The Simpsons Bart Vs The World NES Review

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Readers to this blog may remember that in January of this year, I reviewed the first Simpson’s game that was released onto the Nintendo Entertainment System – Bart Vs The Space Mutants. For those who haven’t read it, click here to read it. Without revealing the ending, it wasn’t the best game on the system. Far from it in fact. So what better way to try and redeem themselves than by to release a sequel to the first game, but rather than focusing on just aliens, why not focus on everyone’s favourite cartoon family going global? It’s a win win for the publisher – guaranteed sales as it’s the Simpsons, and overall “acclaim” (word play on the publisher, Acclaim I assure you) that it’s better than the first game, how could the game be as bad as Vs The Space Mutants?

*sigh*

I'd rather sail on that golden boat than go back on the pirate ship, away from this game

I’d rather sail on that golden boat than go back on the pirate ship, away from this game

Bart Vs The World was released onto the NES in 1991, and is a side-scrolling platform game in parts that act similarly to Bart Vs The Space Mutants. The plot of the game, which is probably the best thing if not the most believable part of the game, is that Bart wins an art competition on Krusty The Klown’s show that has been rigged by Smithers. Why would Smithers rig a meager art competition? Well, he is doing this in order to help Mr. Burns dispose of The Simpson family once and for all. Mr. Burns gets friends and family from all over the world to help dispose of Bart (which makes a change from getting friends and family round for a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit) whilst Bart travels the world in a scavenger hunt. So the plot can’t be faulted, it’s more plausible than alien’s taking over the world and hindering them by collecting hats and purple objects. Confused? Read the previous review!

Congratulations on making a s****y sequel!

Congratulations on making a s****y sequel!

So you turn on the cart and get presented with two options – start or practice. Without knowing what in fact you’re practicing, and with the thoughts of “practice” making the player have horrendous flashbacks of Ski and Die with its “practicing”, naturally you’re going to pick Start. Bart looks remarkably like he did in Vs The Space Mutants, to which this should be the first sign of danger, of a sense of deja vu, that feeling in your stomach that maybe the developers didn’t learn from their previous wretched incarnation. You’re then treated to the plot of the story before you come to another menu screen. You find you’re located in China and have the option of four different game modes – junk (which ironically sums up the game), a sliding puzzle game, a card match game and also a Simpsons Trivia section.

The sliding puzzle game is a mini game that should be on the Game Boy, or anywhere else just not on the NES – trying to get the images in the correct location to form the image is not only tedious, but get’s boring incredibly quickly – how it benefits the game I do not know. The card matching mini game is one that is similar to the card matching game in Mario 3 – if you pick an incorrect pair 5 times then it finishes. Don’t worry, the game isn’t that cruel inasmuch you cannot replay it, but it’s best to bring a pad and pen with you to write down the locations of card’s you’ve uncovered. Why should gaming have to come to this – resorting to pen’s, pads and a certain amount of luck – what is wrong with just the controller in your hand and your gaming skills and reflexes, akin to a flamingo whose had a triple espresso and a vindaloo curry. The trivia section is the best of a bad bunch, if like me you’re a Simpsons fan then it’s good to refresh the grey matter on classic moments from the early seasons of the game. Finally, oh boy, we have “Junk”, and what an apt name it is for the mini game. This is the part of the game that resembles Vs The Space Mutants, a shoddy platformer with bad controls, bad jumping and an overwhelming desire to throw the game into the nuclear chimneys at the Springfield Power Plant. You have to collect items on the screen, that may include Squishee’s for health but more importantly Krusty-brand souvenirs. It is a tedious process combing the levels for these souvenirs and items, and as mentioned your hampered not by the difficulty, but by the bad controls.

Can you think of anything better to do on a lazy Sunday than sliding puzzle games? Yes, yes I can

Can you think of anything better to do on a lazy Sunday than sliding puzzle games? Yes, yes I can

In terms of controls, well the d-pad moves Bart in the action/platforming levels, the A button makes Bart jump and the B button shoots a projectile should you have any balls to throw. To do a running jump in something like Super Mario Bros, you hold the B Button to run fast and then the A button makes Mario jump. Nice and simple and is a standard that is set as a benchmark for others to follow. Did Bart Vs The World follow this tried and tested method? Of course they didn’t – holding B doesn’t make Bart run, whilst pressing the A button makes Bart jump normally. No, by accident you will find that if you hold the A button and B button together, you’ll then run, and have to skillfully try to press the jump button at the right time to make ledges or collect certain items. It is still pointless and unnecessary, and could have easily been remedies from Bart Vs The Space Mutant, but they didn’t. For the mini-game, the A button is used for selection which comes as no surprise.

The sound effects sound like something that could easily have originated from the Atari 2600 – now for an Atari 2600 game they were nice sound effects, although often recycled. Bearing in mind this game was made in 1991 and after the advent of Mario 3, you’d think that more effort would be made. Music wise, you hear the Simpson’s theme tune done in 8 bit, which although is ok, to hear it over and over again, I may as well stick a Simpsons DVD on, let the main theme loop constantly, which would be more fun.

