Friday, August 29, 2014

VGR:Quickies Old school Simpsons games

Before these last few generations, Simpsons-inspired retro games never were that good.

Sure, they tried making things interesting and different... but did anyone play-test these games??

For more Matt Groening-related reviews, check these other pages below!

Over the years there's been a ton of merchandising inspired by Matt Groening's series.

Due to their huge world-wide popularity, there's been all kinds of collectibles, toys, etc., including various comics and games inspired by the show. And that ranging for all sorts of the consoles released over the years concurrently along the show, and even several arcade titles, handheld games and even a couple of pinball machines!

The most popular amongst those is without a doubt one of the best video game adaptations you can find probably, the fan-favorite The Simpsons Arcade Game by Konami.

But otherwise these games have been released on all sorts of systems, from the Commodore to MS-Dos.

Let's be clear here, most of The Simpsons games sucked really bad... Here's several of them, mostly those available on SEGA systems:

Title: The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants  
From Imagineering/Arc Developments/Flying Edge/Acclaim

On Sega Master System
Type Sidescroller platformer/action game
Year 1991

This Bart vs. the Space Mutants is a really weird little game and probably the very first Simpsons game ever released. It was co-developed by Imagineering & Arc Developments.

This title was released on all sorts of system available at the time. No need to look for this game on the more powerful systems as it isn't much different from one system to another. It wasn't exactly "tailor-made" or polished on the better more powerful system. Bart vs. the Space Mutants was released on Amiga, Amstrad, Atari ST, Commodore 64, TX Spectrum, NES, Sega Master System, Mega Drive and even the Game Gear.

Like most of these 1990s Simpsons game, you control Bart Simpson on 5 fairly short but really difficult levels.

The game is an old school sidescrolling platformer.

Aliens are planning to take over the world! And it's up to Bart, the only one able to see them with his X-Ray glasses, to put a stop to this invasion! 

The game is a sort of early example of a "collect-a-thon". To do so you have to collect various items before them, to prevent the aliens from crafting the ultimate weapons to take over the world (of course!). Those items change between different stuff from one level to another. It depends on each levels, like hats in one, balloons in another. To collect some items you might have to create some actions to be able to get them to finish the levels. That means you also collect other things, like equipment like bombs and whatnot. To get those you need to buy them with coins.

Most of the game is played on foot and otherwise on skate.

The aliens are disguised as humans, you need to jump on their head to reveal their true-self.

These plenty of familiar places that fans will recognize from the show. There's also some fun clever nods to the cartoon, like having Bart make a prank call to Moe, so he runs outside which allows you to collect some more purple stuff.

The game also features a couple of very bad mini-games (like most Simpsons game would) Like popping some balloons and whatnot.

The real problem is that besides looking really bad at first look, it's really awfully difficult.

The game begins with a really awful and frustrating opening, it's really hard get into at first. The skateboard sections are just as bad as the plain normal awkward running. There's also a couple of odd boss "fights" if you can call those that...

The concept is probably decent on paper, if only it had better controls...

Overall: It's a really bad game.

Just plain bad to play, all around.

At the time it received some mixed reception, but that was in part because there had been no previous Simpsons game prior to it to really compare. So it's not a surprise this became one of the best-selling titles at the time (kinda like how the Michael Bay Transformers movies nowadays still make money despite being so bad...).

Really insanely difficult and awful clunky controls.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Title: The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World 
From Imagineering/Arc Developments/Flying Edge/Acclaim
(Custom cover art done by yours truly)
On Sega Master System
Type Sidescroller action game
Year 1991/93

This one's another sidescrolling title, released first for the NES in 1991 and then ported on various system in 1993, Amiga, Atari ST, Game Gear and Sega Master System.

Once more you get to control Bart as you travel all around the world for a treasure this, before Mr. Burns gets you! That's right, it's kind of a rip-off of the idea behind the DuckTales game, with some twists. Some really bad ideas thrown in for good measure...

