.

Apu works in the Kwik E Mart and can be sent off to feed the octuplets. Cletus de-louses the young-uns and helps Brandine give birth to another spuckler. Millhouse gets the most cutting nerdlinger duties imaginable, flying his scale model perfectly level and hiding wet bedsheets. "That's some nice grinding" says Chief Wiggum as I level up. 'I'm not even sure why I'm doing this', I silently reply, and continue to tap-tap-tap away at the screen. I check in to collect the cash and XP which comes from completing tasks and constructing buildings every night, out of some vague sense of duty to Matt Groening's creations. I want to see more of them.

I am determined not to spend a penny - it is a freemium game - but in every other respect I am powerless to resist Tapped Out's reward loops and carefully timed treats. It is more hobby than videogame. You download it for The Simpsons' gently subversive humour, but stay for the trinkets and odd pride in your own personal Springfield. The Simpsons' writers take great pleasure in poking fun at the whole genre in the game's opening sequence (embedded below). It just adds to the charm.

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The social aspect of the game injects this vital sense of pride in your little town. It forces you to join Origin and also allows you, with an internet connection, to play one persistent game across iPhone and iPad, the latter being the more handsome option. You become aware that friends can visit your town and you spruce it up a little. I hope they feel the same need. My current friend count on Origin is one, and I don't intend to increase that tally - I have already wasted too much of my limited time on this planet building my 'pretend town', as Homer so eloquently puts it. And yet, peering into another Springfield allows you to gawp at all the useless stuff you don't have yet. Professor Frink's lab. The Nuclear Power Plant and Mr. Burns. Hans Moleman.

Refusing to pay for anything in Tapped Out makes it feel like more of a challenge. I started a diary of events, thinking it might make for an interesting feature - it didn't. It was a daily reminder of Tapped Out's glacial pace and utter futility if you don't stump up some cash for time-quickening donuts. And yet I play on, keen to see what comes next after I have built Springfield Elementary, smiling as Principal Skinner arrives with his tragic soundbites about detention and his mother.

Take away the sharply observed characters and the warm familiarity of the gags and Tapped Out is an empty, money-hungry husk. With these qualities, though, it is a characterful, charming city-builder and one I recommend without hesitation.

The Simpsons Tapped Out is free on the App Store. Download it here.