Tag Archives: acclaim

FGC #485 The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World

That's Bart!What’s so wrong with Monty Burns?

Today’s game is The Simpsons: Bart Vs. the World. It’s the direct sequel to The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants, and it’s another Acclaim title that puts the “crap” in “craptacular”. This go-around, Bart has dropped all the adventure game-lite trappings of the previous title, and all the action in Vs. the World is wholly based on platforming challenges and boss fights. There are a few puzzles littered here and there, but it’s much more “find this doodad” and not “use spray paint on trashcan” like in Vs. the Space Mutants. As a result, Vs. the World feels somehow… dumber than its predecessor. And, what’s worse, for the reemphasis on platforming and action set pieces (you skateboard down the Great Wall of China!), nobody thought to improve the atrocious controls of Vs. The Space Mutants, so those “platforming challenges” are very likely to be the death of your favorite Simpsons character (Bart, to be clear, not Disco Stu). Basically, the one unique part of Vs. the Space Mutants got dropped, and all we’re left with is that inscrutable “hold jump to run” nonsense.

But Bart vs. the World does have one advantage over Bart vs. the Space Mutants: It’s actually a Simpsons game. Like Fester before him, Vs. the Space Mutants forces Bart to battle aliens who presumably want to abduct some cows, man. And they’re not even Kang & Kodos! They’re just generic aliens (occasionally mutating forms through the different ports). Meanwhile, Bart vs. the World might see Bart up against the world, but it’s a world seemingly controlled by Homer Simpson’s boss, C. Montgomery Burns. This strangely convoluted plot involves Bart entering a drawing contest on The Krusty the Clown Show, winning thanks to Burns’ meddling, and then being sent on a trip around the world wherein Burns can destroy the “despised” Simpsons family. Die in darkness!This, naturally, raises a lot of questions, as… what is the goal here? Burns has to kill one of his employees’ children internationally, or it doesn’t count? Oh, wait, the last stop on the trip is Hollywood, so that doesn’t even work. Maybe Burns’ various assassins don’t want to go anywhere near the Springfield Tire Fire, so they’re scattered about the globe. Or maybe Burns just doesn’t want to spring for airfare for any killers, and shipping one Simpson family around is cheaper. Whatever the case, Bart is on an international scavenger hunt for Krusty brand merchandise, and Burns is trying to kill him all the while.

Which raises the question: if you had to pull a villain out of The Simpsons, why Burns?

At this point in the franchise, you can’t blame the source material. This videogame was released in 1991, and only had a solid two seasons of The Simpsons to draw from. And, in that batch of episodes, there were only a handful where Burns was the antagonist. In Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, Burns is a “villain”, but only because he won’t grant Homer and other “unskilled workers” a Christmas Bonus. From there, we’ve got Homer’s Odyssey, where Homer is fired for nearly causing a nuclear meltdown… which, let’s be honest, sounds like a pretty reasonable reason for termination. And that’s about it for Burns being a “villain” in Season 1. Babysitters are more of a threat!

Profits?Season 2 of The Simpsons ramps up Burns to full-blown antagonism levels, but we’re still nowhere near murderous. Three Eyes in Every Fish sees Burns running for governor after his plant poisons the local water supply, but, big deal, that’s been the Republican MO for the last few decades. Then Bart Gets Hit by a Car, but that was an accident, and more of a parable about not overreaching when trying to shake down the filthy rich. Brush With Greatness is the story of how Burns has an incredibly nonthreatening penis, and the Season 2 finale (which likely wasn’t even available when Bart vs. the World was being produced) is Blood Feud, wherein Homer goes nuts over Burns not being generous after receiving a blood transfusion. Again, we’re in a situation where Homer expects more than his boss has to give, and the central conflict is that Burns is appreciative, but not appreciative enough.

Yet Bart vs. the World portrays Burns as wholly homicidal. And if we’re going to include The Simpsons Arcade Game (released the same year), we’ve got a Burns that kidnaps babies and launches nuclear bombs. That’s a significant escalation from “sent a pleasant thank you note”!

So what happened here? Why, in only The Simpsons’ second year, did videogames promote Burns from “bad boss” to “genocidal madman”?

Well, it probably speaks to videogame producers identifying what The Simpsons was initially about.

