It had to happen. Move over Turtles, Bart's here. Ocean have snapped up the licence to convert the Simpsons game that appeared first on the Nintendo Entertainment System (as opposed to the coin-op).
Being the cynic I am, I presumed that Ocean would simply re-do Robocop with different graphics. After all, that's close to what they did with Batman, Total Recall, Navy Seals and pretty much every tie-in since time began. But the cunning devils have broken the trend and, just to make me look a pillock, have turned the Simpsons into a cracking little game with enough character to make it stand on its own.
The game has a truly incredible animated opening. In it, Bart sees a UFO land in his garden through his X-Ray specs and sets off to stop the Space Mutants from taking over Springfield. Throughout this clever opening scene the graphics are crisp and smoothly animated and the sampled speech is as clear as a bell.
Things don't go downhill from there either. The gameplay is fast and furious. From the very start the very start the player is presented with puzzles and aliens to solve and to avoid.
The view is side-on although the comprehensive moves available allow a significant amount of interaction with the backgrounds. The game also scores well in that it gives the user a number of different ways to fulfil the main objective. Bart must prevent the aliens from collecting the items necessary to build their planet-
On level one this means painting or covering up anything purple, and later levels offer such bizarre items as hats, balloons, exit signs and nuclear power rods, all of which must be removed, hidden or collected. The different ways to get these objects are never too obvious and some are fiendishly difficult, although he can make use of helpful items such as spray paint, rockets and catapults which he can buy with the coins that have been collected along the way.
Also available to help are the rest of the Simpsons. They can only be summoned by collecting enough proof of the aliens' existence to convince them to join the fray.
The action is non-stop and there are plenty of jokes along the way - for example, you can get Bart to ring Moe's Tavern and ask for Stu Piddidot or Al Coholic. The challenge that the game presents is quite considerable.
This is not a game that can be beaten easily. It should take even the most hardened joystick junky a fair while to get to the end of level one, never mind level five!
The graphics are beautifully drawn and the characters really do justice to the original cartoon, both in style and movement. The screen explodes with colour every inch of the way, looking for all the world like an episode of the toon.
Bart in particular is very well animated. Fans will be pleased to hear that his Lego person looks are faithfully converted to Amiga
The sound isn't bad - the tune is catchy but nothing more than a basic rendition of the series' theme tune. At least it's not that Bartman record! The sound effects aren't ground breaking, either, but in the thick of the action sound becomes secondary.
The game is certainly a joy to play and the programmers have generously given you three lives, although each life is capable of taking two hits. So that's really nearer six lives isn't it? Believe me, you'll need them.
The game is cleverly written so as to let you glimpse a new and tantalising section each time you play. The first time you play you probably won't do very much. The next time around you get the hang of dodging the aliens and maybe even getting some of the objects from them.
Carry on and you learn how to enter buildings to buy things. Then you reach the skateboard section and so it goes on. Just when you think you're about to eat your power pack in desperation (don't try this at home) you suddenly figure out how to get that elusive object or dodge that pesky alien and off you go again for the umpteenth time. This game could well cause many sleepless nights.
This review is becoming a bit like an advert for Ocean so I'll have to find something to moan about. Well, it is annoying that the whole game is totally joystick controlled. Apparently, if you push up and left you run faster, but more often than not you'll just jump diagonally and land on an alien.
The inventory is also quite hard to control and often results in unwanted selection of objects when you really wanted to move Bart down on his skateboard. But that's about it as far as moans go.
So it's official. The Simpsons is brill. It could have been a real cock up - look at the Turtles game - but Ocean have managed to duplicate the combination of laughs and gameplay that made Acclaim's original what it was. Who cares if I can't get off level one? I'm an underachiever and proud of it!