The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants

Moby ID: 4386

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 68% (based on 41 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.3 out of 5 (based on 127 ratings with 7 reviews)

The first and still one of the best Simpsons licensees

The Good
Back in the early 90s I used to read a lot a certain video game magazine. I got to know most of my first games through it, and this includes Bart vs. the Space Mutants. The magazine had an article covering the first two stages for the NES version of the game, and I was amazed by the variety of gameplay the game had to offer. By that time I had an NES but I never got to play the game on it (I didn't find the game to buy at any store and I guess I didn't find it on any rental store, or else I would rent it, as I did with most the games I played back then).

One year later my brother got us a Mega Drive and it came with Altered Beast on it. As I did with my NES, I rented most of the games I played, specially because I had bad experiences in buying some games. Some of them used to turn out boring in a couple of months and I found it too expensive to buy a game just to find myself tired of it after some play time. But I never got Bart vs. the Space Mutants out of my head so I got it for Christmas in 1992, and it was the only game I ever bought for that particular Mega Drive (which I sold in 1996).

I was really excited about it, because the graphics in the Mega Drive version were far superior than the NES one. Besides, I had two magazines covering all the strategies to beat the game, so it really seemed like a great deal. And in fact, I wouldn't regret buying it.

First of all, the graphics in the Mega Drive version just shine! They are colourful and really make justice to the show. Looking at the opening animation screens today, I realize they are quite simple. They're not really what you would call animations, as the UFO image just scrolls down the screen and the animation where Bart puts his X-Ray glasses to see the Space Mutants is really just two alternating frames. But that really looked amazing back in the day. The use of bright colors fitted the game even more due to an interesting plot device right in the first stage, which probably is the strongest feature in the game, granting space for really great gameplay features all through the game.

The story is the following: the Space Mutants are about to take over the earth and, to do so, they're building a powerful weapon out of purple objects. Where will they gather the objects? Springfield, of course. This may seem really dull for an story, but this simple story allows the game to be more than just a regular platformer. Bart is the one to save the world, as the title implies, and to do so, in the first stage, he needs to get rid of all purple objects he finds. He will do so in the most varied ways, what gives the game some puzzle solving action. The easiest way of doing so is painting the purple objects other colors than purple. The color of choice here is red, and this is done by using a color spray can. But Bart can also get rid of the objects in other ways, like walking on a clothes line to drop clothes over the objects, or using a wrench to open an hydrant and let water wash the wet purple paint on an awning. The later way involves more than you would expect from a platformer, as Bart has to buy the wrench at a specific store. He does so with coins collected all over the stage. The coins are also used in other interesting ways, such as playing Moe a trick to get him out of the tavern and painting his purple apron. The coins are used also in different ways at later stages.

Once Bart frustrates the Space Mutants' plans in using purple objects, they turn to other objects for the same purpose. In stage two, they'll look for hats at the shopping mall, in stage three it will be balloons at Krustyland Amusement Park, in stage four the objects sought will be "Exit" signs at the Natural History Museum and in the last stage, they'll look for radioactive cylinders at the nuclear facility where Homer works (finally something that resembles fuel for a powerful weapon!). The variety of objects and scenarios add value to the game, as the level design gets really interesting and fun. Again, the ways of getting rid of the objects is quite varied, and the game will keep the player interested.

Each stage has a final boss, and there's something interesting here too: Bart can get help from one of his family members at each stage to beat the boss. In stage one it will be Maggie, in stage two, Marge, in Stage Three, Lisa and in stage four, Homer. The interesting part is how Bart gets their help: he must collect proof about the Space Mutants. He will collect it by jumping over their heads, but the problem is that the space mutants are using human bodies as disguise! Using his X-Ray goggles, Bart can tell the Space Mutants apart from regular human beings. Once he gathers enough proof to spell his family member's name, he'll get their help.

The music and sound effects are OK, but the music can get a bit annoying due to reasons to be spoken of in "The Bad" section.

The Bad
There is a really cool "Eat my shorts, man!" speech every time you die. Even though it is cool as I said, I'm mentioning it here in the bad section because you'll hear it a lot of times, as this game is reeeeally hard! Even though I loved this game, I got quickly uninterested in it because I kept dying several times right at the first stage!

