Released: December 1992
Platforms: NES, SNES, Game Boy, Master System, Game Gear, Mega Drive/Genesis, Amiga, DOS (originally as Krusty’s Fun House)
While my friends were being introduced to Tails, I was gleefully splatting purple rats with a massive mallet. Don’t get me wrong, Sonic 2 was great, but can it offer as much unadulterated satisfaction as leading acme rats to their grisly demise?
Released in 1992, Krusty’s Super Fun House is a puzzle-solving platform game, based on the earlier Rat-Trap (Amiga) and restyled with the Simpsons brand. The funhouse contains numerous kill rooms in which the aim is to lure the rats from their location to the exterminator by strategically placing blocks, fixing pipes and dodging enemies. As more rooms are solved, further stages are unlocked.
You play as The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown, who saunters around happily building rodent deathtraps with an insane grin on his face – made all the more creepy by an incessantly jaunty carnival soundtrack that almost makes me want to slink under the mallet myself. Slogans from the show are graffitied on the walls, and Bart, Homer and Sideshow Mel all feature as avid deathtrap operators.
The graphics are basic but functional. Sure, they’re not the sharp, punky backgrounds worthy of Sonic’s chemical plant zone, but the use of bright, sunny artwork in what’s essentially a death room is nicely unsettling. Those colourful funhouse backdrops might be cute, but we all know that carnival tropes are a warbling cry for horrible things about to happen. And they do, and we are rewarded with new rooms to explore.
It’s basically Lemmings for sadists.
Which brings me to my next point – it’s hard to imagine what Fox Williams had in mind for the target audience; the cartoon graphics, fairground theme and basic gameplay would appeal to kids but some of the rat-killing methods are a little savage. Its release predates age ratings on most platforms, though there is a classic don’t-try-this-at-home warning in the manual specifically directed at kids.
The violence is also somewhat removed from the player – as opposed to killing in the first person, Krusty does it for you. And he doesn’t even control the machine – he just leads the rats to it. So it’s more armchair violence than murder by your own hand, which perhaps justifies it as child-friendly. And they’re just rats, right?
They might not just be rats to Krusty. If we look to his backstory on The Simpsons, he may have his own, deep-seated reasons for inflicting mass murder. When the game was in development, the series had already delved into two years of Krusty’s past, establishing him as an opioid-addicted, bitter drunk and, most importantly, a Jew. With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if his role in the game as an exterminator is an act of cultural revenge.
Of course, I didn’t have all these thoughts when I played it back in 1992, but it still stood out among other games around at the time. Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Wolfenstein 3D and Mortal Kombat all involved fast-paced, quick-win action to progress, whereas Krusty took a bit of strategic thinking and planning. The 2D platform setup still made it feel like a classic console game, but with a twist. I liked that I could solve puzzles while still nurturing platform skills and feeling like there was enough pace to keep it exciting.
Having said that, if I had to find fault with Krusty it would be that it’s a long game. There are five stages, each with up to 14 levels, and I don’t think I ever made it to the end (there are cheats that allow you to do that if you’re so inclined). Reading reviews from the time it seems the game’s drag is one of the main reasons some people weren’t excited by it – especially when compared to its contemporaries. Maybe those players were either in the console camp or the adventure one, and not both.
Despite its flaws, I’ll always have a soft spot for Krusty’s funhouse of murder. Clearing those levels was difficult, but that satisfying splat will always provide me with more glee than freeing a rabbit from a Badnik.