There’s this cartoon I’ve watched since I was a kid called “The Simpsons”, maybe you’ve seen it? It’s been on for 27 season, almost 600 episodes, dozens of awards, star on the walk of fame. It’s kind of a big deal, but you’ve probably never heard of it. That’s ok, I’ll fill you in. For starters, it’s a cartoon take on the typical family sitcom and it features a population of people who mostly have bright yellow skin. It’s primarily a comedy, so every episode usually features some kind of crazy situation, but it tries to stay at least semi realistic. Around Halloween however, all the rules get thrown out the window with their traditional “Treehouse of Horror” Episode.
The Treehouse of Horror episodes break the mold by being more of an anthology than the typical single story episode. Each segment of these specials are generally a parody of some horror movie or another with the Simpsons own twist on the story. Between the popularity of the show, and the popularity of the Treehouse of Horror series itself, it’s no surprise that eventually a game would be made about it. That’s what we’re going to be looking at today, The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror for the Gameboy Color. Released in March of 2001, towards the end of season 12, the game tries to throw you right into the action by recreating 7 of the stories featured in the Treehouse of Horror episodes up to that point. Did they pick the best the series had to offer? You’ll just have to dive in and judge for yourself.
The game starts just as the Treehouse of Horror series did, with the story “Bad Dream House”. Loosely based on the movies Amityville Horror and Poltergeist, the Simpsons move into a house which is seemingly possessed by evil spirits. The house has kidnapped the family dog, Santa’s Little Helper, and it’s up to Bart to rescue him. But before he can, he’ll have to replace the fuses in the basement so he can find his way.
As implied, the house is possessed right now, so most of the enemies will come in the form of inanimate objects like flying books and vacuums. However, the basement is also full of giant rats and spiders. When I say giant, I mean GIANT. They’re about half Bart’s height, so I would guess they’re at least 2 feet tall. NO THANK YOU!!!
Death Count: 1
Unfortunately, we’ll have to visit the basement rather frequently if we want to progress. Without replacing the fuses, the various rooms will be too dark to navigate. There’s also a ghost broom that comes to kill you if you linger too long in any of the darkened rooms.
To make matters even worse, most of the upstairs rooms are locked. So in addition to finding fuses, you’ll also have to keep an eye out for any keys that might be lying around. Even if that means having to run around the toxic waste filled sewers below the house to find them.
Death Count: 3
Replace all the fuses, find all the keys, and now it’s time to venture up into the attic to rescue Santa’s Little Helper. Of course, the house isn’t just going to give him back willingly. You’ll have to fight the spirit of the house to free your beloved pet. As it turns out, we’ve already encountered this spirit once before, it’s the ghost broom, now in solid form thanks to the light.
A few hits from your slingshot, and this house is now clean of ghosts. With that, Bart has rescued his dog, and we have finished the first chapter of the game. And since this game uses a password save system, it would probably be best to take this time to write that password down.
Next up is “Flying Tonight”, based on “Fly vs. Fly” From Treehouse of Horror VIII, which was itself based on the movie “The Fly”. In the show, Bart is the one who gets his body fused with that of a house fly thanks to an accident with a matter transporter. However, it would seem Maggie is the victim of the matter transporter this time. Avoid the many hazards that face little fly size Maggie as she makes her way back to the matter transporter to reclaim her body.
Death Count: 4
The introduction description for this level is incredibly vague about what you’re supposed to be doing. The counter down in the bottom right corner doesn’t really give you much of a clue either. It counted down how many fuses Bart had found in the previous stage, but the simple smiley face isn’t really much to go on this time. With all the spiders, and bees and Maggie-fly eating plants around, we can’t exactly be flying around forever.
As it so happens, the main objective of this stage, beyond simply reaching the matter transporter, is to turn the switch to all 5 of the fans, or whatever they are. Maybe they’re some kind of power box seeing as they start spraying sparks all around as soon as you flip the switch. Whatever they are, there are 5 of them you need to find.
In addition to the 5 switches, there are also 3 microchips you need to find in order to repair the matter transporter. These are fairly easy to find in the course of navigating the maze looking for the switches, so don’t stress too much over them. Collect all three microchips, turn on all the switches, and just like that the matter transporter is repaired and Maggie can be turned back to normal.
