The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World
Review by Retro
"(_8(|) D'oh! Bad controls ruin a potential great"
Being a cartoon series, movie, etc., that's standing on top of the world can make millions of fans want to buy your video games, whether they're good or sucky. To say the least, I was one of the many that wanted all of the Simpsons games, because I was one of the cartoon's biggest fans. I had magazines, a ''Don't have a cow, man'' t-shirt, etc., so I wouldn't stop until I had the video games as well. Bart vs. the Space Mutants was a terrible Christmas gift; I hate that game with a burning passion, and I've kicked myself in the ass for demanding it as a gift when I could've had a much better game. Bart vs. the World has its own problems, but it's a lot better.
Bart Simpson enters an art contest and wins, even though his piece is an ugly as sin stick figure drawing of Krusty the Clown. He gets to travel away from Springfield, Illinois, where all the people are yellow-skinned. He'll have the honor of seeing the world, if he can stay alive that long. You see, Mr. Burns and Smithers have an evil plan in mind. They want to make Bart wish that he'd never entered that goofy little art contest where a drawing that has Krusty the Clown pictured as having tree branches for arms could be declared the winner.
In this 2-D, mostly side scrolling platformer-type game, Bart is pretty much against the world, or at least four of its continents. Bart's one-player, worldwide journey will take him through several huge, dangerous levels in which he'll have to stay alive long enough to find a short sign that has ''MAP'' printed on it.
Brave the hazards of a humongous ship in China as you climb its towering mast and explore the vessel while avoiding fireworks, falling bombs, and the mean Chinese population that likes to throw things at you. Then it's on to the most memorable section of the game. What is Bart Simpson mostly known for? Huh? Well, other than being a smartass. That's right. Skateboarding. How could be possibly explore China without taking a trip down those killer ramps of the Great Wall?? Flame-spitting dragons and bottomless pits are among your obstacles, before you finally make it to the end and go up against a boss that loves those Chinese fans.
Upon conquering the country that has more people in it than any other place in the world, take a break from the crowded places and travel to a barren landmark instead. How does the North Pole sound? First, it's off to a cave which features falling icicles and so much jumping from platform to platform that Mario himself would become envious. Interestingly, all the icy terrains of this stage are green. It's like an expansive maze that is more fearsome because of the game's crappy controls than for its obstacles. The second stage that makes up this chilling part of the quest is a great contrast from the dark caverns you just got past. You're now underneath the bright, open skies of the arctic jumping on floating blocks of ice in order to make them stay afloat and skim across the below freezing waters. Bart doesn't know how to swim in this game, so avoid the waters altogether. Both of these places look much too cold for Bart to be wearing his typical short-sleeved red shirt, and blue shorts. Hell, he might as well be naked! Nonetheless, more power to him, and even more power to us, the players, for being able to make it through this fun icebox that is pretty hard, due to controls that are as stiff as a Frankenstein's walk.
There are not many places in the world that are more enigmatic than Egypt. We're used to the pyramids, with all their media coverage and such, but we're not used to seeing relentless, purple flying snakes that spit fireballs! Bart is up against these, along with boulders that fall straight down from the heavens as he jumps and climbs up unbelievably tall ancient statues. Finally, the great land of Hollywood is the most mysterious of all, with its underground spider-filled maze of pots and skeletons that reside among R.I.P. blocks as they decapitate themselves and throw their heads at you. You'll need to collect more ammo than ever to make it to the end of these two upbeat sections of the planet, and especially for the final boss that never seems to die.
The things I like the most about Bart vs. the World are its great variety and unique qualities. The levels themselves are very interesting and have nice designs. From start to finish, you can collect big parachute icons for extra lives, milkshakes for energy, and good stuff like that, but try hard to gather up all the Krusty heads that you see, because they could earn you a nice prize at the end, should you beat the game. So many of those Krusty the Clown heads can also garner you some extra lives, which you'll need badly, because there are no continues, and this isn't an easy game.
