Hands up—anyone out there who didn’t have at least one piece of Simpsons merchandising during the ’90s? Didn’t think so. Honestly, can ANY of you tell me you didn’t have a Bart Simpson mug or poster or trading card or something? Well, I know I had absolutely heaps. I couldn’t (and still can’t) get enough of that jaundice-inflicted family and their antics. It was obvious that at some point someone was going to bring out a video game of The Simpsons. What wasn’t obvious back then was that this game would be crap. This was a time when licensed games weren’t known to be rushed pieces of crap with a recognizable character or two thrown in (or, at least, I didn’t know this). I saw in CVG, a reputable videogame magazine, that The Simpsons: Bart vs. The Space Mutants was coming out soon for the NES. I had to have it.
As luck would have it, my best mate bought the game before I did. He absolutely loved it, and still loves it to this day (though that might be a nostalgia thing). I couldn’t understand why he loved it so. Even at the time, I thought the graphics were pretty damn poor (except for the beginning where it shows the Simpsons sitting on their couch—I thought that looked pretty cool ), and the controls would reduce us to tears, they were so frustrating. But he still played it to death. Why? I’m hoping I’ll be able to answer that question soon.
Let’s start with the basic gameplay. Put simply, Bart vs. The Space Mutants is a platformer, nothing more. You play as Bart Simpson (of course), and the Earth has been invaded by aliens. They’re collecting everything that’s purple, and using these things for some all-powerful weapon or something. Why would aliens collect purple things? Don’t ask me. They go on to explain the aliens also need hats, exit signs, balloons, and nuclear rods for their weapon, so that’s what you’ve got to collect for the next levels. You go around semi-recognizable locations collecting items, spray-painting things (or blowing them up), and avoiding the aliens. Sound thrilling? It shouldn’t.
There’s one thing I thought was pretty cool, which is that you can get some x-ray glasses, and that way you can see which humans are actually aliens in disguise. It’s pretty basic, but I thought it was pretty cool for its time. The thing that annoyed me the most was that there is no variety at all. Every level, you jump around avoiding bad things and collecting good things. That’s it. Graphics should neither make nor break a game; it should be about the gameplay. Sadly, this game’s graphics do little to disguise its bad gameplay. There are some pretty bits (like the aforementioned couch intro), but the vast majority of the game is poorly presented. OK, I know the NES isn’t a Silicon Graphics workstation, but damn, it can do much better than this.
The main sprite (Bart) has, from what I could count, a total of 10 frames of animation, maybe one or two more. The enemy sprites repeat over and over again, and the backgrounds are basic to the point of confusing the gamer about what they’re actually supposed to be. Simply put, the effort simply wasn’t put in to making this game a little bit prettier.
As for the sound, I’d rather not think about it. The Simpsons‘ theme song rendition is poor, the music for the main game is repetitive and grating, and the sound effects are basic. About the only thing that impressed me about the sound from this game is the sampled (albeit very low quality) “Eat my shorts” and “Cool, man,” as I wasn’t aware the humble NES was capable of speech at the time.
The controls are not extremely terrible, but they definitely aren’t great. Let me put it this way: in terms of responsiveness, Mario 3 it ain’t. There will be many occasions when you die through no fault of your own, and that is not a good thing at all. It’s extremely trial-and-error, which I don’t mind, to a certain extent. When nearly every new obstacle requires dying to get past, it’s just not fun.
Replay this game? Why in hell would I want to replay this game?? It’s not fun, it’s frustrating, and it’s not rewarding in the slightest. I don’t want to play this game EVER again. And anyone who tries to make me play it will face the wrath of a severely frustrated Matteous, possibly wrath involving a funnel, melted heat-rub, and a pair of industrial-strength pliers!!
Anyway, as I was saying, I have no intention of playing this game ever again (except if my mate comes over and I’m pissed, or in a sadistic mood). Replay value? What replay value?
This title was my first real taste of video game disappointment. Sure, I’d played crap games before this one, some that were even worse for sure. But this game was supposed to be an interactive version of one of my favourite television shows, and it was infinitely less fun than I expected. I mean, even when it was released, The Simpsons had made Fox millions of dollars (to add to Rupert’s other couple of billion), so why couldn’t they spend a bit (well, a lot) more time and effort on making this game something special? In the end, this game is no different to the hundreds (maybe thousands) of other crap licensed platformers that were prevalent in the ’90s. I just really hoped it would be something great.
Also, to answer my question as to why my mate loved and still loves this game? No idea. He smokes a lot of the dutchie, so that might be why; he forgets how crap it is every time he plays it.