After 20 some seasons and over 600 episodes, it’s hard to remember that The Simpsons started during the 80s/90s wave of blue-collar style sitcoms. After years of high concept situation comedies like “what if people were trapped on a desert island”, “what if they’re creepy and they’re kooky”, or even “what if a woman had a decent job”, The Simpsons rode in on a wave of programs like Roseanne or Married… With Children wherein the protagonists faced very real problems. No more did people worry about magical girl wives or whether they were secretly the dream of Bob Newhart; this new wave of sitcoms derived humor from upsetting real world situations, What is even happening here?like teenage pregnancy, hiding from your landlord, or gradually falling out of favor with your spouse. And the biggest, realest problem of all? Money! The world is a cold, harsh place, and your family is never going to love you if you can’t bring home a host of Christmas presents. There are jokes along the way, but, once upon a time, every “comedy” out there was expounding the horrors of our collective everyday drudgery.

And, while The Simpsons did lend itself to whimsy more often than not in those early seasons (Bart winds up making wine on another continent inside of ten episodes), it was still a very grounded, “real” sitcom. …Granted, this might just be because TV Guide was somehow impressed on a weekly basis that Homer didn’t ride a mastodon to work, so the writers deliberately, defiantly veered into “real world” territory just to sunder expectations… But this is still a franchise that officially started with a treatise on commercialism and a family trying to keep it together in the face of financial hardships. And the cause of that financial hardship? It’s Burns. The man who fires Homer a few episodes later? Burns. The old man responsible for injuring a young boy and then never paying for it? Burns. And is showing kindness to a rich white man financially rewarded? No, because you simply can’t win in a world where you’ve been constrained to the lowest rung of the ladder.

Of course Burns is the enemy of the Simpsons. Burns is the enemy of every working-class family.

Burns is money incarnate. Burns has all the power not only in Springfield (like, literally all the power), but he also decides whether Homer lives or dies. Want to keep earning a salary? Have a good Christmas? Lisa needs braces? Well, that dental plan is 100% controlled by one man. Burns doesn’t have to be villainous, he simply is villainous because of his position. He’s the king of the castle, and the Simpson family has to pay him tribute to so much as set up a tent in the courtyard. Burns is, one way or another, the source of all the woes afflicting the Simpsons.

Winner!So it’s only natural that transposing that character to other situations would mean he would have to adjust to the medium du jour. When Mr. Burns had to be the antagonist of a NES title, he became murderous and gained an army of generally identical/vaguely racist “family members”. When he had to headline a Konami beat ‘em up, he gained a super suit and explosive weaponry. When The Simpsons itself veered away from “reality” and more into “a cartoon”, Mr. Burns became an appropriately cartoonish supervillain with a penchant for petty antics. Mr. Burns was always the villain, just what is “the villain” had to change between mediums and epochs.

Except Mr. Burns himself never changed. In a 1989 sitcom, he was a rich, old, white (yellow) man. In a 1991 videogame, he was a rich, old, white man. In 2020, he is a rich, old, white man. Through thirty years, right there from his first appearance, he’s been a villain. His actions may have varied across the years, but he’s also been the same, easily identified archetype. He’s a rich, old, white man, and that makes him the natural enemy of the average, middle class family.

Mr. Burns was always going to be the villain. Mr. Burns has always been the villain. And everyone has been able to identify that right from the start.

FGC #485 The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, but also the Game Gear and Master System a couple of years later. I absolutely do not want to see what this game looks like on the Game Gear.
  • Number of players: Just a Bart, man.
  • Thanks, momCollect-a-thon: This is another weird, early game featuring collectibles that can alter the course of the game. Every level is hiding a hidden Krusty doodad, and, if you collect them all, you get to play one extra level that is atrocious. It’s supposed to be a Duck Amuck-esque adventure for Bart in an “animated” world… but it’s mostly just a half-baked stage with terrible hit detection… which, granted, is basically the same as the rest of the game. But! If you clear it, you get a secret bonus ending where you can hit Mr. Burns with a pie. Cowabunga!
  • Favorite Continent: I guess it’s the final world, Hollywood, as it uses the tinsel town trappings to throw in a whole Halloween level. There’s a skeleton! It’s also, oddly enough, exactly the same excuse for a “horror level” that we saw in Gremlins 2. Was there some Acclaim/Sunsoft overlap?
  • It’s Trivia Time: There are various minigames available between levels. The best is Simpsons Trivia, which offers a number of questions regarding esoteric Simpsons knowledge. That makes fans happy! A sliding block puzzle that reminds good little Goggle Bobs of Beyond the Beyond is… less fun.
  • Say something nice: The “Bartman” powerup was pretty fun in the ol’ days before flight was shoehorned into every platforming game. It may have only lasted for something like seven seconds, but it’s always nice to have movement unfettered by the laws of gravity.
  • That's Moe!Did you know? Entertainment Weekly designated this title as a “travel-action game”. I would like to see more of this previously unknown genre.
  • Would I play again: No thank you. Is The Simpsons Arcade Game available? I think that would be my first choice over this mediocre platformer.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Mario Land 2 for the Nintendo Gameboy! Everybody do the Mario! Or the Wario! Please look forward to it!