The story begins as Bart wins a contest on the Krusty the Clown Show for a scavenger hunt around the world. But it turns out this was all really a plan from Burns to get rid of the Simpsons for good! Because of all they caused him over the years.

You go around these real world settings, with cameos by several characters from the show. From China to Hollywood, going through the North Pole and Egypt in-between. There are several stages in each world or "country" to complete first. And in each area you'll face a boss at the end, all members of the Burns family. Like Burns' third cousin, Fu Manchu Burns, his great grand-nephew the Abominable Snow Burns, etc.

Like Bart vs. the Space Mutants above, you will have to collect several kinds of items, only to either attack or defend yourself this time. Such as a cape which will turns Bart into his super-hero alter ego Bartman to fly for a short time.

The goal is to collect one of the treasures of the hunt in each place. If you find them all you can get the good ending at the end.

There's a lot of even more random mini-games thrown in this title. Like matching cards, answering trivia stuff, etc. It's very strange and random and completely breaks the rhythm of the game.

This game was mostly based on the first two seasons of the show.

Also this was the first game to include the actual theme song from the show!

Overall: Bart vs. the World is just as bad as the Space Mutants.

You can only really enjoy this one if you liked the previous Bart vs. the Space Mutants. It's clunky, odd and hard to control.

The "story" is kinda interesting, as it is. The graphics looks a tad better, it's more colorful and closer to the show.

The controls are still very loose.

The music sounds a bit better than the above title, but not by much.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Title: The Simpsons: Bartman Meets Radioactive Man 
From Imagineering/Acclaim

On Nes
Type Sidescroller platformer
Year 1992

Here's one of the rare games that was only available on a very few systems. It was released for both the NES and the Game Gear. I also wanted to cover it over here.

This one is a pure platformer, and probably one of the least fun and less playable platformers that I ever got to play on the system...

Our game begins as Bart his at home reading comics. When suddenly Radioactive Man's sidekick, Fallout Boy, appropriately falls out of the book Bart was reading! Bart has to take over his role to help save his favorite superhero! Bart is able to get inside the comic book were he will take over his Bartman persona once more to rescue his idol!

You see, Radioactive Man was captured in the Limbo Zone. Inside the comic Bartman will have to face several super-villains in order to get super-powers of his own. The goal is to defeat Swamp Hag, Dr. Crab and Lava Man to collect their powers in order to free Radioactive Man! Once Bartman gets there finally, he will have to face the one true villain behind all this... Brain-O!

The game is about four levels-long.

You don't have that many lives or health points to do so, so it's a really hard game to get by! But you can gather some additional life by collection radiation logos around the stages. You can also collect lightning items to shoot electricity.

To fight your way through Bartman can only kick and punch at first.

There are so many traps and death pits, going around the levels can be almost unbearable...

There's also some frustrating levels in total darkness.

And too many foes on screen at times when you can already barely control Bartman...

Fun fact, Zoidberg from Futurama would actually be based on one of Bartman's enemies in this game many years later, the very one Dr. Claw that appears on the cover art!

Overall: It's also not very good, very difficult to control and not that fun.. but otherwise it feels a slight nod above the previous titles.

The game was developed at time when Bart's Bartman identity was really popular through merchandising. So they simply decided to just rush a game based around Bartman into production to cash-in this popularity at the time. An easy cash-grabbing tie-in game, despite Bartman basically rarely appearing on the actual show...

It got really bad reviews back then, and for good reason.

It's not even an average game. Really bad frustrating controls, awful imprecise jumps, where you need to be perfectly precise right down to the pixel.

Besides poor controls, the lack of a password or save feature makes this game almost impossible to reach the end!

