You won't find many Simpsons games that were released for the old 8 or 16-bit systems. Bart vs. the World is one example of the few Simpsons games from that period of gaming, but the most notable title was Bart vs. the Space Mutants, largely because of the more unusual subject matter but also because of the relatively entertaining 2D platform action that involves Bart possessing X-Ray sunglasses which help him identify the mutants. Developed by Flying Edge for the Genesis, Game Gear, and Master System, this title supposedly sold very well, though it had mixed reception from critics.
If a Simpsons game was released today, then it would be under a great amount of pressure due to the longevity and ubiquity of the series on the internet through sites like The Simpsons World. However, expectations weren't massively high upon this game's release because the Simpsons hadn't been around for all that long in 1991. Still, Bart vs. the Space Mutants is a 2D, side-scrolling platform game that sold quite well when it was released. The premise is a silly one: that mutants are invading the Earth and no-one but Bart Simpsons knows about it. It's up to Bart to stop the mutant invasion with the help of his X-Ray sunglasses which help him identify the mutants. Cue five stages of Simpsons-based platforming action.
The biggest strength of this game is the diversity involved in the gameplay. Obviously as a platform game it is limited to controlling Bart Simpson as he gets from one side of the level to the other, but the objects, enemies, and challenges involved really give the game a bit of depth. You'll find yourself having to utilise objects such as Bart's X-Ray glasses as well as weapons like cherry bombs and rockets. You'll also need to use the environment, hopping up onto objects to avoid enemies or even to just get to the next part of the level.
Another thing about this game that makes it appealing for those looking for value in their games is that it is not a breeze-through. This is a difficult game and whilst you can blast through many other games of equal length (i.e. five levels) in 10 or 20 casual minutes, you cannot do this with Bart vs. The Space Mutants. Each of the levels are challenging, particularly when compared with today's Simpsons games which are a little more about making money than challenging the players (see The Simpsons Tapped Out, for example).
Graphics, Sound, and Conclusion
The music of the game isn't particularly Simpsons-esque or even catchy, but nor is it offensive either. You'll notice the music here sounds better than in the NES version of the game as well, and in this case it's a blessing that the music isn't just the Simpsons theme as this does get repetitive. Of course if you find the sound too irritating you can always turn it down or mute it using the Fusion emulator's capabilities.
The game's graphics should again be compared with the NES game, and they really stand out on the Master System. Everything is much clearer and simply looks better than its NES counterpart.
If you had to replay this game over again, it would be more of a pleasure than with most games. The difficulty of the game may put some people off, but its challenging nature ensures that you can come back to it and not find it an easy play-through by any means.
To sum up, Bart vs. The Space Mutant is a great Master System game, differentiating itself from much of the Master System platform fodder by actually being challenging to play. Its graphics and sound are reasonably good, its content will keep you entertained for quite some time, and it even has the charm of The Simpsons Arcade Game going for it. It's a game that is well worth your time and would have been worth your money if it wasn't freely available as a ROM file to play with the Fusion emulator!