Homie, no!

FGC #436 The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

SIMPSONS DID ITWhy do I keep this website going? Why write about videogames? Because even the most innocuous of videogames contain magnitudes.

Today’s title is The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare, a game I rented and played more times than Ralph Wiggum could ever hope to count. I didn’t actually own the cartridge until very late in the SNES’s lifespan (a glorious time of liquidations and sales), but I rented it repeatedly because A. I loved The Simpsons, and B. I couldn’t hope to beat it. The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare is a surprisingly difficult game, and, given my childhood OCD habits, I couldn’t exist as a human being knowing I had not completed such a challenge. If I could conquer Bart vs. The Space Mutants, I could certainly handle Indiana Bart.

And, while I did eventually win the day (very eventually), it took a wee Goggle Bob many a rental to finally see Bart earn an A+. Why? Well, mostly because The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare is kind of a mess of seven different games sewn together. We’ve got Bart tomb raiding, and it’s primarily a puzzle situation with some very unusual offensive controls. We’ve got Bart vs. Itchy and Scratchy, an action game with extremely deadly traps and tricks. Bart-Man flying through the skies is, conversely, a very forgiving shoot ‘em up. Bart in his own bloodstream playing Dig-Dug with viruses and collecting nuclear cowboys defies any basic kind of genre or logic. And Big Bartzilla plays pretty close to a rhythm-challenged portion of Rhythm Heaven, while Lil’ Bartzilla is a… climbing simulator? Regardless, neither version of Bartzilla is just straight up Rampage, and that’s a shame. All of this is tied together by a “hub world” that is about CRUSH!80% action, 20% adventure. You have to think the tiniest bit! As you can see, that’s a lot of different games all rolled into one, and, while mastering one or two might be doable, it takes a lot of practice (and heartbreak) to overcome the entirety of Bart’s Nightmare. I did it when I was a kid. I was proud of it when I was a kid.

Playing Bart’s Nightmare as an adult, though? Now I can safely say that Bart’s Nightmare sucks.

Look, there’s a lot of game here. There are a lot of interesting ideas. But practically every one of these ideas is 100% half-baked. Bart dodging grenades in his own bloodstream sounds like a fever dream to begin with, but the actual mechanics of that level are never satisfying. There are two enemies: one can only ever bother you, while the other employs a persistent instant death attack. And the only way to immediately tell the difference is to check out their hats. And that gets a little… insane when they start swarming the screen. And the objective of that level is to grab a randomly spawning mascot (that had appeared in a whole four episodes at this point… he’s at six now), and your success is usually determined by whether or not he/it happened to appear anywhere near your poor, difficult to control Bart. And that’s just one of the games! I could spend literally the entire rest of this article recounting the Weeeeemany, many issues in practically every segment of this title. Do you want to hear about how difficult it is to master the timing for defeating Homer Kong/King Homer? Because I could tell you stories…

And, looking at Bart’s Nightmare as an enlightened, completely objective adult (that is also handsome and super smrt), I can see exactly what went wrong: it’s not good enough. Like… uh… objectively! Bart’s Nightmare has a lot of interesting ideas, but no single portion of the game is fully-realized. It’s a collection of mini-games that do not add up to one single good game because each individual piece needs a few more hours (days… months?) of playtesting and tweaking. There’s a skeleton of an excellent game here, but the flesh is weak and pasty. A little more time, and Bart’s Nightmare could have been one of the greats of the 16-bit era.

And it also would have been nice if Bart’s Nightmare didn’t force someone to retire from making videogames entirely.

