The Other Side of Springfield
Follow 1992-2001
various platforms

The Other Side of Springfield

Good: These games made a lot of money
Bad: Unfortunately it was all at the gamer's expense.
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Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)

It’s hard to find a more endearing pop culture symbol of the 1990’s than the Simpsons. Starting in 1989 as a spinoff of a sketch from the Tracy Ullman Show, the Simpsons went on to single handedly spearhead the idea of animation geared towards adults. Think about it, without the Simpsons, there would have been no Beavis & Butthead, no King of the Hill, no South Park, and yes, no Family Guy. If not for the Simpsons, the term “Adult Swim” would have retained its original meaning, being a term for public swimming pools telling kids it was time to get out of the pool. Yes, Springfield’s number one four fingered family ended up at the forefront of television, merchandising, and even video games, throughout the 1990’s and beyond. It was hard to not notice them, especially after the show became syndicated, being on television each and every night, like a fucked up version of the Flintstones, only funny. True, the show is now in decline, having ran out of original and innovative plot ideas years ago, the fact of the matter is they will always be a part of our collective consciousness.

simpsons familyI originally wanted to do a write-up of bad Simpsons games, but once I sat down to make my notes, I realized that almost ALL of the Simpsons games were, in fact, terrible. At the very beginning, now-defunct developer Acclaim Interactive obtained the Simpsons license, which at the time was very lucrative and ripe for harvesting the dollar bills of gamers and their parents everywhere. And similar to the Army Men video game series, we were subjected to one horrid release after another. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some great Simpsons gaming memories from growing up, but fond memories do not equate great games. We didn’t really know any better when we first played Bart vs. the Space Mutants on our NES and Genesis systems back in 1991; hell, back then we played whatever we could get our hands on and were happy for it. But as we look back over the entire Simpsons game library in the current day and age, we see unimaginative gameplay, bad graphics, broken controls, and unnecessary difficulty in just about all of them. Its amazing how Acclaim could accomplish such a dubious place in gaming history, especially when you consider how much profit they drew from each release that could have gone towards better game development. In the interest of your valuable time, which I thank you for, I decided to put together a list of ‘under the radar’ Simpsons games that you may find interesting, rather than cole slaw every single bad Simpsons game that has been released since 1991.

Bartman Meets Radioactive Man (1992, Acclaim)

bestbartmanNotice how the title reads, ‘Bartman Meets Radioactive Man,’ rather than ‘versus.’ Why Acclaim strayed from the ‘versus’ theme previously seen in the first two Simpsons games is unclear; perhaps they were seeking to paint Bart Simpson in a less-than-antagonistic light. The game saw limited release, appearing on only the NES and the Sega Game Gear. The plot involved Bart reading a Radioactive man comic book one day, and witnessing Radioactive Man’s sidekick Fallout Boy leap out of the comic book to tell Bart that Radioactive Man had been kidnapped, and enlisting Bart’s help in rescuing his compatriot. One thing I never understood is, with the rich cast of characters featured on the show, that Acclaim chose to center a story on a fictional character within a fictional TV show. Hell, I think we would have had more fun with a game centered on Bumblebee Man, or Disco Stu. Anyways, the game pretty much plays the same as Bart vs. the World, with even the wonky controls making a return. The graphics were a slight improvement, however, when you couple the fact that this game is more of the same that we had seen before with the fact that the game only has 4 levels, it was hard to argue for another full retail purchase price at the time.

better bartman2My experience with this game was a short one. I swear to God, I’m not trying to sound like a hipster when I say this, but I was one of those kids who caught the Simpsons right from the beginning, so this ended up being like the 3rd or 4th Simpsons game I had played at that point in time. One Friday after soccer practice when I was a freshmen in high school, Mom took me to Blockbuster Video to pick up a game to rent for the weekend, and this was what I picked. We stopped by Hardee’s on the way home, and they had this limited-time-only double cheeseburger that was served on a sub-roll style bun, and now that I think about it, it may well have been a triple cheeseburger. It’s hard to remember. What I do remember is getting home and playing this abomination and eating that delicious burger at the same time. I was not the least bit impressed with this game, but it was what I had to do for the weekend, and that was fine. The Simpsons formula that had worked for the first two releases had grown stale by this time. However, fourteen year old Landen wasn’t difficult to please at that point in his life, and that amazing cheeseburger from Hardee’s more than made up for the lackluster video game. But I’ll put it to you like this: of the two things that stand out in my mind from that Friday night, I still think about that weirdly awesome double cheeseburger to this day.

Krusty’s Fun House (1992, Acclaim)

krustysFH snesReleased on the NES and Sega Game Gear in 1992, followed shortly thereafter by the SNES and Sega Genesis version, Krusty’s Fun House is hands-down the most unique Simpsons game ever made. (It was titled “Krusty’s Super Fun House on the 16-bit systems) That’s because the game was originally developed by a British software company as a game called “Rat Trap,” who shrewdly sold the game to Acclaim, who promptly slapped the Simpson’s license all over it in order to move copies. Also of note is that Acclaim partnered up with Virgin Games for this release. These factors probably have a lot to do with the fact that this wasn’t a bad game at all. In fact, I would go as far to consider this the most original Simpsons game ever. So, Springfield TV personality Krusty the Clown has this funhouse that has been infested with mice (or rats, if you prefer.) Krusty needs to get rid of them, so he can make money off of his new attraction. You play as Krusty, who must navigate the puzzle-themed levels, creating a clear path for the mice to follow to a humorous looking extermination device, manned by different Simpsons characters. This game kind of resembles the Lemmings games, which were also popular at the time. This game was a welcome break from the run of the mill Simpsons platformers that we had come to know, and always stood out in my mind. The game’s pace always remained the same, but there were some truly challenging puzzles that you had to contend with in order to beat the game.