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Title: Krusty's Fun House also known as Krusty's Super Fun House o 16-bit system or Krusty World in Japanns
From Audiogenic/Virgin Games/Flying Edge/Acclaim Entertainment 

On Mega Drive
Type Sidescroller puzzle game
Year 1992/93

Originally titled Rat-Trap (I take it this didn't have the Simpsons license at first), Krusty's (Super) Fun House was a 1992 puzzle game for the Nes, SNES, Master System, Megdrive, Game Gear, Game Boy and Amiga.

In this game you actually get to control Krusty the Clown for a change.

There's an invasion of rats at Krusty's studios! The goal here is to exterminate them all! Plain and simple!

This one's a puzzle game in the style of the old Lemmings or Flicky's games.

You navigate these sidescrolling maze-like levels, and the objective is to kill the rats using all kinds of objects to solve the various areas.

You also have to avoid the other creatures like snakes and whatever (Krusty doesn't want to get rid of the other sorts of pests as well??). To attack Krustry can throw pies around.

You also get to meet several other Simpsons characters helping him on each different stage, Bart, Homer or even Sideshow Mel.

Overall: This one was... surprisingly okay.

Even for that time, it's a pretty stupid-kind of game. But this one actually turned out to be kind of a decent game once you get the hang of it. Probably one of the better ones despite the appearances.

It's not like the game has that great puzzles or is that a clever title, but it is actually simply playable for a change!

The puzzles are really not that complicated.

The visuals are actually pretty decent for once.

No doubt one of the more enjoyable Simpsons titles produced around that time.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Title: The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare 
From Sculptured Software/Flying Edge/Acclaim

On Mega Drive
Type Action game
Year 1992

This one is easily one of the more bizarre concepts, as far as Simpsons game go.

It was exclusively developed for the 16-bit systems, meaning the MD and the SNES.

This time we're back with Bart.

One day as Bart fell asleep during his homework, he woke up in a strange alternate world, a dimension where Springfield was filled with TV screens and what appears to be kind of fairies flying in the streets.

Bat needs to collect back his pages of homework, as he goes from one dreamworld to another, before coming back to reality.

A dream-place where even post boxes attack you!

Once you get the skateboard power-up, it's a lot easier to move around. There's also a Lisa-fairy that can either help you from the bullies in the street or turn you into a frog!

Once you find a page of homework in the street, you get to randomly select one of the many mini-games. This is when the game jump into a different kind of gameplay such as a "Bartzilla" section where you stomp the streets, fight the army until you reach Homer Kong and Momthra. Or some kind of puzzle room where you need to collect or find some items. There's also an Itchy and Scratchy segment where you get attacked by them, you need to constantly avoid the many enemies around. And Bartman is back, where you have to fly around while facing Mr Burns in a plane. Or even an "Indiana Bart" level, in some kind of temple stage.

You get points to collect, either from finishing these levels, losing them or getting a page back.

Once you have lost all your "Zs", Bart will wake up.  Either from going through all the mini-games or taking all the damage. According to your score this will grant you either the full ending or not, which translates into the grade Bart is assigned with, and having his parents mad at him or not.

Overall: Bad. Just plain bad. Awful game. Avoid it at all cost!

Such a complicated game for such an originally interesting premise...

They could (or should) have opted for much simpler arcade stages instead of all this silly mini-games non-sense.

The game does looks nice enough, it's in fact probably one of the better ones as far as visuals go.

But it's easily one worst Simpsons titles, no doubt.

I give this one a: 1 / 3 Score!

Title: Virtual Bart 
From Sculptured Software/Acclaim

On Mega Drive
Type Sidescroller platformer
Year 1994

Virtual Bart is kind of a direct sequel to Bart's Nightmare. It follows a similar concept. The game was also only released for the SNES and Mega Drive, although a much appropriate Virtual Boy port was planned but never made.

This time the "story" begins as Bart wanders at a science exhibit. He finds a virtual reality prototype machine. He plugs this Animus-style machine and gets to explore several virtual worlds (or past lives?).