I threw everything at my TV like Bart's throwing that ball when playing this

I threw everything at my TV like Bart’s throwing that ball when playing this

Bart Vs The World had every chance to improve on everything that was poor about Bart Vs The Space Mutants, such as the dodgy storyline, the controls, and more beside. Granted, they improved the storyline, and is nice that you do seem to go over the world, with levels ranging from China, the North Pole, Egypt and Hollywood, but as mentioned in previous reviews, that pales in comparison to having decent controls and good gameplay, which this game sadly lacks. The trivia is restricted to a few early seasons of the show, and the mini games, well they were unnecessary to add onto an action/platformer cartridge, especially when they are poorly executed which the sliding game is. Grab a controller and shoot everything in sight, stomp on enemies, anything but slide puzzle tiles around! It is such a shame with a brand like The Simpsons, because after the debacle of Bart Vs The Space Mutants, the developers had a chance to improve the game and to also make the game feel it was lovingly crafted and developed, not just rushed knowing people would buy it regardless of the quality because it has the Simpson name attached to it. Copies of the game are slightly rarer than the previous title, so for Simpson’s fans its worth checking out, but as described earlier you would have more fun whacking in DVD’s of the show and watching the title screen. One can only hope that Krusty’s Fun House is any better…

Rating – 1 out of 5

Slalom NES Review

If you remember from the last review, in which souls were sacrificed just to get through to the other side, we discussed how the game was made by the same folks who brought us Goldeneye and Banjo Kazooie – Rare. Maybe it is with a sense of British pride and biased from myself that they made some great stuff, however  they also made some absolute spawn of camel’s discharge, a shining example of this being  “Anticipation”. *Shudder*  But where did it all begin for Rare, was there a big-bang type event or a spin-the-bottle evening with blue-sky paradigm-shifting business-waffle speak ideas? Well, in the UK at least back in October 1987 here it is where it all began, with this game – Slalom for the NES. So nearly 25 years on, how does this game developed by Tim and Chris Stamper fare up, will it leave you wanting to book your next holiday in Aspen or leave you feeling “piste” off?

Slalom is a skiing game in which the character who looks suspiciously like a cooked turkey on the box and in the game, has to ski his way down 3 different types of slopes in varying increasing difficulty, skiing past flags, dodging mounds in the snow and other seemingly suicidal middle-class pretentious skiiers and sledders who really can’t ski but try to keep up with Joneses eating their Gruyere sipping Cabernet Sauvignon in their wooden lodges…ahem sorry about that… The course has to be completed within a certain time limit, to which you progress to the next level so your skiier has to dodge these obstacles or face the risk of losing time and not completing the course, which is pretty much all there is to the game. When you start the game you get the choice of 1 or 2 players, before then choosing the slope you wish to start from – Snowy Hill, Steep Peak or Mount Nasty, names that wouldn’t seem out of place in adult films or WWE characters. Snowy Hill is the beginner course, Steep Peak intermediate and Mount Nasty living up to its title. For veterans of the game,  it is a nice feature that you don’t always have to start from the very beginning and can choose which course to start from.

It’s hard to know why his head and his arse have swapped positions

As the levels progress, aside from dodging the obstacles on the run, the player needs to ski in between the flags like a slalom (hence the name of the title), which if you miss these flags will slow your speed down. Your speedometer is in the top left hand corner, the time remaining in the top right, and just below that a progress bar showing how far you’ve skiied and what is remaining. The game screen is nice and big, and you get to see what is coming in front of you, giving you time to dodge the obstacles. On later levels, when your hurtling down at 180km/h, your reaction times need to be like that of a raccoon eating left-over ice cream, as those obstacles come thick and fast with any hint of hesitation or missing the flags, will make you crash or slow your player down, costing valuable time.

Going off-piste is never as fun as it seems, leaving you with skids in more than just the course title…

The controls are fluid and responsive, holding up on the d-pad will make your skiier travel faster, holding down slows him down, left and right makes him turn the respective ways and the A/B button causes him to jump. It is written that you can do tricks when your character is in the air, however one of the disadvantages of buying just cartridges and not manuals for games is not knowing the full set of controls. The graphics are reminiscent of a VGA-hue from the 1980’s on PC’s, with purples and cyan’s all over the palette. There are some nice touches with the mountains looming in the background and the snow-capped green forests in the distance, it makes you feel like you are lost in the Alps skiing your way down. The music is very catchy and is a nice soundtrack for your run, lesser games and companies would have just had no sound and bad sound effects, but David Wise did a fantastic job with the music on the game which after a while you’ll be humming long after you’ve turned the console off.

Would rather eat a Swiss Roll than a Swiss tree

With 24 levels in total, and the difficulty ratched up with each run you complete, Slalom is a fine game to add to your collection. For their first game, Rare did a sterling job, and is a simple yet fun game. It is one of those games that if you had a spare 15 minutes before going out socialising, then its one of the lesser known titles to play. One of the downsides is that when the game is over, your time is displayed and saved as a high score, however with no memory pak as soon as the console is turned off, so do the scores, so unless you write this down on a scrap of paper or go through the lengths of recording your best runs on a VHS/DVD then you won’t remember your best times. With the 2 player option as well its a nice addition, and a worthy title in the black box series, even if it s unfortuanate that the skiier constantly has his derriere protruding on screen. Copies are rare on eBay UK however always check your local retro shops for this, you never know where one may lurk in the wild. All this talk of skiiing is making me pine for hot cocoa and looking up trips to the Val D’Isere wearing yellow nylon shellsuits dodging the Joneses on a mountain peak somewhere…

Rating – 4 out of 5