During the boom of The Simpsons’ popularity in the early 90’s, there was a tidal wave of licensed tie-in games for Springfield’s most famous residents. While many of these early titles primarily centered around standard platforming action (read our Virtual Bart article here!), a small handful of them went for a slightly different approach.
The best example of this diversion is 1992’s Krusty’s Fun House, and that’s where part 9 of our Change The Channel series picks up…
Released on pretty much every available console at the time, Krusty’s Fun House has an incredibly simple premise; Krusty The Clown’s fun house has been overrun by rats, so he must manipulate his environment to herd them into machines (operated recognizable Simpsons characters) that will exterminate them. Enemies are also present every now and again, such as snakes and flying pigs, so Krusty must defeat them by throwing pies at them.
Heavily based on the gameplay of the Amiga game Rat-Trap (which was released a year earlier), Krusty’s Fun House was clearly intended for a younger audience, with a low enemy count and a basic Lemmings-like concept. Also, as the game was one of the earlier games in The Simpsons‘ history, Krusty is presented as a happy-go-lucky clown throughout the game, rather than a broken man who struggles with addiction and is haunted by a dark past.
Presentation-wise, Krusty’s Fun House can’t really be faulted. The source material for the game is easy enough to replicate on almost anything, but does run the risk of looking slightly “off” (I mean, have you seen the “Shitty Simpsons Tattoos” Instagram account?!). Luckily, the game opts for cuter, miniature versions of the cast instead of accurately recreating each character, and it works well!
The same goes for the level design too. The limitations on the NES’s hardware often forces developers to sacrifice details and quality for the stages, but Krusty’s Fun House doesn’t fall victim to this whatsoever. Sure, the reduced colour pallete makes each character’s skin a yellowy brown shade, but it isn’t that noticeable at all when you’re playing through it.
Playing the game feels satisfying too. For an NES game, the controls feel smooth and responsive, instead of the clunky mess that so many other titles suffer from on the platform. Not once did I have to resort to frustratingly button-mashing to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.
The one hiccup with the controls though is the hairline trigger for throwing projectiles at enemies. I found myself accidentally launching two or three pies at a single enemy a number of times during my playthroughs of the game. As the game doesn’t replenish your pie ammunition very often, it’s incredibly easy to run out of them early on in the game anyway, so this increased risk of firing too many does hold the game back somewhat.
The puzzles themselves are also a highlight of the game. Starting off with simple “place blocks in different places” brainteasers then working their way up to some impressively complex conundrums that require not only brains, but good reflexes too. My only gripe with these puzzles is that the game never gives you a running total of how many rats are in any specific room, so you run the risk of missing one or two at any given time. It’s slightly annoying that such a simple feature is missing from all versions of the game, but its exclusion doesn’t make it unplayable.
Stuck on a room and want to start over? Krusty’s Fun House gives you the option to restart by pressing the select button, but it does come at a price. Redoing a room costs players a life, so taking your time to explore each room and figuring out how to guide the rats into each machine is not only encouraged, but 100% necessary.
While the NES version is surprisingly solid, it’s the “Super” versions of the game, released for the SNES and Sega Genesis, that showcase just how well the concept works. The rooms and puzzles remain largely the same, but everything has been given a visual (and audio) overhaul.
The characters look way better, the posters adorning the walls of the rooms are some nice little references to the shows (and the seemingly endless amount of Krusty products) and the option to mute the music with the bumper buttons on your controller is an absolute godsend in the later levels of the game.
Overall, Krusty’s Fun House is a pretty decent game. It may not take as long to finish as I may have expected, but it’s a solid distraction for a couple of hours at least. The game manages to reach a point where some of the levels feel challenging, but rarely to a degree where players will ever get immensely frustrated by it (until the later levels, of course). Couple this up with the fact that the game’s graphics across the board are a treat to look at (especially in the “Super” versions), Krusty’s Fun House is one of the better games in The Simpsons series, and definitely one that I’d recommend.
Have you played Krusty’s Fun House? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!