07 October 2013

Bart Vs. The Space Mutants

So it's been a little while...work was kicking my ass over the summer, and then school started...I'm back!
Edit: Lol Nope, not just yet

The Title Screen

Now I know The Angry Video Game Nerd did a review on this (which is crazy, I thought this game was super unknown…though I guess I don’t know how popular it was so maybe not.). But I have it, and I fucking beat it, so I’ll fucking talk about it.
So let me start out by saying that I’m not really a Simpsons fan (gasp, shock, horror). I’ve seen probably like 3 episodes and the movie, which was good, I just never saw the show, nor really cared to. I got this game as a gift only a couple years ago…someone had found it in their attic so they gave it to me.

This game came out all the way back in 1991, probably after the Simpsons arcade game which came out in March of the same year (I believe, I wouldn't really trust that). Now if you remember the arcade game, you might remember an awesome four player beat em up which isn’t just considered one of the best Simpsons games, but one of the best Beat em ups.
The arcade game was crisp and fun and really made use of how popular the show was, packing in as many of the numerous colourful characters from the show as it could. It had good music, great sound, and was just an all around awesome game. 
You should go pick that game up on the XBLA or PSN…is good time.

This game isn’t like that.

I’m not going to lie…I really didn’t want to play this one. I was really hoping that when it wouldn't turn on that it had been broken somehow and that I wouldn't have to play it. I thought about just throwing it out the window and forgetting it was ever a part of my collection, but I knew that wouldn't be fair…So I cleaned it and threw it in the system…and after a few minutes of fiddling (and like 15 minutes of Bionic Commando just to make sure the NES hadn’t broken…man that game is fun.) I finally was greeted with the title screen, and as I feel all Simpsons games (or any game that’s based on a TV or Movie for that matter) should start with the Theme song. Granted the theme song sounds pretty horrible…and the graphics look like a supped up DOS game, but I can recognize both the characters, and the song, and there are space mutants visible. So this game I guess isn’t off to that bad of a start, but not long after, this game stumbles a litte…into hole, full of spikes, and bees, and the bees are on fire, but still alive and able to sting you, mostly in the eyes.
So ok, the game looks bad, well not terrible…just bland.
Take your pick, radioactive colours, or bland shitty nothing?
So the story (Which is a story, there’s a beginning a middle and an ending,) is that space mutants have come to take over Earth with a powerful ultimate weapon. All they need to do is power up the weapon by collecting purple coloured objects…Now, lemme just hold up here. Disregarding the fact that they need something as asinine as a certain pigmented object, what kind of invading force goes out without their weapons having power?
"Tell ze Fryman we need Purple Things"
 Is this some sort of Simpsons joke I’m not getting? Like…This game was made when Bart still said “eat my shorts”, (which you hear every time you die…and it’s funny EVERY TIME)  so when was that? Was that early? Does he still say that? I remember hearing it on a Futurama episode...I'm not sure, the important thing to take away from this is that they need purple items and it’s up to Bart to stop them!
Now…normally I could let a poor story slide for an old game like this, especially if the gameplay is fun. But for a title sporting the Simpsons name, from which I've heard only good things about the writing, I would expect at least something. This game came out in ’91, which is like the height of the show’s popularity (eh, don't trust this fact either)…they really couldn’t get anything better than “Aliens are attacking!”?   Well whatever, maybe the gameplay is fun. (Spoiler: No)
The goal of the game is to collect a certain number of "things", which varies with each level. In the first level, you have to get rid of purple coloured objects, using usually spray paint, but sometimes anything else. The next you need to get hats, by running into them, then balloons, and etc. etc. you just have to collect things.
 This sounds simple enough, but the first level is a little bit silly. It just drops you in with no explanation about how to do go about the game.
The thing is though, that this first level, is actually a pretty clever. There are a lot of things that the game doesn’t tell you, and some of the logic it uses is really cheap if you don't know what you're doing, but at least in the first level it was something different than just "Collect the trinkets!".
