The Simpsons: Bart vs The World is not a good game. I know, you’re shocked by the revelation that a licensed 8-bit game might be a bit rubbish. Almost as shocked as I was when I remembered I owned it.
In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.
This one is pretty much all my fault. I really should know better.
My first mistake was randomly jumping back on Twitter (yeah, I know, new branding now, don’t care), a site I don’t frequent much at all these days beyond promotionally. Want to find me? I’m across most social media, but most frequently to be found on Mastodon.
But in this case, I got involved in a chat with Jamie Galea around bad Simpsons games, taunting him about Virtual Bart, which he hadn’t considered (or, I think even heard of).
Pictured: Acclaim executives figuring out how much money they might make from the Simpsons licence.
This led to a live Twitch stream of 16-bit Simpsons games, which you can watch here. (Note: Contains some non-family-friendly language, if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.)
Now, this was naughty of me both because we should all strive to be nicer to each other online — and I knew that Virtual Bart was a stinker — but also because…
I don’t own a copy of Virtual Bart.
Never did, only really played it once when somebody else I know mistakenly rented it back in the day.
I remember it being awful, stayed clear of most of the Simpsons games of the era because outside the arcade game and maybe Krusty’s Super Fun House (if I’m feeling generous) they were all awful. So I don’t own any, because why waste money on rubbish games, right?
Marge Simpson: Known for her blue hair, her housekeeping and her love of… spelunking, apparently.
Well… except that’s not strictly speaking true. I got challenged to buy a copy of Virtual Bart by Jamie during that stream (not going to happen on my current income) and it made me double check that I didn’t own any of the other Acclaim Simpsons games either. My standing rule with Retro Game of The Week is that I have to own a legit copy of the game to include it.
And that’s when I uncovered my copy of The Simpsons: Bart Vs The World. More on how I came to own it below.
Do the Bartman! Or… y’know… don’t.
The Simpsons: Bart Vs The World is not a good game, but then it’s a licensed 8-bit game, and there’s only a tiny handful of those that were any good even back then — and even fewer that have stood the test of time.
The basic premise is that Bart “wins” a contest to travel the world in a scavenger hunt that’s been rigged by Mr Burns to get revenge on The Simpsons, because… well, he’s the villain in the show, do you need much more of a reason?
Let’s talk about jumping. Bart vs The World uses a standard jump button… but hold it down and it’s also run.
So to jump further, you hold it down while jumping, right?
Nope. You hold down the “throw cherry bomb” button, instead. Because why be logical and good when you can be AWFUL?
Bart deserves to drown here, is what I’m saying.
Typically back in the day this would have meant a simple side-scrolling platform game and not much else. I’m loathe to give “credit” to Bart Vs The World, but it does do just a tiny bit more than that… which is to say that it has four (count ’em, four!) levels of 2D side scrolling action, plus mini-games based around Simpsons Trivia, those awful block sliding puzzles your aunt used to buy you when you were young, concentration tile matching games and other very simple conceits.
Even Maggie Simpson hates the “find the hidden shell” game.
They’re dull at best, with the trivia only really serving to remind me how good classic Simpsons episodes were. Otherwise, was anyone hanging out for a Simpsons digital sliding puzzle game? Anyone? I’ll wait…
This looks like Moe, but it’s actually the developers laughing at anyone who bought Bart Vs The World.
That leaves Bart vs The World to rest on its platforming action, which is just plain inept. Not inept in the “meme-worthy because it’s funny/broken” way, but just inept in that it’s plagued with imprecise jumping, dull level designs and a collectathon ideal that sees you grabbing disembodied Krusty heads as well as specific slightly more hidden merch in each level to unlock a special “extra” level and “good” ending, if you can be bothered.
Upside: The boss fights are quite easy.
Downside: Insultingly, stupidly easy.
I trudged through Bart Vs The World’s levels this week, and at no time did I feel the urge to go back to get those extra collectibles, because ultimately the game is just so dull.
(Scene from the early 1990s)
“Mum, do I have to play Bart vs The World? Can I go outside and play in the asbestos and broken glass pile instead?
Thankfully, the Internet exists in 2023, so here’s that supposedly “good” ending, just so you don’t have to bother.
Oh. My aching sides. When will the hilarity cease so I can breathe?
Now, look, I’m aware that nostalgia does have a role to play in retro gaming, and maybe by now you’re apoplectically enraged at me dumping on a beloved game of your childhood, the only one you could play and therefore a worthy game because it was so intrinsically difficult due to janky controls, but you loved it anyway?
Look, that’s OK. If you loved it because it was all you had — and we were all there, games-wise at one point or another — then that’s still quite valid. It’s just that the game itself was still dull trash at the time, and like trash, all it’s done over the years is get considerably more stinky.
How to play The Simpsons: Bart vs The World now
Not the only Simpsons game I own — but the only one from the 8 or 16-bit eras.
Look, just in case I haven’t made myself perfectly clear by now… don’t. That’s my first tip.
But I suppose I have to explain how I end up owning a copy if it’s such a wretched piece of software.
The time was the late 1990s, long after the heyday of the NES.
But before a time of Steamed Hams. This game is more like rancid ham.
I had never owned one, only knew a few people who had — here in Australia NES, via Mattel had minor presence in the console space next to Sega in the late ’80s/early ’90s — and then one day, perusing the shelves of the Cash Converters that was in Top Ryde Shopping Centre, I saw an interesting bundle.
A Mattel NES — the classic, somewhat unreliable “VCR” style boxy model — with a bundle of three games for the grand price of $20.
Bart is smiling, because there’s only one more level to go.
That was $20 in late ’90s money, but still tempting enough to me to pick up on the spot for the console alone. Pretty obviously they just wanted the shelf space back; I picked up an Atari 2600 and a mess of Mega Drive carts from the same store.
The Simpsons: Bart vs The World was one of the bundled games, along with Super Mario Bros and Captain America and The Avengers. Yeah, only one real gem there, but I was after the console anyway.
The level this takes place on is the game’s first.
It’s very accurately called “Junk”, after the ship type.
Or possibly just as a warning.
Interestingly, the copy of The Simpsons: Bart vs The World that I have still has its Cash Converters price sticker on it, revealing that at one time they wanted $8 for it. Even at $8, they couldn’t get rid of it, until I came along, though it does also have “BIN” scrawled on it in indelible marker. I could try cleaning it off with IPA or something, but it feels like both provenance and something of a smart warning at this point in time.
But what about if you wanted to play it right now — let’s presume you were doing so for charity or reasons of sheer masochism, for example — then how would you do that?
I guess it’s feasible someone might try to do a bundle deal as has happened with some of Disney’s output of the era, or the excellent Turtles Cowabunga collection… but then again, people liked those games.
The Bart. The.
This feels less likely given the murky rights between whoever owns that chunk of Acclaim, the original developers, Fox, Disney, Matt Groening… oh yeah, and the fact that they’re mostly rubbish games anyway.
To die in.
Which leaves you (legitimately speaking, cough cough) with buying a cart right now.
Sad news: You’re going to waste your money spending anything at all on The Simpsons: Bart vs The World.
Further sad news: You’re unlikely to find a copy even for $8.
Not that this is a super desirable title; most completed sales for cart-only seem to run around $30 a pop, with boxed copies maybe twice that in terms of sold copies.
Lisa should know better than to get involved with this rubbish. Play us out, Lisa…