Let’s talk about Bill Williams. Bill Williams was born in 1960, and was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis early in life. He learned at the age of 12 that he was unlikely to live past 13. He died at 38 (okay, technically 37, but it was a day before his birthday, so we’re going to call that close enough). Bill Williams was one of the earliest videogame designers, apparently getting into the field in the early 80’s because he saw the Atari and Amiga as the future (back when systems were simply “the future” and not just “the future of gaming”). And Williams wound up responsible for some seriously weird titles of the time. Salmon Run, his first title, was basically Frogger but with some manner of fish (probably a trout?). Necromancer was the story of a Geomancer growing an army of trees to battle the titular Necromancer and his undead army (and, yes, this remains one of the few games to even reference the historical rivalry between sentient forests and ogres). Mind Walker, one of the first Amiga 1000 titles, defies description in every possible way. It’s… uh… it’s kind of like Lawnmower Man? And the selectable characters are a body builder, nymph, wizard, or alien. And you can play with Sigmund Freud’s pipe. Move alongIt’s… uh… something. Regardless, Williams was responsible for many different games, and many of his games were solely his creation: he was responsible for graphics, sound, concept, and programming these titles. Yes, that was a lot easier back in the day of “green dot is actually a dragon”, but take a look at some of his creations, and you’ll realize this guy really knew how to push those pixels to the limit.

As the world moved on to bigger and more Mega Man-based systems, Bill Williams stuck around to work on some more licensed titles. Monopoly for the NES was a Bill Williams joint. And so was The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare. And, incidentally, The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare made Bill Williams quit the entire industry.

If there is more information on exactly what happened during Bart’s Nightmare’s development, I haven’t found it. However, it isn’t too hard to see what happened here. Bart’s Nightmare is a game teeming with interesting ideas. Take the hub world: there are a variety of different enemies, from Lisa the Fairy to Principal Skinner to Jimbo and the Bullies to “Grandma”. However, they all work in a sort of ecosystem where one “threat” is actually helpful when Bart is beset by another monster. Grandma’s kiss causes Bart to stop and lose points, but when Lisa turns Bart into a helpless frog, Granny’s kiss will restore his human form. And being a frog sucks, but if Bart is captured by the bullies, it is Lisa that will transform them into harmless rats. Principal Skinner’s suit will disable Bart’s offensive capabilities (though kind of make him invincible), but jumping into the normally aggravating puddle of mud will retire the suit. There’s even a unique take on the “lifebar” and how performing different feats, like controlling bubblegum bubbles or skateboarding, will extend Bart’s dream existence in curious ways. In short, there are a hundred fascinating ideas in just one area of Bart’s Nightmare, and an entire game with this much creativity on display could have revolutionized gaming for 1992.

What is evening happening?But Bart’s Nightmare did not wind up a revolutionary game. Bart’s Nightmare, in its final incarnation, is not particularly fun. There are a lot of exciting ideas on display, but they are not implemented well or completely. It is very easy to see how an additional few months could have refined Bart’s Nightmare to be something that is truly classic, but this was another random bit of Simpsons merchandise. Reading between the lines… and a few interviews with Bill Williams… and you can easily see how Bart’s Nightmare was rushed out the door the minute it was passable. The age of the videogame orator was over, and Williams was forced to release an unfinished product for the exclusive purpose of sopping up some Simpsons cash. Thus did Bill Williams retire from gaming, and began writing a series of meditations on being a Christian living with an incurable disease, ultimately a return to a field where he could again be a sole author of his work. He passed away six years after Bart’s Nightmare, living just long enough to see the rise of the JRPG and titles that were a little more narratively interesting than “Bart has a dream”. However, whether he was even still looking at the industry he once loved so much is unknown. Considering what he did with the meager Amiga, we can only imagine what could have been possible if he got his hands on a Playstation dev kit.

But it’s for people like Bill Williams that I keep the FGC going. The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare is not a good game, but it is inexorably linked to a much greater story. Videogames are art, and every piece tells a story, regardless of whether or not “Bart as Indiana Jones” is the least fun experience anyone could ever imagine. Every plastic cartridge, every disc contains volumes that extend far beyond their credits roll. Whether it be a game that is eternally tied to childhood memories or the actions of a man that was remarkable for his place in the industry, every game has the potential to be important to the great tapestry of human achievement. Every videogame can have a lesson.

