"You’ll have to ride portable gun turrets throughout most of the stage, often down shafts where a slightly short jump (a move all too easy to execute, unfortunately) spell certain doom. But suppose you survive these just fine. There are still the occasional weak enemies that can easily decimate your entire life meter."
You might think that as the third game in the series, The Simpsons: Bartman Meets Radioactive Man would be good. The folks at Acclaim certainly had time to learn from past mistakes and to develop a compelling system for the final NES release in the series. Unfortunately, they did neither. The game falls flat on its face in just about every way you can imagine.
First, there are the visuals. They suffer from the ‘cram so much detail on the screen that everything ends up looking like scribble’ syndrome that affected some NES titles. While it’s true that the junkyard that serves as the stage opener does look somewhat atmospheric as a result, it also looks like a mess of green and black, with brownish-orange serving as the foreground. The combination is hard on the eyes and clashes terribly. Of course, you’d expect as much from a dump.
What you might not anticipate is the steep difficulty level, which sets in immediately. Before you point and laugh at me for complaining about the challenge, though, know this: I was one of the few that actually played The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants through to completion. I’m up to the challenge when the game is rewarding enough, or fair enough. Unfortunately, The Simpsons: Bartman Meets Radioactive Man is none of these.
Much of the difficulty comes from Bartman’s inability to move limberly. His jumps are as stiff as you’ll recall from past games in the series, and his fighting skills are absolutely absurd. In the first level, the game remains playable, if extremely irritating. You’ll dodge ants (they take off one of five slots from your life meter if you touch them) and flying screws and gears as you make your way up a series of jumps that finds heaps of junk forming skyscrapers. As you jump, you’ll notice that you can’t see much of your next target.
And so the guesswork begins. Standing atop one stack of tires, you’ll look out to the right and just see a wide patch of space. You can jump, but you may or may not find solid ground. Early on, until you memorize the location of each platform, you just have to grit your teeth and hope for the best. Or maybe you’ll see the top of a screw flash into the screen every once in awhile. That means there’s a ledge below it. Such minor clues are all you have to go on, and sometimes even those aren’t present.
However, it’s not the first level where things get bad. That honor is reserved for its follow-up, an apparent trip through massive sewage pipes that will have you tempted to take a mallet to your controller, your NES, the game cartridge and anything else in the general vicinity (do not play this game near small children or infants). In the second stage, you’ll race through green, all the while hoping that the vertical shafts don’t spell your doom.
This is because the blind jumps and poor play control continue. It’s almost like the developers relied on these flaws. You’ll have to ride portable gun turrets throughout most of the stage, often down shafts where a slightly short jump (a move all too easy to execute, unfortunately) spells certain doom. But suppose you survive these just fine. There are still the occasional weak enemies that can easily decimate your entire life meter.
This is again thanks to the awful play control. Reach the bottom of a passage and you might find a sewer worker that needs vanquished. Bartman has at his disposal a weak series of punches and kicks (except for the rare case where he turns into a Taz-like whirlwind of doom) that aren’t going to form a threat to anyone. Often, you’ll get in one or two hits before the enemy has overlapped Bartman, at which point you’ll take two or three hits yourself just to get to the side where you can again do damage. Is this supposed to be fun? I don’t think so.
Really, though, there’s only one thing you have to consider to know whether or not you’ll want to play the game. After the frustrating first two levels, you’ll soon find yourself staring at the ‘Game Over’ screen. Your limited supply of continues will have been exhausted. If you want to get any further, you’ll have to play through the first two boring levels all over again. Will you succumb to this temptation (ha! ha!) on the off chance that the game gets better in its final minutes? I’m guessing you won’t.
Staff review by Jason Venter (February 03, 2005)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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