This brings us to “Plan 9 from Outer Springfield” based on “Dial ‘Z’ For Zombies” from Treehouse of Horror III. The name itself is also a parody of the movie “Plan 9 from Outer Space” which is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. If you’re a fan of terrible B-horror movies, you need to see it at least once. Anyway, the show depicts Bart accidentally raising the dead after reading an old book in the library. Now Marge has to fight her way through the hordes of zombies to get back home and protect her family.
This section of the game is a typical run-n-gun type level. Marge will have to gun down any zombies that get in her way as she runs up the street to her house. Don’t worry though because whatever that gun is, it has infinite ammo, so just always be shooting.
You can even grab power ups along the way for a temporary boost in your fire power. You’re options are to fill your gun up with piles of manure for a disgusting poop flinging adventure. Or your other option is a much cleaner choice of shooting water puddles for a nice wide spread attack.
You’ll need all the firepower you can get as you make your way home, especially since the trek is packed full of mini bosses. First you’ll have to face a zombie Apu as he squirts you with bottles of mustard and relish, adding a little bit of extra flavor to you before he eats you.
Death Count: 5
Next up is zombie Moe, who true to his rat like nature will spend his time in the sewers, only leaving to become annoying for those above. Moe will move between the different manholes very quickly, and with the wide spread of his attack, he can be somewhat difficult to take care of. Play defensively and eventually you’ll rekill him as well.
Death Count: 6
Then comes the zombified Principal Skinner. Skinner gave me the most trouble out of any of them. He moves very fast, and throws text books at you deadly accurately. I had a lot of trouble just trying to get my hits in while avoiding his attacks. After a few attempts though, he went down just like the others.
This brings us home to our final challenge, Zombie Krusty the Clown. Krusty was actually easier than the others, but made up for it by having a much larger amount of health. He’ll throw what I believe are bowling pins at you, but they move rather predictably and are easy to avoid. Just keep firing and eventually you’ll be back inside the house to protect your family.
We’ve made it to the halfway point. Now prepare yourself for a true classic with “Vlad All Over”. This level is based off “Bart Simpson’s Dracula” from Treehouse of Horror IV in which the Simpson family discovers Mr. Burns to be a vampire. As such, Homer gets to live out many people’s lifelong fantasy of finally killing their boss.
This level can become pure platforming hell if you let it. You’ll have Homer jumping all over the place between the narrow ledges, chandeliers, and even the occasional unstable platform that drops out from under you. Homer came prepared with a crossbow filled with garlic cloves, but against the living suits of armor, it doesn’t seem like it will be enough.
Death Count: 10
Even if he did bring more firepower, it wouldn’t do him much good against the creeping vines that threaten to engulf him as he races to the top of the castle towers. Every jump needs to be absolutely perfect or you’ll find yourself overtaken by the green menace that chases you.
Death Count: 12
Why Homer would want to get to the top of the towers is a mystery in itself since Mr. Burns’ coffin is down in the basement. Plus the top of the tower is heavily guarded by spear wielding sentries, phantom arrows shot by unknown archers, and even the rare bat, which may be Mr. Burns himself checking up on our progress.
Back inside the castle, Homer quickly descends down into the castle basement. But reaching the basement alone won’t be enough to find Mr. Burns coffin. He’s well protected behind his iron gate. In fact, you’ll have to navigate a series of rooms before you can find the switch to the coffin room. Rooms filled with rats, spiders, ghost hands, disappearing platforms, and of course the dreaded spike pits.
Death Count: 14
In all the excitement, Homer seems to have lost his garlic launching crossbow. Without it, we’re powerless to defeat a powerful vampire like Mr. Burns. Of the whole game, this is the only section of the game I remember from when I played it all those years ago. Mostly because I thought the game was broken, and Google didn’t have the answers to EVERYTHING yet. I actually had to call THQ’s help line because I was sure I had discovered a game breaking bug that somehow made it past the play testers.
Death Count: 15
Luckily for everyone involved, there was an alternate solution to our problem, and Mr. Burns himself provides it. While he may have boarded up all the windows in his castle, age has loosened them and made the boards quite brittle. Now a simple kick can knock them free, flooding the room with sunlight. Once all the windows are open, Mr. Burns will be backed into the corner and disintegrate in a puff of smoke.