I like video games that stand out as being a bit different from most others of its type, or ones that sort of stretch the boundaries, leaving you to guess at which genre the game would fit in. In Bart vs. the World, there are one or two hidden statue-like items in each major level that you should collect. To do so, you must find one of Bart's family members and then walk up to them. For instance, while having fun riding your skateboard, you see Lisa standing alone. Jump to touch her and then keep skateboarding until you see a statue that looks like Krusty; simply jump and collect it. Later on, Homer is seen staring straight ahead like a zombie. Go to him and he'll stoop down slowly and then stand up holding a valuable item for you to take. Searching for your family members and collecting these treasures never seems to disrupt your quest; it's more like taking a break from a hard day at work.
Having one thing that sets Bart vs. the World apart from almost all the other NES games is great, but when it has yet another great attribute that makes it seem truly one of a kind, that's even better. There are tons of action/platforming titles that have mini-games, but I haven't seen any that are presented quite like the ones in Bart vs. the World. At each map, not only is the entrance to the next level there to be seen, but there are also a few bonus games, or mini-games, that you can play at any time for a chance at some Krusty heads, potentially leading to extra lives. Answer a few trivia questions that all have to do with real episodes from The Simpsons; a Krusty head is placed underneath one of three igloos and then they're all shuffled around rapidly as you try to keep an eye on the right one; try to match pairs of cards that have famous faces from The Simpsons printed on them. What's unique about these bonus games is the fact that they're completely separate from the actual levels of the game, and you don't even have to play them if you don't want to.
One of the very few things I liked about Bart vs. the Space Mutants was its graphics. Bart vs. the World has great graphics as well. The title screen looks tremendously detailed, with a shot of outer space as Bart quickly skateboards around planet earth like a shooting star as The Simpsons theme plays in the background. The levels themselves are designed very well and look great. In the North Pole, you see short-looking snow capped mountains in the background that look fairly real, and the surface of the water is constantly moving and appears to have reflections from the sun all over it in a lifelike fashion. Compared to some of the backgrounds and levels, the characters seem a bit looked over. Even while running full speed (but appearing to just walk fast) or throwing cherry bombs at an enemy, Bart looks straight at you. If I were him, I would watch where I was going! Some of the enemies, such as the skeletons and gray birds, look like some time was spent on designing them. However, others, and especially the Simpsons, look all stiff, as if they're robots, zombies, or something. They should loosen up.
The original theme from The Simpsons has always been pretty catchy, and it's here in the game, fortunately. It sounds just like it does in the TV show, and most other tunes sound like they were taken from the series, which makes them immediately stand out. Add to that a few other memorable tracks, such as the hypnotizing music that plays when Bart puts on a cape and flies through the air as if he were Super Bart, and you have yourself a good soundtrack. Several of the sound effects, such as the WHACK of ridding an enemy from the screen or the sound of falling icicles hitting the ground, are nice to hear. But many, like the sound of getting hit, could've and should've been improved upon vastly.
Bart vs. the World had all the makings to be an excellent game with its great originality and variety. It is, in a way, but there is one major problem that tears it down a good bit. While certainly not impossible to get used to, it's a humongous pain to control the way Bart Simpson jumps. You'll find yourself trying to jump and land onto a small platform of sorts, but you'll come up just a bit short or overjump very often. You shoot cherry bombs with the B button, but jump with the A button and keep hold of the A button to run. That's just not the way it should be. The B button should've been used for running, and Bart shouldn't jump so stiffly into the air. If Bart himself saw how terrible that aspect of the control is, he would freak out and ride a skateboard over the cartridge until it were shredded to pieces small enough for ants to take away.
It's a shame when things have obvious potential but are almost completely ruined by one terrible downfall. That's just the way it is; some things will never change. Bart vs. the World is a great game that is marred only (but majorly) by the way Bart jumps and by the stiff-looking characters that seem somewhat uninspired. Nevertheless, I fully recommend it for patient gamers that are confident they can get used to sloppy controls and still enjoy the game.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 05/10/01, Updated 05/11/03
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