Even though the overall gameplay isn't that complex, the game can get a bit confusing at first. One button is used for action, one for jumping and one to use the main weapon (which varies throughout the stages). Running and jumping higher on objects can be done by holding the jump button, and this is somewhat difficult sometimes. Jumping farther can be done with both the gun and the jump button pressed, but you'll lose ammunition. Bart also moves a bit too fast and it makes difficult for one to navigate Bart through some jumping parts. You know a platform game went wrong when you die too much from imprecise jumping.

Bart has a life meter of only two hits, so dying is pretty easy. The game has lots of hidden lives, and be sure you'll need all of them. This is that kind of game you have to master each level in order to beat, as you'll need to get to the last level with the most lives you can. On top of that, the game offers no continues.

Another annoying thing is that you really have to know each level by heart. The puzzles aren't completely intuitive and some of them require a really precise positioning of Bart. For instance, at the first stage you have to use a flying rocket to scare a purple bird away. Unless you're in the exact right spot, you'll miss it and will have to use another rocket. As rockets are bought with money, you'll need every coin you can get. As moving around the level is pretty hard, either you get to know the right amount by trial and error or you find yourself a walkthrough to tell you beforehand what to buy.

It took me several years of practice to beat this game, and I only did it once. I reached the last level lots of times, but finishing was never easy. The time limit is something that you only consider when you get the last level, as it is a maze really hard to memorize, (even more due the fact you get to it much less frequently than the earlier stages, for obvious reasons).

The sound effects, although good, are a bit lacking. You'll get sounds for hitting objects and jumping, but that's it. I'm pretty sure it isn't due hardware limitations, even though this game came early in Mega Drive's history. Some more digitized bits, as when Bart plays Moe a trick would be awesome. But even if that is asking too much, other simple but more frequent sounds would be cool. The music is something which could've been done better. Even if it is cool, the levels are sometimes quite long, and the amount of time you spend on them (specially because of the constant dying) makes it a bit annoying. Also, I don't get why the developers didn't use the main theme from the show in the opening screen.

The Bottom Line
Bart vs. the Space Mutants is a really good game with lots of great ideas. The gameplay is varied and it bears lots of interesting gameplay devices which add some adventure value to a good platformer. The graphics are really good, even it being an early Mega Drive release. It could be a bit more polished by the inclusion of better sound effects and tighter controls. I for one would love to see a fan-made remake of it, with its minor flaws addressed and the difficulty level lowered a bit.

Genesis · by chirinea (47064) · 2009

A Devilish platformer that really shines through Nostalgia goggles.

The Good
Bart vs. the Space Mutants is a platform game originally made by the New Jersey based studio Imagineering Inc, for multiple platforms. It was produced and published on the NES by Acclaim, that secured the IP even before the first episode ever aired (when it was just a segment at the Tracey Ullman show), in fact this was the franchise first video game... Acclaim just had an eye for talent and licenses that could potentially be successful. The Box Art is probably one of the best in the NES library, credited to Matt Groening (the creator of the Simspons), colorful, not at all generic and perfectly summarize and represents the game. In fact, Matt Groening and James L. Brooks (Producer of the TV show) were involved with the early concept and wanted a Simpsons "whole" family game. So Imagineering designed the first level, the streets of Springfield, with that mindset of being a Bart Level (with his spray paint graffiti personality); the Shopping Mall for Marge (looking to buy a hat for her hair), the amusement park for Maggie (longing for a balloon), the museum for Lisa of course and the last level, the nuclear power plant for Homer (forgetting the way around his workplace). But Acclaim demanded a Bart-centered game, so they had to abandon all these ideas and just change them for pure platforming with Bart. The rest of the family got relegated to NPC helper roles. That's the reason behind the "silly" goals the game has (though personally I never understood this complaint: you collect hats because... that's what you did in games back in those days) Also, from the original concept they had just 3 months to show a fully working prototype. Finally all the depiction of characters and music had also to be approved by FOX, and by the way, devs didn't have access to previews, so they just watched the show as it aired and added some gags and references on the go; Nintendo also demanded to make the jump feel like Mario, but they couldn't without completely redesigning the game... so they just made Bart jump a little higher and hope to get with that the "seal of approval" (it worked!). So you can tell there was a lot of roughness to the development cycle, and its a miracle that end up working so well...

