Konami made a bunch of great arcade multiplayer beat-em-ups in the early-to-mid 90s, but the Simpsons might have been the best of the whole bunch. It wasn't just an excellent brawler, it also stands as a testament to the idea that you can take your time with a movie or TV license, make a really good game and still make piles of money off it if you just bother to try.

The game kind of existed in arcade isolation for a long time, though. Fortunately it had ridiculous market penetration, and in most cities you can still find at least a few working cabinets scattered around in random hotel arcades, bars and bowling alleys. But Konami wouldn't even attempt an accurate home port until the XBLA some 15 years later, and it never got an arcade sequel like their TMNT game did.

But now we've got OpenBOR, and even people who can't program can make old-school brawlathons to their heart's content. This leads to a lot of crap being produced, of course, but Treehouse of Horror is one of the few that rises above the sewer. It actually comes surprisingly close to capturing the gameplay feel of the original arcade game while also adding a bunch of new little gameplay wrinkles.

A number of backdrops for the levels are cribbed from the original game (though altered somewhat), but nearly all of the sprite work seems to be new. I don't know if these characters were cribbed from somewhere else or drawn by the creator(s), but either way there's heaps of new characters and new animations and moves for the old ones. You start the game out choosing from Homer, Bartman or Krusty, but can unlock a few other playables gradually over the course of the game. Homer and Bart control somewhat similarly to their original iterations and have similar base movesets, but there's a heap of new stuff you can do here, like Street Fighter-esque special moves and an attack or attack roll when getting up from a knockdown. Krusty also plays well, though maybe a bit OP. You also pick up random NPC helpers here and there in this one, like Martin casting weird algebra spells at the enemies.

Levels seem to follow a pattern of two regular levels, then a boss battle that takes place in its own mini-level (strewn with debris and power-up items), then a bonus level where you beat up Apu and break crates in his store while Snake sort of randomly looks on, then a vehicle level. Though the bosses are a samey routine that seem to use the same AI pattern in the same environment, they're also big and sometimes impressively animated. The vehicle levels are the weak point; initially impressive with Homer driving the family jalopy and Krusty hilariously riding a mini-unicycle, but range from being too easy and reptitive when shooting down UFOs to obnoxious during the occasional boss battles that take place there.

Even though the original Simpsons was an early '90s game, it was also still a commercial project with a big budget and a pretty big staff, so it's not reasonable to expect some amateur free fan thing to be comparable to it. But this game comes impressively close at times and on the whole is a pretty fun little brawler that has very solid core gameplay.

Links :

Download (freeware)

Videos :

* Gameplay Video