THE SIMPSONS ARE THOSE YELLOW THINGS ON SKY TV. SADLY, RICHARD EDDY'S NOT TERRIBLY AU FAIT WITH THE TV SHOW - BUT (BUT! BUT!) HE'S SEEN THE VIDEO TO BART'S `DO THE BART MAN' WHICH WASN'T HALF BAD (SO THAT'LL HAVE TO DO).
Ocean's release is an adaptation of the original Simpsons game that appeared on the Nintendo from video games company Acclaim. Gameplay, at it's simplest, is a platform puzzle, with you controlling the irrepressible Bart (who the hell else?).
So, the story: Aliens are invading Springfield! Bart's discovered a bunch of slimy, gross greenies are taking over the bodies of Springfield's residents! Not only that, but the mutants are building a weapon with which they plan to take over the world! Bart's the only one who knows this and reckons he's the only one who can stop it happening!
He probably could save the planet on his own, but a bit of help from the rest of the family wouldn't go amiss. Problem is, Bart's not renowned for telling the truth and nobody believes him. Would you? Convincing them is one of the game's objectives.
LEVEL ONE'S BITS
Let's look at level one, which reveals most of the game's features. We're in Springfield town. Colourful, isn't it? Bart can walk or run left and right and leap onto ledges and other supportive objects (a lot of experimenting is needed to work out which ledges/objects Bart can stand on).
As he moves through the town the screens flick from one aother, rather than scroll. The town's crawling with mutant invaders - gribbly creatures that mince about. They're horrid, and stun Bart, knocking down his hit count, should he come into contact with them (two hits to a life, three lives). Bart's unarmed at the start, and most of the time it's best to leap out of the foul creatures' way.
Each level has a set of objectives. Number one is to 'exorcise' mutants from the bodies they've taken over. Although usually normal people and mutant people look the same, if Bart selects his x-ray specs (from the 'holding' menu), he can spot the mutants (they have wiggly things protruding from their heads).
Leaping on a mutant's head frees the person of their inhabitant. Reward is 200 points and and a Proof of Existence token. These tokens are important as they light up letters of a family members name: on level one it's Maggie - so exorcise six mutants and she comes to your assistance. Be careful not to leap on the head of a person who isn't a mutant because Bart's penalised one hit.
The second objective on each level is to achieve a set goal. This involves collecting objects, scattered around, which the mutants need to build their weapon: collect or ruin the objects and prevent the mutants completing their machine.
PURPLE MUTANT POWER
In level one the mutants are after purple objects. Bart clears Springfield of these things by spraying anything purple with red paint. Of course, there's the matter of finding a spray can and finding another when the first runs out.
Some objects' colour can't be changed by using paint, so extra thinking comes into play. Laundry can be used to hide purple objects, and buying Cherry Bombs to lob about turns flighty objects red. Buying? Oh yeah: Bart starts off with 10 coins and can obtain more by doing things or just finding them hidden away. He can buy objects to use in his quest, use coins to play extra games later on, and for every 15 collected an extra life is awarded.
Lots of extras are hidden in the game - extra life icons, invincibility tokens and more! There's even a skateboarding section which is a lot of fun! At the end of each level Bart faces a major foe - not too difficult to beat but satisfying when you do.
THE BEST OF THE REST...
All levels are packed full of interesting things to do and discover and they're all great fun to play. Let's check out the highlights, shall we? (Yes!)
Level two is the Shopping Mall, the goal to collect hats. They may just be lying around but most of the time Bart has to knock them off people's heads! To start with, this is much like level one but then there's a bit of solid platform gameplay. Precise movement and pixel-perfect jumping is necessary to leap between the moving platforms - or side-show games which involve chucking darts at target balloons to burst them.
The middle part of the level is set in a fun-house and features a devious puzzle game called Dizzy Doors - it's hellish to play until the method's mastered, and you can't continue until his completed. Then there's a tricky bit of platform action over what look like organ pipes blowing gusts of air. They also chuck up dangerous objects which stun Bart. Tricky, until you've played the game a few times! And look at the load of big, bold and colourful graphics - especially the Ferris wheel. Pretty spectacular stuff!
Level four is the Natural History museum and the goal is collecting exit signs. A dart gun, if found, is used to collect the more out-of-reach signs. All the while mutants are crawling around and, as it's night-time, some of the exhibits come to life! The place is wired up to laser alarm sensors -don't set one off!
Finally, level five, set in Homer's place of work, the Nuclear Power Plant. Here all the Simpson family help Bart as he goes, via stairs and elevators, collecting nuclear power rods from around the big building and returning them to the reactor. It's tough. Very tough!
IS BART ART?
There you have it. Ocean's big-name game of the year. The license to have. Megabucks City. The question is: is it all worth it? And the answers a hearty 'Yes!' (Hurrah!).