Unfortunately, the rest of the time is just “collect this thing”, usually in the most frustrating manner possible. This isn’t helped by the fact that the game is really difficult, but like, not in a way that’s really beatable…Again, this is one of those games where if you can beat it on the NES without cheats, congrats you mook.
I beat it on the emulator, and with a walkthrough, and infinite lives, but I think that if had this game had continues I would have done it on the NES. That’s one of my biggest hang-ups with this game. It’s hard, not because of the fact that you have to trial and error your way through each level, or that you die in two hits, no. This game is hard because there aren’t any continues.
The maddening experience of playing this game is really built on the fact that this game has some pretty odd controls. The A button jumps, and you have to hold it to run. Which is weird, but I got used to it after a while. You have to hold B and A to do a further jump, wasn’t that odd for me because Mario has you holding both buttons (and also I have huge hands). All in all the controls are too loose for the precision platforming you need to do, the platforms themselves you can fall through if you don’t make the jump just right.  It also doesn’t help that the game never looks good, so much so that in some parts it’s really difficult to see what you can jump on. What makes the platforming even sillier, is that B also uses your item, like your slingshot or spray paint. So to make certain jumps, you have to hold A and B at the same time, but because of this you inevitably waste some of your item.
 You have other items too, like x-ray glasses, and bottle rockets that are super hard to aim, and whistles which don’t really do anything. You access them by selecting the item with select (simple), then hitting start to use them. But start usually pauses the game…well it does here too…you just have to pick the “Pause” item. It’s a nitpick, but trying to pause the game is a fucking chore and that’s super annoying. You also have coins, which you use to buy things at the shops in the first level. Yeah, also there are shops in the first level. I had no idea…until I looked it up in a walkthough. I can see you judging me...fuck you. Go play this game, see how far you make it.
You might be thinking, “that doesn’t seem that bad,  you need to learn these old games, memorization is just part of how they were made” and you’re right, it’s not so much that this game is particularly difficult in the sense that it’s a challenge of timing and skill like Mario might be, it’s just really frustrating.
 You get two hits before you die, which is annoying because you’re trying to go through the level and figure out what to do. You’ll get hit with some stupid bullshit that pops up on the screen, and then you have to be super careful with these awkward ass controls. You can keep limping on through the level, and you might get a little further, but you’ll eventually get a game over, and then you have to start aaaaaaaaall the way back to the beginning.
Think about all those tough games, like Ninja Gaiden and any of the Marios or any of the Castlevanias or Contra.  With all of those games, you can at least continue from the start of the level at least once or twice, sometimes indefinitely. Not with this game, you get a game over? Bam, title screen. Eventually you’ll get good enough at the level to make it back pretty quickly, but each level still takes a while even if you fly through it…it took me like ten minutes to beat the first level, which after doing five or six times without getting past the second level, made me want to give up…And that fucking Simpsons theme just keeps playing, mocking you, slowly adding to the misery that is the experience of playing this game.
This game just isn’t fun, and that’s the bottom line. It’s a good challenge and I guess if you’re a Simpsons fan, you might enjoy it for a minute? I dunno I don’t think anyone can actually enjoy this game.
If there were continues, or less bullshit, or more hits before you died, or better controls then maybe this game would actually be pretty fun and good. As it stands, it’s just bad
The sloppy controls, boring, poorly designed graphics, a horrible story (which for a show like the Simpsons really has no excuse to not be at the very least mediocre), bland music, frustrating level design and goals that aren’t clear . It’s mostly just frustrating more than anything, and after I hit the title screen more than twice and hearing that fucking theme song for like an hour, I just wanted to be doing anything BUT playing this game. I doubt you would as well...
You're a winner Bart...eat some fucking shorts
On to the next one,
+Simpsons Theme right off the bat
+Some interesting ideas on how to meet your goal in the first level
-Poor, awkward controls
-Really dumb story
-Just bad…Just really boring and bad and frustrating