And let Bart’s Nightmare be a lesson to you, sweeties. Never love anything.

FGC #436 The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

  • DespicableSystem: Super Nintendo Chalmers, but also ported to Lisa Genesis.
  • Number of players: Don’t have a two player mode, man.
  • Casual Racism: Apu’s only appearance is zooming by on a flying carpet to dispense squishies. Get it!? He’s Indian! Everybody laugh at that silly foreigner!
  • Is Bart, at any point during his sleep, a Viking? Sadly, no.
  • Favorite Dream: I think I will always have a soft spot for the Bartman segment, as it was the first stage/level/dream/whatever that I was actually good at. I really want to like the Bartzilla segments… but they kinda suck. Can you just let me stomp around as a kaiju in peace!?
  • So, did you beat it: I did! Once (without savestates)! And it took so many in-game tries, I think I maxed out the score counter. I probably played that game continuously for so many uninterrupted hours, it’s a wonder my SNES didn’t explode.
  • I did the Iggy: The final boss of the Itchy & Scratchy segment is… a furnace. That’s it. Just a furnace. And this was before that one Treehouse of Horror where a furnace was relevant for like thirty seconds. To say the least, this was an odd choice.
  • Did you know? There’s a Simpsons short from the Tracey Ullman days titled “Bart’s Nightmare”. It’s mainly about Bart stealing cookies (what a bad boy), and the only whimsy involved is a brief bit where Bart is shrunk down to tiny size. As “tiny” isn’t the premise of a single level in the game, I’m going to go ahead and say the existence of the short is merely a coincidence.
  • Would I play again: Bart’s Nightmare has a weird and interesting place in gaming history. And that’s cool! Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the title any more fun to play. I’ll pass on a replay until I get extremely nostalgic.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Princess Peach for the Nintendo DS. Peachy! Please look forward to it!

Good Job!
Like Bart cares about getting an A.

FGC #228 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

Here he comes!I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around Turok: Dinosaur Hunter since ROB chose the dang game, and now you’re going to have to read my meandering thoughts.

First of all, if I hadn’t already written that Goldeneye article, this one would be almost exactly what you see there. I have never been “into” FPSs, and, frankly, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter never did that genre any favors. I guess it was the first unique FPS on a Nintendo platform? If we’re not including Faceball? Look, I’m not a FPSologist (I’m still trying to work out the plural of “FPS” here), but I can tell you that Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was a big deal with people that would care about such a thing. It’s like Doom! But for the home consoles! Think of the inevitable rage wars to come! And, honestly, before I played the game, I was kind of excited about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. I mean, seriously, you can’t go too wrong with dinosaur hunting, and I want to say I was still riding a wave of dinosaur excitement from Jurassic Park, the movie that reaffirmed everyone’s longstanding belief that T-Rexes are cool. Oh, and it’s one of those games that has every weapon from bow ‘n arrows to grenade launcher. I’m always happy to see that.

And then it occurred to me: the only reason I knew about Turok’s better points before it was actually in my hands was Nintendo Power. As I’ve mentioned before, I read that magazine from cover to cover on a remarkably frequent basis (I can probably quote Counselor’s Corner more accurately than my own mother), and if some game made it into that elusive (re: not at all elusive) cover spot, then you better believe I was on board (Well, except Ken Griffey Baseball, I’m not one for the sports). And Nintendo Power spoke of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter in the same excited tones as other N64 hits like Mario 64 or Killer Instinct Gold, so obviously there must be some meat on these dinosaur bones.

GET EMSo I got Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for Christmas and, spoilers, it sucked. It’s not my genre, I know that, but I’ve made it past the first level in a few other “not my thing” games. I’ve never been a big fan of the pre-RE4 Resident Evil games, but I always gave the ol’ college try on those zombie ‘em ups. That didn’t happen with Turok. And, yes, I have to add the caveat that maybe Turok gets better after its introductory stage, and maybe the raptors stop running into my bullets, and maybe any opponent with heavy weaponry doesn’t instantly kill Turok, and maybe, just maybe, the jumping improves from the absolute horror show that inevitably leads to a mountain of Turok corpses…. But I don’t have much hope. I have (had?) friends that were into Turok back in the day, and, as far as I remember, not a one ever mentioned, “Oh it gets so much better after it turns out the whole thing is taking place in primitive Middle Earth, and you’re secretly King of the Dwarfs”.

