The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Barts Nightmare



Platform: SNES/Mega Drive

We all love The Simpsons don’t we?

The Simpsons is a bona fide TV phenomenon that seems like it’s been around forever and appears to be one of those pop culture items that just won’t go away, like those stupid Keep Calm and Carry On memes.



It’s funny because it’s the same joke over and over again…

In fact, the origins of The Simpsons has been told more times than the story of Christ, hence why I won’t bore you the details and show some pointless images to prove my point at it’s popularity. Hey look, he gone done fell down!



The show also does a fairly good job at parodying video games, with focus on their arcade silliness and their over the top advertising. Such as that episode with the Bonestorm advert. However, when it came to actual games of The Simpsons being made, we weren’t quite so lucky. We’ve seen releases such as Simpsons Road Rage, a Crazy Taxi parody, which in some respects is already scraping the barrel for ideas, where you have to pick up passengers and drive them to their destinations. The game is as dull as it sounds AND repeats the same lines over and over and over and over and over and OVER! Did you like that line about Mr Plow? Did you find it funny that it’s his name and that it’s his name again? WANT TO HEAR IT A BAJILLION TIMES?

Whilst this could go into an argument about why, as a whole, games focused on humour and jokes don’t work because the repition of tasks and limited voice work in games pretty much make it that comedian who only tells one joke during an hour long set, I’m not going to, because we could be here for days and I need to think ahead for when I need to scrape the barrel for ideas…unfortunately, I’m playing Moonwalker next week, so expect the barrel scraping to have already begun.
Of course, Simpsons games go back further than 2002, probably as a terrifying message of things to come.  Back in 1992, Acclaim, then best known for the superior Double Dragon 2 and Mortal Kombat decided to completely change their image and gave us Barts Nightmare.

As the name suggests, the game is set in a dream, which immediately makes me want to put down the controller and never touch it again.
The problem is that if an entire game is set within a dream, especially if we’re aware of it from the outset, its plot loses all kind of importance and drive.

The game starts with Bart falling asleep whilst doing work…you know, being Bart Simpson. So then, Bart falls from the sky, because that’s how all dreams start…Bart wakes up on his usual street, except now its full of evil letter boxes, grannies, floating Z’s and basketballs…you know because it’s a dream, although they could make it less subtle and put in a midget. The hub is pretty boring with no indication of what to do, Lisa shows up and transforms you into a frog, basketballs occasionally fly across the screen and you can get run over by a school bus, which quite frankly is the only thing I enjoyed about this game.


The plot, and I use that term lightly, is that Bart has to collect homework pieces within the dream so he can get a good grade in school, he does this by wandering round the same area collecting paper then visiting magic doors to visit strange and uninspired new worlds that revolve around mini games, such as swimming in someones blood stream destroying germs, a Godzilla parody, fighting Itchy and Scratchy (don’t worry, it’s duller than it sounds) and a Batman (hilariously entitled Bartman…oh god I’ve just remembered that dire song) and Indiana Jones parody. Complete all those and you basically complete the game.

It’s worth pointing out just how out of character making Bart collect homework is, the character excelled in Dennis The Menace hi-jinks, he doesn’t care for homework. which makes the ending where he wakes up and gets a good grade kind of wrong…and…they’ve raped my childhood! So after boring us to death with mini games and paper collecting the game ends with everyone so proud of Barts uncharacteristic A grade, which he got…by sleeping…yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works, I need to get a scientists opinion.

According to the electroencephalography studies by Charles Simon and William Emmons in 1956 Alpha activity in the brain only occurs when the subject is relaxed and awake, so they’d only remember the last thing they heard before waking up. (more information can be found at http://www.suite101.com/content/can-people-learn-while-sleeping-a119505) Despite that, I’m not going to dispute the scientific accuracy of a video game, because the entire industry is based on the scientific rule of fun…or scientific rule of making money in the case of Barts Nightmare.

Barts Nightmare is sloppy. The sprites look hideous and almost unrecognisable,  even within the realms of a dream it doesn’t make sense, it butchers established characterization to give the game a good message and its just infuriating to play.  Now, usually this is the point in the “review” where I explain the good points, but…

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