To finish this game you need to pass these virtual world segments with flying colors to get the proper ending, the best possible depending on the player completing all the levels without losing a single life.

Unlike the previous game, this time they ditched the HUB world (the street).

The game also slightly differs from its predecessor with most of these levels actually playing relatively the same, like action platformers. Also both versions aren't exactly 100% identical, depending on the system, but not by much.

The game contains 6 worlds. There's a prehistoric level featuring caveman versions of several Simpsons characters. Bart turned as a baby in a very much platforming segment. Bart also gets turned into a pig as he tries to escape from a Krusty pork factory. There's a huge waterpark level where you go around slides. A fun but really stupid shooting tomatoes-level at the Springfield Elementary School where the goal is to ruin a school picture. And finally there's an epic post-apocalyptic level. On the SNES this one used the famous mode 7, but it strangely looks just as nice on the Sega's system. It's a Mad Max parody where Bart plays this road warrior facing the school bullies.

Once you go through all your lives or all the games, the main game is complete, and Bart gets out of the virtual reality (...only for Homer to put this machine on!?!). 

Overall: It's... okay. But not by much.

Again, the idea is decent. But it's just as badly executed.

All in all, this time the game does feel and look much better. The stages are better designed, the visuals better and the controls are mostly kinda correct.

It's much more playable.

But the music kinda sucks, it doesn't really feel at place here at all.

There's some very annoying levels like the baby Bart-thing. And only a couple of really frustrating challenging segments, such as the bad Pig stage with its bad jumps, etc.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Title: The Itchy & Scratchy Game 
From Bits Studios/Acclaim
(Custom cartmod done by yours truly)
On Mega Drive
Type Sidescroller platformer
Year 1995

To be precise, this one was only released for the SNES and Game Gear. And although a Mega Drive port was completely developed, it was actually never "officially" released.

Following several appearance on both the show and the previous above games, The Itchy & Scratchy Game is the first game to really fully revolve around the infamous animated mouse and cat "Itchy & Scratchy" from The Simpsons.

This one is a much more violent and almost somewhat cartoony-gory game. But not by that much. (it's no Splatterhouse, heh!)

The Itchy & Scratchy Game is a sidescrolling platformer based on the animated show within the animated Simpsons show.

This one is 7 stage-long. You get to control Itchy, the mouse. The goal here is to torture and kill Scratchy the cat. Running around these huge open levels, where several enemies will also be after you as well.

Both characters carry their trademark mallets. But you can find other kinds of better weapons around, usually according to the overall theme of said levels.

Itchy & Scratchy will attack one another. Once all of Scratchy's health is drained, you will face a boss!

Despite this one being rated "E for Everyone" at the time, there's plenty of video game violence to be found, you can play with chainsaws, flamethrowers, etc.

The official SNES release was kind of censored, taking out a lot of the death animations compared to the Game Gear port. The unreleased Mega Drive version was also found uncensored. 

Overall: This one is... okay.

The game feels funny, which is great.

It got really bad negative reception at the time, but people were kind of harsh on this one following all the previous awful titles. This game feels pretty decent. At least both the concept and gameplay work this time.

But it's true that the game feels very repetitive and isn't that fun in the long run.

The controls are kinda loose.

On the plus side, it features some great animations, it looks really nice and it's easily better than most of the older Simpsons game.

All in all,

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

And that's all for these old school 8-bit & 16-bit Simpsons games!

Virtual Bart and Itchy & Scratchy were really the last old Simpsons title for those systems. There also was a couple of exclusive Game Boy titles I didn't mention here, such as Bart & the Beanstalk and a Itchy & Scratchy in Miniature Golf Madness.

Those were the last 8/16-bit titles, after that the series would return in full force in the 2000s with new PC/Xbox/Gamecube/PS2 titles.

Due to the huge popularity of that title, the only one to really have been re-released over the years was The Simpsons Arcade Game which got a recent Xbox live and PS Network release nowadays.

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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