Suffice it to say, I did not hold out much hope for the ROB-mandated half hour of Turok that preceded writing this article. “Let’s get this over with” was my primary thought on the matter. And then I actually played Turok for the first time in… wow, the game turns twenty this March? Yeesh. Anyway, I played Turok and…

Well, it still sucks.

But I can see where they were going with this. There are arrowheads that, like coins in Mario, lead Turok forward. There are initial “weak” enemies, and then a progression of stronger critters. Initial “sub bosses” and such seem to be easy to take down even if you suffer a few hits. And, while it is still absolutely annoying, the first major “jumping area” is over a shallow lake that forgives misses, and doesn’t instantly lead to total Turok death. There are some… passable concessions to “is this your first FPS?” in the opening areas of Turok, and, given its placement in the grand timeline of videogames, that seems completely reasonable. Turok is still awful, but the opening “soft tutorial areas” seem less… militant about it.

And then I realized what I wanted all along: I needed a straight-up Nintendo produced FPS.

Hot hot hotSay what you will about tutorial stages and golden guide blocks and whatever, but Nintendo is great at “is this your first videogame? Well, we’re here to help!” World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. and Miyamoto’s “I design world 2 first, then I go back and make the baby training levels” design philosophy have been analyzed repeatedly by smarter men than I, but it seems that you can point to nearly any Nintendo game in existence and see the similar thinking. Star Fox? This is how you play a shoot ‘em up, and, by the way, if you’re feeling saucy, trying flying through those arches, and see what happens. Wii Fit? Let’s start with basic standing, and eventually you’ll be twisting yourself into a pretzel and balancing perfectly. Mario Kart? Assuming you don’t start time trialing Rainbow Road right out of the box, those opening tracks and the 50cc are there specifically so you can learn the ropes and maybe win a trophy while you’re doing it. And that same guiding hand even seems to have been applied to “second party” games, like Pokémon or Donkey Kong Country. Pokémon is the most beloved JRPG series worldwide, and part of that must be because of its general… gentleness in poking the player forward. That, and the sheer adorableness of Hypno.

WeeeAnd now I kinda feel like the entire reason I missed out on enjoying so many FPSs along the way is because Nintendo never made its big “this is the FPS from Nintendo” franchise. Before and after Turok, it was a long time before I played anything that even looked like a FPS that took the time to “train” the player for the hard parts, and, without that base level of skill, I never got into the genre. It’s not Acclaim’s fault. It’s not Id Software’s fault. It’s Nintendo’s fault! You failed me, Nintendo! Where’s the whacky, cartoon FPS that gets me into understanding the genre? Help me get good at death matches, Nintendo!

Anyway, I feel like washing the stink of Turok out of my brain with some Splatoon, so if anyone wants to hop on later, let me know.

FGC #228 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

  • System: N64 and PC. And I guess there was a remake recently for modern systems? I’m not even going to address that concept.
  • Number of players: Just one. The days of mandatory death matches were still a few months away.
  • Hey, wait, you cited Donkey Kong Country as an example, shouldn’t Goldeneye count, too? Let’s claim Rare was well on its way out at that point, and was taking fewer notes from Nintendo. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
  • ARGHRelics of a bygone age: Oh, my controller pak isn’t saving data properly? I am shocked by this information.
  • Say something nice: Turok climbs vines/ladders/etc like a boss. So fast! A certain Hyrulian Hero could learn a thing or two from this guy.
  • Dirty Rotten Cheater: Like GTA, this is yet another game that is enhanced by its extensive cheat list. Disco Mode? Yes please.
  • So, did you beat it: Actually, I lied in the article. I did play levels other than Level 1, as I cheated forward quite a few times to see what was going on. I was not impressed. I do think I cheated straight to the credits one time, though?
  • Did you know? Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was actually basically a promotional game for the Turok: Dinosaur Hunter comic published by Acclaim Comics. Acclaim Comics came about when Acclaim purchased Voyager Communications (founded by Jim Shooter) back during the 90’s comics crash, and then Acclaim Comics became simply Valiant when Acclaim went bankrupt. Look, what’s important is that Ivar, Time Walker is in the same universe as Turok… or… something?
  • Would I play again: Not even if it meant I could win my own pet T-Rex. And I really want a T-Rex.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Wrath of the Black Manta for the NES! Look out, Crocodile Hunters, the Black Manta is coming to town! Please look forward to it!