The Simpsons is a great romp into cartoon-land and just look at the screens - packed with colour, and the variety is great.
It plays very well, too: more or less exactly like the Nintendo original, and while it may sound pretty basic (or play pretty basic on your first few goes) it's when you start discovering things, making use of objects, finding hidden treasures that it really comes alive. And achieving an objective is satisfying because the route to completion can be pretty tough (especially some of the platform elements).
If you're a Simpsons' fan the game's incredibly appealing, the graphics all reflect Matt Groening's cartoon very well. And how much of a fan you are dictates how much you're really going to enjoy this. Non-fans can still get loads of entertainment, but some parts may be frustrating if you're not into the characters.
There's been lots of umming and ahhing over whether this is a very, very good game or a great Smash. The difference depends on whether you can relate to The Simpsons' show and its sense of humour or just think they're a bit of fun. Me? I loved the game even though I don't get to see the Simpson, so I reckon it's a nice, solid...
RICH … 90%
'So, here they are: The Simpsons and the great character of Bart in the lead role. The game's captured him well - the little sprite even blinks (neat touch). What's quite striking is that the sprites are all on the small-ish size - don't be put off: this just means that effectively, there's more screen area to play around on. It's great fun exploring all the locations and discovering all the items. Difficulty levels vary: level one's easily played through (but discovering all its secrets takes some time), level two starts getting tricky with the moving platforms and level three is a real challenge, especially the Doors puzzle game. Also quite tricky is getting the hang of the 'holding' menu from which you can pick stored items to - bit fiddly that. The Simpsons is quite a different style of Speccy game, there's something there for everyone-real family fun!'
NICK ... 91%
Bart Simpson? Isn't he one of those Teenage Neutered Turtle thingies? No? Oh well, I'm not totally up on all these cartoon so-called 'characters'. So, what's his problem then?
Well, it seems that Springfield, where Bart and his family live, has been invaded by space creatures who fancying taking over the Universe, (as space creatures do!) Their method of universe control is to collect everything that's purple. So what you, as Bart, have to do is wander around the place with a can of paint, spraying all the purple objects red (so the aliens can't collect them). It's got to be the most stupid since 'Stupid' Jack McStupid tried to eat the Houses Of Parliament for a bet in 1877.
ON ME HAT! ON ME HAT!
But enough of this banter. The game is a platformer (as you'll know if you saw the rather good Megapreview I did two issues ago) with Bart wandering around Springfield, spraying purple things and jumping on the heads of any aliens he meets. As they're disguised as humans, he needs to make sure his X-ray specs are in place (so he doesn't jump on any li'l innocent old ladies). In Level Two he's got to knock the hats off the aliens, in Level Three he has to pop their balloons with his catapult. In Level Four he's got to fire his dart gun at lots of invading exit signs and on Level Five he's got to collect all the radioactive cells inside his dad's nuclear plant. Bit tricky, eh?
Bart can run or walk left and right and can jump or bounce on certain objects. He'll need to use all these moves to get to some parts of the screens - let me tell you that the whole thing gets very difficult. Instead of just travelling to the right Bart has to go back and forth collecting all the objects he missed the first time.
Ocean have gone for the overlapping screen flip. Don't worry, I'll explain this rather worrying technical term (cos I know what it means). It means that the screen doesn't scroll, it jerks onto the next bit you see. It works really well and as the screen flips you can get some nasty surprises, like millions of aliens. (Not exactly a surprise anymore is it, James? Ed)
There are loads of objects to collect, the easiest way to do this is to jump on a few aliens' heads and collect the coins that bounce out. Then spend them on whatever you need in the shops that you pass on your journey. You can buy rockets, cherry-bombs and loads of other dangerous goodies, all of which you need at some point.
The coins are also useful because every time you collect one you get one letter of the name of another Simpson. For example, on Level One you need six coins and you get the letters M-A-G-G-I-E. Then Maggie, Bart's sister, appears and gives you a helping hand. It's a stonking idea and, boy, you can sure use that help! Later levels have Lisa, Homer and Marge turning up to help you out. And on Level Five the whole family turns out to get rid of those pesky aliens once and for all! Hurrah for the brave Simpsons!
ARCADE ACTION AS WELL?
By jingo, yes! Well, sort of. At the end of Level One there's a quick scrolling bit where Bart gets on his skateboard. He whizzes along, belting through the screens. There isn't much scenery, so the update is really quick and every now and then little dogs, aliens and other things appear on the path. You've to time your jumps so that you miss everything, as you're not really given any warning about what'll be in the way. And it's a razor-sharp reaction type thing. And it's also a lot of fun (especially when you're not expecting it. Er, except that you - 'cos I've just told you!)
ANY PUZZLEY BITS IN IT?