The Bad
Still the game was very hard, completely unfair, particularly on the middle levels, where the puzzle element almost disappear and the very slippery platforming becomes more and more present with some frustrating moments of thumb hurting controls. These are weird by the way, jump and run are both the same button, A, and that's just the beginning of it, you jump higher and longer with A + B, but B also shoots and frequently the ammo is limited and hard to find... The controls really takes some time and discipline to master. You have few hits (2) , and a very short time limit, but at least a lot of extra lives that you can pick; add to this that boss fights are quite difficult and even confusing at times... and you'd probably never got to see the ending: navigating the gigantic maze of the Nuclear Power Plant.

The Bottom Line
In any case the first level is nothing short but genius. As a result of a conscious decision of trying to make it feel different to a Mario game, ends up hitting the perfect balance between platforming, action, puzzles, secrets and gags. The middle levels are still good, but never reach quite the same heights, and the difficulty in platforming really spikes by then. The graphics as a whole are beautiful, colorful and detailed, you can recognize a lot of characters from the show, and they're on their appropriate roles doing the kind of stuff they did in those first couple of seasons. And The Simpsons theme little tune is fantastic though probably overused with just another couple of original tunes, but the sound FX is great with iconic hit and jump sounds and there's some very impressive early 8-bit digitalization of Bart's voice.

It was a very successful game for Acclaim and spawned two sequels for the NES made also by Imagineering: Bart vs the World (1991), and Bartman meets Radioactive Man (1992) Acclaim hold the rights for NES publishing, but on the PC side it was delivered by OCEAN, and these Amiga and C64, MS-DOS ports they all feel and look slightly worse, clunky and kind of depressing. It even got a remake made by another studio Arc Developments for the Genesis, with ports to the Master System and the Game Gear. To be honest, this control better than the original, though the changes on graphics sound and music, even with 16-bit capabilities, were for the worse: it has more colors and better animations but uglier designs, very generic and not at all Simpsons like.

The original had fails; it is unfairly difficult, it controls poorly, but overall succeeds in being fun, and memorable and to actually make us feel inside The Simpsons universe like no other game from that era (or even from the next two gens). It has a classic, unique NES vibe that is very difficult to describe, and, to me, remains an iconic game from that time period.

NES · by pelida77 (36) · 2023

Eat My Shorts, Dude

The Good
The Simpsons is one of the longest running television shows in the history of television. If you were growing up during the early 1990s you probably caught the Simpsons bug and, to their credit, the folks at Acclaim clearly had some good intentions in bringing the PG13 animated world to the G-rated NES world.

The Bad
It is a side-scrolling action game with little action involved because you simply do not attack anything in a level other then space aliens hiding in humans or the various bosses. You can collect some cool items and perform a few rebellious acts, but they are all designed to collect enough objects (i.e. hats) in a level to meet the boss.

Most of the time, success in each level involves making precise jumps and avoiding space aliens and other oddities like shoes. Bosses are defeated by jumping on them, in the precise place, or figuring out how to collect enough letters to spell a family members name, who provide some help with the boss.

Bart can only withstand two direct hits before he loses a life and there are no continues or passwords. Your health is only restored when you complete a level and you can only earn nine extra lives. The game comes off as being boring and unreasonable difficult.

The Bottom Line
The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants attempts to capture the look of the tv series, with some success. However, Bart is a bit wimpy in the game and their is something a bit odd about being able to collect rockets and cherry bombs, but not actually use them for anything other then to collect something like hats.

In contrast, the arcade Simpsons game is not especially creative in the game play department but it was alot more fun to play then this game.

NES · by ETJB (428) · 2010

Eat My Cartridge, Man!

The Good
The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants for the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive for PAL gamers) is noticeably improved from the original NES Nintendo edition.

Here, the Simpson's characters and the beloved town of Springfield look much closer to the television series.

The famous musical score also sounds much better on the Genesis, in comparison to the original Nintendo edition.

The Bad
Once you get beyond the nice visual and audio improvements, many of the faults with the Nintendo edition have been left intact on the Genesis.

Young Bart can still only take two direct hits before he loses a life and his health is only restored after completing a level. You will need to collect the maximum number of extra lives if you plan on beating this game, without using the Galoob Game Genie device.

Each level requires Bart to accomplish two main tasks -- within a fairly limited amount of time. First, certain objects in each level must be stolen or modified; i.e. balloons, hats, shoes or purple objects so as to prevent them from being used by the evil space aliens.

Originally, prior to the Internet becoming mainstream, it was not always clear what items you needed to collect or where they were in each level.