krustysFHsegaMy cousin Stephen had this game, and the fact that we lived within 3 miles of each other growing up meant that I got to play this game a lot as well. Whenever my Mom went to visit with my Aunt, my brothers and I ended up hanging out in his room, playing all the games he had that we didn’t. If I remember correctly, he wasn’t crazy about the game, and was always wanting to play something different, which we always did. But despite that, I did get a lot of enjoyment out of my irregular twenty minute intervals of playing this game to the point which I went out and bought my own copy, once I got to college. I really don’t understand why Acclaim insisted on releasing this game along with the Radioactive man game in the same year; but looking back now, especially understanding economics as I do now, it’s clear that the franchise was rapidly approaching market saturation at this point in time.

The Itchy & Scratchy Game (1993, Acclaim)

ISbothofemAs I write this, I’m starting to notice a recurring theme here-all of the games we’ve discussed so far center around supporting characters of the Simpson’s television show. Its funny when you think about it, if you remember, when the show first began, it was centered primarily around Bart. After he wore thin on everyone, the show’s plots began to revolve around Homer and the rest of the family. And as the show grew even older, there were so many well-established characters, as well as supporting characters, it took years for the show to get old and repetitive. Anyways, in 1993 Acclaim released yet ANOTHER Simpsons game. This time, the leading characters were Itchy & Scratchy, the hilariously violent cat and mouse duo from Bart and Lisa’s favorite cartoon series. Occasionally, on the show, we’d be treated to about 30 seconds or so of these two violently disemboweling one another in ways that hadn’t even been considered in popular art at the time. Somebody at Acclaim found time to engineer the concept of a game revolving around an irregular 30 second gag from a TV show, and turn it into a really bad game. I mean, weren’t they already busy working on like a dozen other poorly executed Simpsons games at the time? I seriously doubt they were even surprised by all the negative reviews this game was slammed with, in the weeks following it’s release.

ISbabyScratchI’m not even going to act like I’ve ever even played this game. I do remember seeing an article on it in Nintendo Power when it was released, and even they had a hard time painting a positive picture about this stinkbomb of a game. That’s pretty bad, when you consider that the entire magazine served in a dual role as an advertisement as well as a periodical. This game is universally hated by just about anyone unfortunate enough to have played it. The game is said to have suffered from piss-poor controls, a sparse amount of powerups and weapons, extremely repetitive gameplay, and hair-rippingly poor collision detection. The complaints went on and on. What was Acclaim thinking? Its like they were purposefully making an effort to run the series into the ground at record speed. One positive thing is that this game only saw release on the 16-bit systems and the Sega Game Gear, thus sparing those who still bought NES games the bad experience of wasting money. Seriously, Nintendo didn’t even let this thing make it to the Game Boy, and that says a lot, when you look at the half-dozen craptastic Simpsons games that were released on that handheld system. I’m surprised Acclaim didn’t follow this up with a game centered around Marge’s sisters, Patty & Selma.

Simpsons Wrestling (2001, Activision)

wrestling krusty vs barneyI’m not entirely sure at which point Acclaim lost the Simpsons license, and cannot verify if it was the end result of an intervention by other developers, like what we see with alcohol abusers and drug addicts with concerned families. But it happened, and Activision apparently set out to show the world that they too, were capable of releasing shitty Simpsons games in 2001. The sad thing is, this was actually a really cool concept that I had been reading about in Game Informer magazine for months prior to its release. A Simpsons themed wrestling game, for the Playstation One, hot damn. Keep in mind, that the WCW/WWF Monday Night Wars were winding down at this time, and wrestling was extremely popular. The Simpsons television show had hundreds of characters at this point in time, so why not capitalize on the popularity of both wrestling and the Simpsons? What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything, I’m afraid. This game is quite possibly one of the worst videogames of all time, and certainly is the worst Simpsons game ever.

Hosted at Universal Videogame List www.uvlist.netThis game was ugly. Very ugly. The graphics, even by Playstation One standards, were horrific and two dimensional. This is really bad when you take note of the fact that it was presented in an isometric, quasi-3D format. The animations were choppy, the action, if you could call it that was extremely repetitive. I actually got burned by this one, by purchasing it the day it was released. I got it home, and my heart sank. This game had very little to do with wrestling, other than the fact that it took place in a wrestling ring. You didn’t even have to execute moves or combos, you just mashed the hell out of buttons until the other guy dropped. Sure, the character selection was extensive and the music and jokes were alright, but this game really fell flat on its face, due to that lack of proper execution we’ve been talking about today. As it turned out, this was the last Simpsons game I ever even played. Fortunately, I was at least able to return this game to Funcoland the next day for roughly 30% of what I paid for it via store credit. From then on, I swore ‘never again’ to Simpsons games, and haven’t purchased another one to this very day.

Drunk_and_armed_on_the_rollercoasterThe question I’d like to pose at this point is, had any of these or the other Simpsons games actually been good games, would they be regarded as classics, alongside the likes of Zelda or Resident Evil games? Or is the dated appearance of the franchise incapable of separating itself from its place in time? Ultimately, these games did exactly what they were supposed to do, just like any other video game ever made, and that was to make money. I don’t know if that should make me sad, or feel enlightened. Maybe a little of both.

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The Other Side of Springfield, 9.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

I am a full time Firefighter/EMT living in the United States. In my spare time, I split my time between modern games on my Xbox and the rich universe of the systems we all grew up with.

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