Noice

FGC #127 The Itchy & Scratchy Game

They fight and bite!The Simpsons premiered when I was in second grade, and, honestly, I didn’t really consider all of its “pieces” until I was in college (about when the DVD collections started being released, incidentally). Until I really started analyzing The Simpsons, every random bit of the show seemed perfectly mundane, and, in some cases, much more original than I thought. Even when The Simpsons called out its own foibles, I never noticed characters like Chief Wiggum or Fat Tony were archetypes at best and blatant rip-offs at worse. It’s similar to the “Nintendo Age” syndrome I described in regards to Rygar: when you’re a kid, everything is pure and “natural”, so of course there are four fingered yellow guys running around, and they’re simultaneously completely original and generationally established. Dad probably watched something just like The Simpsons when he was a kid.

That is true… kinda. The Simpsons is often compared to The Flintstones, a cartoon sitcom that premiered almost exactly thirty years before The Simpsons. The Flintstones was an unrivaled hit, and existed, in either spinoff or syndicated format, right up through The Simpsons’ premiere. It’s no wonder the two shows were compared to each other, as both defined cartoon sitcoms for a generation.

But The Simpsons was a little different, because it brought friends. While there were a number of just plain cash-in imitators to The Simpsons’ throne, there have also been a number of true “Simpsons heirs” in the last (nearly) thirty years. Between The Flintstones and The Simpsons, there was like one other well received animated sitcom (The Jetsons). Now, in that same time period, there has been The Critic, Family Guy, American Dad, South Park, Futurama, and Bob’s Burgers. All of those shows have become hallmarks of television history (“Everything stinks.”), and that list is even ignoring the fringe, “limited” programs like Duckman, The fought and bitClerks: The Animated Series, or Comedy Central’s repeated animated sacrifices. Oh, and the entire Adult Swim network. In short, The Simpsons ushered in a new wave of “Animation Domination”, and now “cartoons” well and truly aren’t just for kids.

But that’s not the world that birthed The Simpsons. The Simpsons premiered as an animated short on a sketch comedy show, because who would make an animated sitcom? Cartoons feature Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. Sure, they’re funny, but they’re madcap funny. Nobody is ever going to have an emotional moment when a cartoon person is talking about a cartoon dog, and the concept of Taz the Tasmanian Devil having a family with relatable situations? Preposterous. Cartoons are for Tom and Jerry… and The Simpsons remembered that.

Ichy and Scratchy is a part of The Simpsons. In the beginning, Itchy and Scratchy seemed to be an excuse for The Simpsons writers to goof off and lampoon The Simpsons’ violent cartoon ancestors. By the second season, Itchy and Scratchy was a stand-in for The Simpsons itself: The Simpsons was a source of controversy when it was young (hard to believe now), so the episode Ichy & Scratchy & Marge featured the Simpson matriarch protesting violent, immoral cartoons (… like The Simpsons). By Season 4, Itchy and Scratchy was an excuse for Bart and Lisa to go “behind the scenes” of the animation world, and mock The Simpsons’ production with some inside baseball cracks. From about that point on, Itchy and Scratchy continued to be a sendup of the entire world of animation, transcending its roots as a parody of olde tyme cartoons and becoming something much more modernly meta. While Itchy and Scratchy has dropped off the radar more and more in recent years (Seasons 17 & 18 didn’t do the Iggy at all), it still pops up from time to time, What is even happening?usually as a lazy parody of some random pop culture trend (see “The Social Petwork” from Season 23).

Now, I could easily make some jape about modern The Simpsons episodes being comprised of only “lazy parodies of some random pop culture trend” anyway, but, with Itchy and Scratchy, that is and has always been the point. Itchy and Scratchy was always meant by the Yalies in The Simpsons writing room as some kind of affectionate insult to everything that had come before in the animation world. The Simpsons is new and different, and here’s a reminder of the bad old days. Even when Itchy and Scratchy sunk into the meta bog, it still maintained the “ain’t we cool” veneer of “this is what the other guys do”. Even now, painting the Griffins into the typical Itchy and Scratchy short would create a (slightly) more violent Family Guy cutaway.