Even if you knew what type of item needed to be "obtained", you had to content with an fast moving timer and, again, your inability to survive more then two direct hits.

Secondly, it is VERY difficult -- if not impossible -- to defeat the boss at the end of each level, unless you have persuaded a Simpsons family member to help you out.

How do you do what, you may be asking? Well, it is another tedious pain in the you-know-what.

Some of the Springfield residents wandering around the levels are really space aliens. If you carefully, jump on these residents heads then they will drop an icon that spells one letter in a family member's name.

If, you get enough of the icons to spell out a character's name, then they will be on hand to give you some much needed assistance when battling a boss.

On paper this probably sounded like a fun idea. Just like the idea of collecting hats in a indoor shopping mall, may have sounded like a really, really, really, really fun concept for a Simpsons video game....on paper.

Yet, most of the time these objectives are tedious and, because of the cruel timer and the fragile (and rather passive) nature of your character, frustratingly difficult.

True, Bart does get to make a prank call early on in the game and, yes, he can collect various prankster-type items.

However, his character is still amazingly passive because most of these "offensive" and cool items are not used against the army of space aliens plotting to take over the world.

These cool items are used primarily to help you change an object's color or help you collect shoes or hats. What teenager wouldn't love the opportunity to collect cool, juvenile-type items so that you can....collect hats and shoes.

Wait, I have changed my mind. Their is no way such an idea could have looked remotely cool on paper, unless it was written by the Springfield Principal or Mr. Burns.

Last, but not least, it should be noted that the folks at "Flying Edge" (Cool Name....NOT!) had the habit of reversing the standard game play format for Genesis video games.

So along with the flaws found in the original Nintendo edition, this version adds in bad control mechanics. This was not just a one time flaw. Just about EVERY single Flying Edge video game I played, made this same mistake. Hmm.

The Bottom Line
The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants for the Sega Genesis looks and sounds better then the original, Nintendo edition of the game.

The game features many of the familiar characters and locations from the TV series and, on paper, the idea of young Bart stopping space aliens with bottle rockets and other such tools does sound cool.

Sadly, the flaws from the original Nintendo edition were brought over to the Genesis edition, along with some new flaws.

Diehard Simpsons fans will want to check out the game. Other gamers, even those that enjoy the TV series, will probably feel like telling the game to go "eat" its-self or something else, less polite.

Genesis · by ETJB (428) · 2014

Conversion of average platform game which has some nice ideas, but is ultimately dull.

The Good
The animated intro sequence is a welcome addition. The style is done in a thoughtful way in regards to how the show was done at the time, with good use of shadows and different lighting to generate mood and atmosphere. Titles and credits are also done nicely, with good touches from the show.

I liked the idea of being able to interact with the game world, the ability to enter shops and buy items with money that you collect. The way in which you go about this is also made simple, and uncomplicated by only using the joystick and fire button, so this aspect of the game is well implemented.

X-ray specs to see which pedestrians are mutants are an interesting inclusion, and the subsequent visual contrast when used is also effective.

Some decent voice samples, such as the famous “eat my shorts”.

The Bad
Sprites are small, and ill-defined and while various character’s are recognisable, fails to capture the Simpson's flavour quite correctly in my opinion. Animation wise, no better or worse than the NES original, but minimal nonetheless. Backdrops are too flat, and lack depth, making for a detached feeling of being in the Simpson’s universe. Definition and colours are the only real improvement, and that isn’t saying much. The isometric Simpson’s game which was in development for home micros’ that was ultimately scrapped in favour of this hastily settled on conversion, looked and sounded much more interesting than this game.

Music is a rendition of the classic theme by Danny Elfman, which sound’s okay, but should have been much better given the Amiga sound hardware. Uninspired sound effects are dodgy, and don’t improve on the original.

Basic game-play consists of guiding Bart left to right, avoiding mutants that bounce up and down on the spot in varying degrees of height and speed, and by spray painting, or by some other means of disguising objects of a specific colour, because some mutants can use things of that colour for the dastardly purpose of creating a weapon worthy of conquering the world. Play is slow and boring, and Bart’s movements are a bit too stiff, particularly jumping. Learning all the routines of the nasties is simply tedious, and some times they are arranged in such a way where you can’t get by without enduring some damage which is naff. Very unremarkable stuff, and I couldn’t find the motivation to stay with this one for any extended period of time.