Well read on. Level Three has also got a different sort of game included in its fiendish levels. This is cared Dizzy Doors, and there's got nine different-coloured doors which you've got to open in the right order so that they're all the same colour. Yes, yes, I know it's complicated, but think of it like one of those slidey puzzles you get at Christmas (only a heck of a lot more fun) and you're on the right lines.
The idea of putting different sub-games into The Simpsons is pretty inspired, and makes the game even more fun. As you can tell, I'm really into this game. As far as I can see, it's got everything it should have. It's fast, it's easy in places and dead wicked in others and it's got a massive amount of variety. What more could you want? (How about an EMF soundtrack? Ed) The graphics are very cartoony, as you'd expect and there's pots of colour. Bart himself is actually see-through, so you can see him when he walks in front of yellow things. It's great making him walk past green things 'cos he looks like he's about to throw up! And, if you look at them closely, you can see him blink and do other cartoon-type things. Nice touch that.
So. I'm putting on my special Megagame hat, tying my Megagame laces and giving The Simpsons a - wait for it - Megagame. You see it's just so big, so varied and such a larf that I'd be a fool if I didn't. So there. Now go and buy a satellite dish so you can watch it on TV as well (Alternatively, just turn to page 35 and try and win one. Ed) Cowabungea, pizza-dudes! (As they say in The Simpsons, I believe.)
The Space Mutants have decided to take over the Earth by making a super-weapon, and it's Bart Simpson's job to stop them. Oh, was that the plot? Sorry. I nearly missed it.
Anyway, the aliens need various objects to build their machine - such as purple objects, hats and balloons. The only time it even gets remotely sensible is when they start using nuclear power rods. The only way that Bart can see the Space Mutants that have infested the planet is using some X-ray specs (which make the screen a natty white-on-black affair) - They Live', anybody?
Unfortunately, the game plays none too well. Ocean (and Acclaim) seem to have missed the mark with this one. It's just too dam hard to control Bart! He moves quite fluidly across the screen until you start jumping around, and then you realise that he moves just too fluidly. It's nearly impossible to jump over the bad guys with any degree of accuracy, so your three lives (which spookily actually appear to be six) don't last very long. Some of the puzzles are a bit too hard as well - namely because the instructions don't tell you really important things like when you set off a rocket, you have to run into it to launch it. The control method is way too hard as well, using various combinations of joystick moves, ignoring the well-stocked keyboard at a stroke. Why are we forced to put up with this? (Spook fact: ignore the instructions when they say 'joystick only' - it's perfectly feasible to use keys! Just press SPACE on the main screen and there you go.)
So, not a very well put together game at all. Looks nice but is saddled with fiddly, repetitive gameplay. Ho hum.
If you've never seen The Simpsons T.V. show then you're really missing something (probably a Sky T.V. satellite dish).
Well it's almost out of this world as it's quite unlike any other cartoon you've ever seen (in an indescribable sort of way). But don't worry friends, the faithful will be Bartless no longer as he's now out on Speccy and getting set to save those of us without satellite dishes...
Bart's home town, Springfield, has been invaded by space mutants. They've taken over the bodies of good citizens and now plan to build an awesome weapon to take over the planet. No-one except our hero knows that these beasts are among us as the only way their true form can be detected is through the lenses of Bart's trendy, X-ray specs.
Spread over five platform levels are the objects that the "visitors" require for their diabolical scheme. Bart's task is to locate these aliens objects first and, in level one, respray their purple components with his can of red paint.
Although the objects he needs change to hats in the second level and balloons in the third etc, the song remains the same: collect the requisite paraphernalia on each level and avoid the nasties.
Some of the pieces needed are out of Bart's grubby little paw's reach and thus a puzzle element is introduced. The game is littered with extra features including teleportation icons and secret levels. There are numerous shops where you can buy the tools needed to solve the various puzzles but I'm not going to give away any real secrets here.
Springfield's a dangerous place to live as it's infested with obstacles. Dancing ballet shoes, moonwalking trainers and disembodied heads in paper bags roam freely throughout all the levels. It's the wide variety and versatility of the invading aliens that keeps you interested as you never know what alien will be coming around the corner next.
Attention to detail is first rate and this Spectrum version when compared to other formats is almost identical - Bart even turns and blinks at you when he's not moving. Bart's "see through" appearance, so common in Spectrum games, is a little annoying, but control of the "egg-tray" head is brilliant as he walks, leaps and runs with ease and there's none of that silly control delay seen elsewhere in the Speccy world.
There's not enough room here to dissect this game but rest assured you'll get months of pleasure out of it. An unusual original platform game that begins in Springfield and finishes at the local Nuclear Power Plant where dad works. (Hey this is Bart world!) So look out dudes, it seems that Bartholomew J. is here to stay!
Price: £10.99 Tape, N/A Disk
Reviewer: Steve Keen
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