Bart vs. The Space Mutants
A fan of The Simpsons growing up, there were three games I owned and played constantly back in the day.
One of them was, of course, Krusty’s Fun House, the other was Bart’s Nightmare and finally, there was Bart vs. The Space Mutants, a game so cryptic that the more you played it, the dumber you felt.
And I played it A LOT.
There were several versions of the game out there but I personally owned it on the Sega Master System, and since that particular version was especially frustrating with its controls, I struggled to even make it past the first level.
Re-playing it years later, still not an easy feat:
Today, however, I’ll be looking at the Sega Genesis version, quite probably the best incarnation out there of this very first Simpsons video game. With better controls, music and visuals, it was certainly a step up but did that make it a good game?
Well, the plot of the game is still about as ludicrous as it gets:
Aliens show up on Earth and decide to take over Springfield with the help of…
As you can already tell, these guys make the aliens from Signs look positively cerebral.
Also, I don’t really understand what they’re actually meant to look like. One second they’re kinda like humans but with green tentacled heads, the next they’re one-eyed purple monsters, and then they’re little red things jumping up and down.
It’s pretty confusing.
The game opens on the streets of Springfield where your mission is to spray paint anything purple in town.
Or hide them with towels, it’s not at all consistent.
And this is exactly why this first level is notorious for its absurd difficulty compared to any of the game’s other levels. As far as the controls are concerned, they’re slightly awkward but they’re much easier to get used to than the Master System game’s. To select an item, it used to be a mysterious chore, a combination of pressing down after pressing down once already then jumping. Here, just pause and select the item, easy peasy. The real problem is that some of the stuff you’re required to figure out either doesn’t make sense or is pretty hard to guess when all you’re meant to be doing is spraying purple objects.
Oh, and by the way:
Birds are NOT objects.
(weirdest pet shop ever, by the way)
The logic of this game is all over the place. How could you ever guess, playing the game for the first time, that you’re meant to buy a wrench, use it on that fire hydrant to spray water on something much higher up that says “wet paint” on it?
Or even shoot rockets into bowling malls to make its neon lights change colours?
I also don’t see how scaring birds away makes them not purple…
You’d think making purple things not purple would be simple enough!
How did they even mess that up?!
Maybe they were just overambitious. It’s like a fun-enough movie with a convoluted plot, you just want to cut the odd scene here and there out to make it better. Like, there’s a whole thing in the game where you’re meant to wait until 4PM, go back to the movie theatre and spray people but it’s like… you can pass the level without doing that and once you go a certain distance, you really don’t want to go all the way back to the first screen! It’s unnecessary.
I also don’t need to call Moe out of his bar just to spray him with red paint. After all, if the bird in the pet shop isn’t a threat when its indoors, why would I bother dragging Moe out into the open?
But you can’t think about this game too much because you’ll end up tearing it apart completely.
Trust me: I’ve been doing that since I was 8.
Ok, let’s assume you’ve made it past this perplexing first level and beaten this perplexing first boss:
How did Maggie get up there? I’m not sure I understand the perspective here.
Is Maggie actually the size of that house?
That’s meant to be Nelson in front of Bart, by the way.
(he throws things at you)
The next level sees the space mutants change their villainous purple items plan into something much more sensible:
Or hats, whatever.
You’re in a shopping mall where all kinds of hat-related nonsense is going on around you and where every store has a silly name:
This level is much easier to get through. There’s still no logic to it, don’t get me wrong, but at least you understand what you’re meant to be doing and the game keeps things relatively straight-forward this time around.
I am SO taking those hats…
Come to think of it, there is a crazy amount of hats to pick up here compared to the amount of items/birds you were supposed to make purple earlier on. Plus those space mutants seem to have an unlimited amount of abilities: not only can they take the form of humans (use your They Live-style X-ray glasses to reveal them) but their plans are completely surreal and occasionally they do something like THIS to someone:
Ok, I’m officially disturbed.
What the hell is that?!
I-I don’t understand what’s going on…
Let’s move on to the next level…
Firstly, let’s see what the aliens have come up with this time.
I bet it’s silly.
How did these guys get to Earth again?
Never mind, you’re in a Krusty-themed circus collecting balloons.
Yes, it’s about as exciting as Bart’s facial expression suggests.
This level could certainly be a little bit more fun…
Oh dear, Sideshow Bob’s Fun House?
The Krusty one was already pretty scary…
Good luck, Bart.
The villain this time is none other than Sideshow Bob himself, and although his hair is inexplicably blue in this game, you’ll just have to look beyond that and keep jumping on his foot over and over until he can’t stand it anymore.
Anyway, you’d think that foiling the space mutants’ plans time and time again would start to get on their nerves somewhat. I mean, they did put a lot of effort into…
Wait, what was the balloon plan again?
Hey! Watch your language!
Yeah, exit signs.
That’ll do it.
(and it’s “its” not “it’s”)
Now I don’t know what passes off for a Natural History Museum these days, what with the Night At The Museum movies and all. But even in this game, I don’t think they’ve grasped the concept of what a museum is.
You see this?
That’s in the museum!
Yeah, every so often you enter a room and it’s like a completely different environment.
Note to Flying Edge: museums are NOT zoos.
Just a friendly heads-up. ;)
In fact, I have more to teach you about museums:
1/ They are NOT the home of genetically modified spiders.
2/ They are NOT The Little Shop Of Horrors.
3/ Egypt is really far away.
(PS: mummys don’t exist)
4/ Museums are NOT Jurassic Park.
They’re really not.
HOW IS THAT YOUR FOURTH BACKUP PLAN!?!?
Surely taking over a nuclear power plant is a more legitimate mission for an interstellar being than putting hats in hard-to-reach places and turning innocent kids into…
This final level is all about collecting those radioactive rods so don’t expect a final boss: that is your final boss.
It’s like a retread of the second level but long and really boring.
You’re taking endless elevators, going up floors, typing in combinations to open doors. How did this game suddenly get so… not fun?! Literally minutes after introducing a friggin’ dinosaur, by the way! This final level is honestly pretty tedious, I remember getting all the way to it one day then giving up after getting bored. And that was before you could save your game so the fact that I was willing to start the game over rather than complete this final level says a lot, I think.
It’s actually genuinely nice to see the whole family help you throughout the level, though.
Marge in a red dress?
Whatever, the game ends soon after you collect all the rods with the aliens taking their defeat surprisingly well!
Gosh these guys are idiots…
You know, I’ve just realised something: I feel about this game like I feel about those space mutants.
They’re inconsistent, silly, their ideas make no sense, they constantly miss the point and yet… there is some charm to them and you can’t help but like them in the end.
Bart vs. The Space Mutants gave me a hard time back in the day. I must have lost hours and hours playing it, failing at it. And yet I don’t hate it. There are better Simpsons games out there, far better ones in fact, but this goofy piece of messy, uneven nonsense holds a special place in my heart.
It’s the first Simpsons game, and as such: it gets a pass in my book :)
I recommend giving it a go on the Sega Genesis. Other consoles: not so much. I honestly don’t really like the look of the NES version:
I’ll give it that, though: it’s got an 8-bit rendition of the Simpsons theme and different designs when it comes to the aliens and some of the locations so it’s worth taking a look if you’re interested.
The Master System one looks much better but does suffer from irritating controls so be warned.
Wait, I’ve never tried the game on the Commodore 64!
Maybe I’ve missed out on a unique variation of the game!
Maybe it was the best one all along and I never knew it!
Maybe, just maybe…