While the vampiric Mr. Burns may be nothing but dust, that doesn’t stop normal Mr. Burns from wanting to suck the life out of his employees. Based on “If I Only Had A Brain” from Treehouse of Horror II, Mr. Burns is trying to make the perfect, tireless employee by building a robot version of Homer. Using Homer as your template in itself was probably his first mistake in this whole plan. But to bring the robot to life, he needed to steal Homer’s head and brain to power it, which was his second mistake. You don’t make the perfect employee out of your worst employee.
Now in control of robot Homer, you’ll need to search for your missing body parts hidden throughout the nuclear plant. Unfortunately, Mr. Burns never told any of the employees about the plans to turn them into robots. Naturally, they don’t take the news very well and try to destroy him. Or so the intro screen would have us believe. During the actual gameplay the employees seem rather calm about the whole thing, simply going about their daily work. This is Springfield we’re talking about. These people see crazy things like this happen every week.
Death Count: 17
Just take a look at the working conditions around here in the plant. The walls are dripping with some mystery green slime. There are barrels of toxic waste just lying on the floor around every corner, some of which have fallen over to spill their contents. Of course this has gone to create giant radioactive rats to infest the power plant. There are even giant hydraulic presses right above the walkways, threatening to crush anyone that walks under them.
Death Count: 18
Being in a robot body sure does seem to have its advantages in such a dangerous environment, but Homer really would like to have his real body back. He spent his whole life growing it after all. So it looks like we’ll have to search every corner of the nuclear plant until we find out body again. But where could they be hidden? They’re not in any of the obvious places like inside the toxic barrels. And they aren’t just sitting out in the open. Instead they’re hidden in the most unusual places, like hidden inside a fire extinguisher, or stuffed inside the fuse box. I have no idea how that is supposed to work. The mechanics of fitting a body part inside a fire extinguisher are bad enough, but how could you possibly get a body part inside a fuse box?
Spatial awareness aside, Homer does eventually recover all his body parts. With a quick twist of his head off his robot body, it is once again placed on his fleshy shoulders. While such actions would usually warrant a huge lawsuit and massive investigation, we can rest assured that this will be treated as just another Tuesday at the office.
Here in Springfield, Mr. Burns isn’t the only one hacking off people’s body parts. It seems the elementary school teachers have grown tired of teaching stupid children and have opted to start eating them instead. Based on “Nightmare Cafeteria” From Treehouse of Horror V, it’s up to Lisa to free the students from their cages before they become tomorrow’s lunch! She’ll have to be extra careful or she might become part of the menu as well.
Death Count: 19
Luckily for Lisa, eating children seems to render you nearly blind. All Lisa has to do is press herself up against the wall and she becomes invisible to any of the teachers walking the halls. Unfortunately, the teachers suffer from very annoying AI in this section. They walk around randomly, rather than along any kind of preset route. This makes it very frustrating and time consuming to get past any of them. Since you have limited time, this becomes a very tense situation.
In addition to simply avoiding the teachers, Lisa will have to search all the classrooms not only to find the various caged students, but also to find the keys to their cages. Unfortunately, each key only unlocks a very specific cage, so you’ll also have to keep track of where all the students are you’ve found so you can get back to them later. The icon in the top left corner thankfully keeps track of which keys you have collected, and which student they belong to.
Free all the students, and the day is saved. Because of the teachers taking so long to randomly walk past our hiding spot, I was almost certain I wouldn’t finish this stage in time. Somehow I managed to get to the last students with just seconds to spare. I got lucky too, because I forgot which room they were in. I just happened to pick the right one at the end.
This brings us to our final story, this time based on “King Homer” from Treehouse of Horror III. Itself based on the movie King Kong, King Homer must rampage through the streets of Springfield in search of his true love Marge. The army has already been called in to stop him, so you’ll be fighting your way through tanks and bomber planes as you rampage through town knocking down buildings.
This segment plays very similarly to the game rampage, but it’s not quite as polished. For example, you can only destroy the small buildings that are about the same height as you are. All the other buildings you’ll have to climb over. You also can’t punch the tanks on the ground, or at least I didn’t find a way to, you simply have to jump on them. At least you can always block their attacks to negate any damage at all you would normally receive from their guns.