The Bottom Line
My overall feeling is Bart versus the space mutants is a dull game, with strictly average audio visuals’ thanks to very little enhancement, and similarly average game-play, with little redeeming features. But don’t take my word for it, any ardent Simpson’s fan should at least go out and try it, and who knows, you might feel differently, but I don’t think this will be everyone’s cup of tea.

Amiga · by Nick Drew (397) · 2007

A good use of a lucrative license - a game worthy of attention

The Good
Arc resisted the temptation to simply do a basic platform game, and came up with an intricately designed game likely to also appeal to non-fans. Each level is significantly different in terms of what needs to be done to change, destroy or conceal the objects the aliens require, and the control system allows a wide number of commands to be executed simply.

A lot of detail from the show was incorporated, with lots of familiar characters and settings, all drawn in the show's subtle style.

The difficulty level was pitched quite well - older players would be open it for a while, while younger players (who made up the bulk of the Simpsons' fanbase in those days) wouldn't get frustrated too soon.

The Bad
One or two objects were unnaturally difficult to remove, often requiring pixel-perfect position.

The Bottom Line
A challenging and well designed platform puzzler in which you play Bart Simpson, who has to convince everyone else that Space Mutants exist and are trying to destroy the earth. Meanwhile he also has to stop them collecting the equipment they need.

Amiga · by Martin Smith (81428) · 2004

A good start for the Simpsons

The Good
Bart vs the Space Mutants is the first major Simpsons videogame licensee that I know of, and as expected with most licensed cash-ins the game was simply a clone of the most popular genre at the time with the particular licensee's characters and locations slapped on... or was it??

Well, yeah it was. But thanks to a series of interesting design choices the game remains an oddity in the world of NES-generation platform games. You see, the evil space mutants (those giant green monsters from space that have become a fixture in the series) have crafted a sinister plot to take over the earth, and good 'ol Bart Simpson is the only one who knows about it and since no one believes him, the only one able to stop the aliens. One would think since this is "one of those games" that Bart's quest involved nothing but having you jump around Springfield while hitting/avoiding the alien freaks lurking around town and collecting coins and similar standard-issue items in your eternal quest to get to the next level... Right? Wrong. The developers while still making a game that appealed to the most kid-friendly genre at the time (a fact worth mentioning considering that the Simpson's fanbase was still pretty young in those days) also managed to inject a series of somewhat deeper gameplay concepts that included collecting evidence to help gather the help of the many familiar Simpsons characters, and also by including the interesting idea of having to foil the alien's plan indirectly.

What does that mean? That you aren't going to win if you kill every baddie around as in most games of these type, what you have to do is defeat the enemy's source of power, which is misteriously related to the color purple. What this means is that you have to explore the levels in detail hunting down these purple blotches and nullify them someway. Sometimes they are obvious and a dose of your trusty spray-can will do the trick, but sometimes they require you to think a little and solve a small jumping puzzle or do some sort of small deduction work in order to find out just how to cover that purple billboard or clean that purple dog...

All in all a challenging and fun twist on a tried and true concept that doesn't boggle the young minds craving for jump-n-run action and which uses the basic control scheme used since Mario Bros to introduce such concepts as inventory and money management (used to buy new and better weapons), to form a nice cocktail between the two.

The Bad
The NES version really didn't do this game justice. Sure, the controls and design seemed fit for the system but the graphics and sounds seemed like crap to me at the time seeing as how the game featured such many large sprites and complex backgrounds that were clearly out of the NES's league. Nowadays, looking at the screenshots of the other versions it becomes quite clear just how much were all of us stuck on the NES missing... Boy just look at those Amiga graphics...

The Bottom Line
A typical platform game based on a lucrative license that nonetheless manages to avoid the usual pitfalls of these adaptations and even manages to include some clever touches that make it worth noticing in the sea of cloned platformers that was the gaming industry in those days. Worth picking up, but while the NES version is playable why neglect the eye candy you can get from any of the other, more powerful versions like the Amiga or Genesis one?

NES · by Zovni (10502) · 2004

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by chirinea, Jo ST, 10basetom, Kayburt, Martin Smith, FatherJack, piltdown_man, Terok Nor, Tim Janssen, Patrick Bregger, Hello X), SlyDante, vedder, Scaryfun, Tomas Pettersson, Alaka, Big John WV, LeftHandedMatt, Alsy, A H, lights out party, RhYnoECfnW, Wizo.