Back in the early 90’s kids were interested in a number of things that graced our TV screens, but something came along which kids were mesmerised by watching this new dysfunctional family and their weekly antics. This of course was The Simpsons. Naturally with all popular TV shows came video games, and boy did The Simpsons release their fair share of games on the early consoles. The very first game that was released based off the TV show was The Simpsons Bart vs The Space Mutants, which was released in 1991. It sounds promising enough, so how does it play nowadays – is it a vintage classic a la episodes form the first few seasons, or should it have been put to sleep like the last few years’ worth of episodes?
The game puts you in control of Bart, which isn’t surprising since he was deemed the most popular at the time featuring in games such as this and invading the charts with “The Bartman”. The story goes that aliens descend to earth planning to rule the earth by taking over people’s bodies and making humans their slaves. Naturally Bart is the one who sees the aliens hatching their plan, he has taken it upon himself to help save the planet. So the story is plausible somewhat, and thusly move swiftly onto the first level, where the objective is to find any purple objects on the level, and spray them red or get rid of them. Quote why the aliens have a fascination of the colour purple I don’t know – maybe the designers got the idea from watching Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple too much, and this is where the game starts.
When the game starts you’ll notice along the bottom a sort of status bar, which gives information about what item your carrying, how many lives you got, the time limit and also “goals”, which means on the first level you need to collect 24 purple items, or spray them from purple to red. You come across the first item which is a purple trash can, but how do you make it change colour? Pressing A makes you jump, pressing B does nothing, pressing the select button changes the item your carrying and pressing start executes that action. But nowhere does it show the item needed to change the colour of the trash can. So you explore the level and find on a really high shelf the spray can. You then have to go back past the enemies that seem impervious to any form of attack, and finally spray the can with the B button. So throughout the level you have to find other ways of covering the purpleness, be that climbing on washing lines or finding inventive ways of spraying the colour purple away.
One of the most infuriating aspects of this game that you may have encountered in the first level alone, are the controls. The backbone to any half decent game is having solid controls, which this game sadly lacks. Even when you move Bart, it does not happen straight away, there seems to be a delay that makes you push even harder on your d pad trying to get him reacting quicker, but it doesn’t work. To do a super run, to get the speed high enough to make you jump onto higher ledges requires a difficult combination of holding A+B in a way that doesn’t make you use up your spray can, and then having to press A at the right time to jump – why couldn’t they put B to sprint? The jump doesn’t work when you want it to, so to actually spray and remove all purple items in the level is just a pain, and to do a super jump where your sprinting with A+B and then A to jump again was unnecessarily difficult which it shouldn’t have been.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, you realise you don’t have a health bar, but 2 hits from enemies and your dead. That’s right, you graze the thigh of an enemy, scraping their head, do that twice and your back at the start of the level. It does remember the fact that you’ve sprayed certain things red or removed certain purple items, so you don’t need to redo these parts but your lack of any real health means you’ll go back to the beginning more than you realise. Fans of the game will enjoy the 8 bit digitsed version of the theme tune however to have it constantly playing the background is a bit jarring – it’s like anything in life it’s nice in small bursts to have it loop constantly, you’ll wish it was the Bartman on loop. Forget that, no one wants that. The sound effects are standard 8 bit fare, typical of a platforming game with jump noises and that’s about it. It’s nice they attempted some form of digitized voicing that says “Eat My Shorts” and something at the start of the level that at one point resembles “Cool Man”. Alas, the music and sound effects do not help improve the quality of the game, which coming from Acclaim was a surprise, as they made some jolly decent games such as Turok and NBA Jam, who knows maybe they were having an off day and had too much radiation poisoning but regardless, it’ll take an insubordinate amount of time moving off the first level.
Fans of the Simpsons will no doubt have been excited that their favourite show was made into a game on the biggest console of the time. Imagine the joy going into your local store, treating yourself over the weekend to a rented game, seeing your favourite show on Nintendo, the two biggest things for a child coming together in some holy matrimony, but instead after attempting the first level over and over again, what better use of your time you could have used with your weekend – like doing homework. The second level (should you get there) involves collecting hats from a shopping centre, something equally as important as removing all purple items. For something as big as the Simpsons, there shouldn’t have been the need to rush the game, the developers would have known how much kids would have loved a game of their favourite TV show, so to have this pile of dung served to them is an insult to gamers and to fans of the show everywhere. Copies of the game are common in the wild so do try it just to see how bad it is, and to add to your collection. I just hope that other games on the system aren;t as bad such as Bart vs The World…
Rating – 1 out of 5