Death Count: 21
Make it to the tallest building in town, and prepare yourself for a boss battle with a fighter plane. You’ll have to climb quickly to get out of the blast range of all the bombs it’s launching. Then it’s up to you to knock it out of the sky with your mighty fists. Nothing can stop you from reaching your beloved Marge.
With that annoying fighter plane out of the way, King Homer does finally reach Marge. However, he has a rather unconventionally way of showing how much her lovers her. Almost immediately after grabbing her from the top floor window, he starts using her like a living yoyo. She’s probably dead now. The human body can’t really withstand that kind of stress.
With that, we have finished the game. Each member of the Simpson family then falls out of the tree one at a time. I can’t help but notice that Maggie is still a fly though. I thought the whole point of her game was to change her back. Either way, she and the rest of the family each get sucked up into the UFO that was hovering above the Treehouse, never to be heard from again.
And that’s the end. After being sucked up into the UFO, the game goes right back to the start menu. There are no credits, or final resolution to the game. Not even a “Thank you for playing” splash screen is shown. You’re simply brought back to the start screen and told to move on with your life.
Gameplay – 6 / 10
The gameplay obviously varies between the minigames, but the one consistent factor is that it’s never great. The instructions you are given at the start of each stage are vague at best and you’re expected to work out the details for yourself. In Maggie’s fly stage for example, I was actively avoiding the switches since turning them on simply created a new hazard. I was lucky to notice the counter in the corner drop after I turned one of them on or I never would have figured out the solution to that level. On top of that, everything plays very slow, to the point it almost feels like there is a lag between your button input and the actual action.
Graphics – 9 / 10
It’s a Gameboy Color game, so the graphical capabilities aren’t that great to start with. With that in mind, the graphics were pretty good. You could easily identify all the characters, and their animation was well done. Then the environments were very well decorated with a lot of detail. Or at least as much detail as the Gameboy Color could handle. There were even a small handful of Easter Eggs thrown in, like Blinky the fish in the sewers, or boxes of Mr. Sparkle dish soap in Maggie’s stage.
Audio – 5 / 10
The soundtrack is just ok. The music sets the tone well enough, but it is very repetitive and not at all memorable. In fact it kind of just drones on until eventually you start to ignore it completely. There also weren’t a whole lot of sound effects used in the game. This left the audio solely reliant on the music which I’ve already said wasn’t great.
Story – 4 / 10
This is where the game really drops the ball. Each of the stages has a nice enough story behind them. In fact, the Treehouse of Horror episodes they are based off of are some of the best released up until that date. However, the game doesn’t show any of the resolution at the end of each stage. They all just kind of end after the goal is completed. Bart doesn’t escape the house, Lisa doesn’t escape the school, and even Maggie was never changed back into a baby as evident by the ending sequence. Speaking of which, that was one of the worst game endings ever. It didn’t wrap anything up. It didn’t even show the credits or anything. Just like all the individual sections, the game just kind of ends.
Total Playtime – 1h 49m
It’s a relatively short game, and it’s not really all that difficult either. While it does have a lot of variety thanks to the different levels designs, it doesn’t really have a whole lot of replayability. All the levels are almost entirely linear. And none of them are particularly great to the point of wanting to replay them anyway.
Total Deaths – 21 Deaths
Some of the levels are harder than others, but the real difficulty comes from simply figuring out what you’re supposed to do. The level “If I Only Had a Body” for example, I died 2 times before I managed to find my first body part, simply because I was wandering around without any clue as to what I was supposed to be doing.
Overall Score – 6 / 10
As a fan of the Simpsons, and especially a fan of their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes, I really want to like this game. In fact, that’s the reason I bought it when it first came out all those years ago. I don’t want to say it’s a bad game, because it does have some charm to it. However, I can’t deny the fact that it’s not a great game either. As mentioned, there’s no resolution to any of the levels, so there’s also no real reward for playing. Without any feeling of accomplishment you end the game feeling like you’ve simply wasted your time. The gameplay is also generally slow and dare I say boring at times. It’s not a particularly rare game, and you can buy your own copy for around $10. So if you’re a fan of the Simpsons, why not pick up a copy and try it for yourself? You’ll probably enjoy playing through it once, but I can’t imagine you’ll ever add it to your personal favorite games list. However, if you’re not a diehard Simpsons fan already, there isn’t really a whole lot here for you to enjoy.
Useless Fool?! I’ll show you a useless fool!!
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