What a terrible waste.
RELEASE DATE: February 1991
For the first few years of the Simpsons’ television existence, the Konami-developed arcade title was the only good game based on the show. This meant that kids who longed to play Simpsons on a home console were stuck with crap like Virtual Bart and Bart Vs. The World, poorly made Acclaim-produced games that captured little of the show’s spirit. Bart Vs. The Space Mutants doesn’t fare better than those titles. It’s a crudely imagined puzzle-platformer hybrid, with awful controls and imperceptive direction.
The premise is explained well enough in the title: Bart has to versus some space mutants, who are slowly taking over Springfield. In each of the five levels, Bart has to accomplish a random task, like removing all of the purple objects, collecting hats, popping balloons etc. Apparently, these items will aid the Space Mutants in their quest for… Springfield domination? For one of the smartest (at the time) shows on television, the plot is beyond lazy. The path to execute your objectives is often unclear or trial-and-error based. For example, in the first level, there are several purple flowerpots on window sills. Bart is trying to extinguish the color purple with his trusty red-colored spray can. Get up on the window sills, spray the flower pots, right? One would think, but in fact, you have to spray them from a certain angle. If you don’t spray them just right, you waste your limited spray and you’re screwed. At one point, you’re supposed to spray a policeman dressed in purple, but he walks quickly across the screen, and once he’s gone, he’s gone. It doesn’t matter if you die or walk away from the area to try and make him re-appear. You have to lose all your lives and start the game completely over to make that policeman saunter towards Bart again.
The controls in Space Mutants are a train wreck. Bart is slippery, and while he does have high jumps, it’s often hard to control him in the air. Because he’s unwieldy, simple tasks like jumping up onto a windowsill becomes a Herculean effort (throw some enemies into the mix and you’ll be weeping in your beard). Shuffling through your item menu with ‘Select’ isn’t an issue, but why do you have to use the item with ‘Start’? ‘Start’ is always the ‘Pause’ button, no exceptions (to pause Space Mutants, scroll through your items until you find Pause, then hit Start – ugh).
Aside from a few fun cameos (Ms. Botz!) and some in-jokes (“This is Moe’s Tavern…”), Space Mutants offers pittance for fans of the show and even less for those who know nothing of its once-subversive humor. Instead of making an imaginative title that both Simpsons fans and gamers could enjoy, Imagineering decided to go the extra mile and produce a game despised by both groups. Eat my shorts, indeed.