In short, Itchy and Scratchy is, and always has been, a parody.

The Itchy & Scratchy Game, thus, could have some potential. It was released in 1995, the rough pinnacle of the 16-bit era (when was Chrono Trigger released? There, that’s the pinnacle). It was also a time that the gaming universe seemed to grow a little more aware of itself. We were still a few years from Conker lambasting fifteen years of gaming tropes, but… well… someone had to notice that they made a video game out of friggen Home Improvement, right? That really deserved some mockery in its own medium. What’s more, there had even been a pretty alright Itchy & Scratchy segment in The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare. Yes, it was a deeply flawed experience, but it did approximate a basic Itchy and Scratchy “feel”. Three years had passed since Bart’s Nightmare, and that was more than enough time to flesh out a fully-realized Itchy and Scratchy game…

Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen. The Itchy & Scratchy Game really sucks.

Right?It’s one of those… aggressively bad SNES platformers. You control Itchy, and you have to defeat Scratchy in a boring, haphazardly designed 2-D environment. You’ve got a mallet, and there’s a variety of better weapons around… but you only get one or two opportunities per level to actually acquire those weapons, so… what’s the point? And then each level ends with a boss fight against Scratchy in some kind of vehicle. Couple slippery as hell controls with boss fights that often subscribe to “stand here to not die” thinking and you don’t get a fun time. Basically, the tiniest good ideas in this terrible package are instantly obliterated by extremely bad ideas. This is the day the violence died.

And it’s a shame, because even a terrible Itchy and Scratchy game could have had at least something to say. For instance, each level is a different, wildly lame “era”. You’ve got Prehistoric, Medieval, Pirate, Atlantis, Western, Modern Construction Site, and Future. Right there, the game could use these environments to comment on gaming tropes or… nope, just boring excuses for slightly different weapons. Oh boy, a bow and arrow in Dinosaur Level, and mace in Knights Level! This… is every generic video game ever.

So that’s what we’re left with. The Itchy & Scratchy Game is everything The Simpsons ever mocked: it’s a cheap, fast, cash-in. It’s thirty years of cheap Hannah Barbara cartoons. It doesn’t stand for anything, it’s just “Hey Hey I’m talking Krusty”. There was promise here, but now it’s a mere cat skull that was devoured by ants.

… But at least there’s no Poochy.

FGC #127 The Itchy & Scratchy Game

  • System: Available for Super Nintendo and Game Gear. Oddly, there was supposed to be a Sega Genesis version, but someone caught a case of the s’pose’das, and it was never released.
  • Number of Players: You are Itchy. You may not be anyone else.
  • SpoooookyPort o’ Call: The Game Gear version is just like its console big brother, but it drops the boss stages. Considering the boss stages are terrible, I have a hard time seeing this as a bad thing.
  • It’s a spectrum: There is a difficulty slider for the game, from Easy to Normal to Hard. All it seems to do is modify the damage values for you (easy = more health) and your opponent (hard = more health). This is the absolute laziest way to incorporate difficulty settings… but at least it makes the game more tolerable.
  • Just play the gig man: The music for this game is… something. Presumably to avoid paying royalties to a random writer, the actual Itchy and Scratchy theme is not included. Boo. That said, the rest of the music always seems to be erring just shy of becoming something copyrighted, but then pulls back. For instance, Theme from Juracid Bath gets really close to being The Flintstones theme enough times that I’m sure GiIvaSunner would be proud.
  • Favorite Level: They’re all so nonspecific! I guess the Pirate Stage, aka Mutilation on the Bounty. It’s the best stage, because that’s where I turned that damn thing off.
  • Did you know? In The Simpsons (and certainly not this voiceless game) Itchy is voiced by Dan Castellaneta and Scratchy is voiced by Harry Shearer. Within The Simpsons universe, both characters are voiced by June Bellamy, a parody of real-life actress June Foray, but voiced by Tress MacNeille. June Foray did actually guest in The Simpsons Season 1 finale as random receptionist. The world is a complicated place.
  • Would I play again: “Well, Simpson, I must say once you’ve been through something like that [with a game], you never want to see that [game] again.”

What’s next: Random ROB has chosen… Metroid Fusion for the Gameboy Advance. Looks like dem wily metroids are at it again, and dis here bounty hunter’s gotta go rustle ‘em up. Please look forward to it!

Or not?