KRUSTY’S SUPER FUN HOUSE
Release Date: 1992/93
Publisher: Virgin Games/Acclaim (Flying Edge)
Available: Sega Mega Drive (version reviewed), SNES – minor differences between the two. Also available in stripped down versions (entitled Krusty’s Fun House) for NES, Sega Master System, Game Boy, Game Gear, Amiga and DOS.
Ahhh, The Simpsons…a pop cultural phenomenon that everyone and anyone has heard of, and most are fans of (or at least were… I personally don’t count the modern episodes.)
With a colourful cast of characters, unique humour and limitless possibilities for imaginative scenarios to work with, you would think that the series was tailor-made for a conversion to gaming.
Which is why it’s a mystery as to why so many of the games suck. Badly suck.
This title – a puzzle-platformer based on Simpsons side character Krusty the Clown – is widely regarded as one of the prime examples of those poor games derived from the series. But is that really fair? Let’s take a look.
So yes, it’s a puzzle-platformer (by weird coincidence, all three of my reviews thus far have been for puzzle-platformers!) that takes heavy inspiration from the concept behind Lemmings; on each level, a marching line of rats move from one pre-set position to another, infesting the titular fun house belonging to Krusty. Without your input, they will move until they hit an object, then turn back in the opposite direction. Just like with Lemmings, it is up to you to manipulate their path to get them to an end goal location.
However, it does deviate from Lemmings in several key ways. For one, you aren’t trying to save the rats; you are trying to destroy them. Instead of the doorways to safety in Lemmings, you are leading the rats to death machines, which change from stage to stage (and are operated by different Simpsons characters throughout the game). Secondly, you do not point and click on the rats to change their behaviours to get through the stages; instead, you actually control Krusty, running and jumping around, picking up objects and manipulating the stage to lead those pesky rodents to their gruesome doom.
The end result of this is a game that is both more frustrating yet more engaging than Lemmings. There is no doubt that Lemmings is the better game, simply because of the myriad of options available to you in that title when compared to the general “pick up block, move block to other position” gameplay of Krusty’s Super Fun House – and the floaty controls leave a lot to be desired. All that said, being in control of the character and running around gives you a better feel for the game, rather than being a faceless God-like character manipulating the rats’ actions.
As already stated, this wasn’t particularly popular upon release, disappointing thousands of kids who got roped in by the licence. However… I don’t think that’s an indictment on the quality of the title; rather it is a reflection on the type of game it is. Puzzle games like this were not abundant or popular in general on the home console in the 1990s – instead, puzzle titles were generally limited to handheld consoles, with the likes of Tetris for Game Boy or Columns for Game Gear. Take a look at the popular titles of 1992 – Super Mario Kart, Mortal Kombat, Wolfenstein 3D, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Streets of Rage 2, Contra III: The Alien Wars… Do you see a pattern? All action orientated, fast paced and/or violent titles.
Krusty’s Super Fun House is not in that vein – instead, it is a slow paced, thought provoking experience, even if the puzzle difficulty isn’t necessarily high. That simply did not fit the gaming landscape of the time. But playing this title now? Surprisingly, not only has it aged fairly well graphically due to bright colours and cartoony design, it’s actually probably a better game in 2017 than it was in 1992! Gamers have been conditioned by games such as Portal into understanding that all-out action isn’t the only way to enjoy a game, and thus it is easier to understand now what the game was aiming for.
Is it one of the all-time greats, hiding in plain sight? No. For one, the music is infuriatingly bad. Whatever the level, it is always a short track on a loop, and if you get stuck on a level, then you will be scrambling for the mute button before long. Not only that, it is fairly simplistic once you get to grips with the way the game works – yes, it introduces new concepts beyond just moving blocks, like air vents and so on, but everything becomes fairly routine a few hours in.
But it’s not bad, and that is a surprise to me. It’s a cheap title on eBay, and I really would recommend picking this up for your collection – there’s nothing much else like it… except Rat Trap for the Amiga, made by the same company in 1991, which is the exact same game as Krusty’s Super Fun House, which makes sense given that Krusty is simply a reskin of Rat Trap to utilise the licence. Perhaps I should have mentioned that earlier, eh?
“BACK IN THE DAY” VERDICT: 60% – In 1992, this was a console gaming experience that simply didn’t fit into the gaming landscape; give any kid the choice between Super Mario Kart and Krusty’s Super Fun House, and you’ll only get one answer, simply because KSFH is a sedentary puzzler with no blast processing in sight.
“MODERN DAY” VERDICT: 70% – Retro nostalgia sometimes tempts you to look back at older games and ignore their shortcomings. I don’t do that. So, for me to look at a title from 1992 and honestly be able to say it plays better in 2017 is really quite something. It is still not a “great” game, but definitely a playable and enjoyable one despite its flaws; that’s if you can overcome the cartoon visual style of the game and enjoy the puzzler within.