The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World offers entertaining gameplay as long as you give it a chance.
Bart Simpson has won a contest on the Krusty the Clown show, and the grand prize is an all-expenses paid trip around the world. Little do the Simpsons realize that the entire vacation is a ploy by Monty Burns to rid himself of the Simpsons family once and for all. Traveling through China, the North Pole, Egypt and finally Hollywood, Bart Simpson will not only have to defeat various relatives of Mr. Burns but collect Krusty merchandise along the way, including "prized" unique collectibles which translate to unlockable bonuses.
Gameplay is simple but frustrated by an unconventional control scheme as the button assignments are reversed from most other NES platformers. Control responsiveness is an issue as well, and jumps are usually slippery even far away from the iced ledges and platforms of the North Pole. These problems are hardly insurmountable, however, and after a few tries players may get the hang of things, if only after a while of tedious play and frustration. Just keep in mind that jumps have to be well-timed, and the control scheme lends itself towards throwing this timing off. The crux of the game is classic platforming and while Bart does have at his disposal cherry bombs he can shoot, for the most part the player will simply be dodging or avoiding enemies. The objective of each stage is to simply reach the end, and a player may elect to do this quickly. However, most stages offer some interesting exploration potential, and collecting the unique Krusty items on each stage unlocks a bonus ending and an "Itchy and Scratchy" stage on the Hollywood level. Each level ends with a battle against one of Mr. Burns' various relatives who for the most part are easy to defeat with little strategy required.
In addition to the various stages, each level has two to three mini-games that can be played to obtain Krusty heads, which count towards the player's collection count and ultimately towards extra lives. Although the rewards are actually very little, the mini-games can be entertaining on their own. Mini-games include card matching games, picture puzzle games and a trivia game which given the game's early publication date relative to the series is based solely on the earliest episodes; long-time Simpsons aficionados will have little problem with the trivia game while younger players will most likely be stumped and will either have to refer to an online Simpsons guide, hope to catch one of the original episodes in syndication, or simply guess until the answers are narrowed down. A practice mode is also included which includes several of these mini-games which can be played repeatedly.
Graphics are acceptable for a late NES game but could use some tweaking. Bart's character sprite especially could stand to be more detailed and his head ends up looking slightly deformed. Other character designs are simple, adhering to Matt Groening's characteristic zany drawing style, and level designs contain appropriate doses of Simpsons styling cues, such as Krusty's Sphinx in Egypt Stage #3 and ghosts that look like Mr. Smithers in Hollywood Stage #2. Sprites, stages and other details are brightly and colorfully rendered, making up for some of the lack of object detail.
Sound in the game could stand to use some technical tweaking as well, and sound effects fall flat. Background midi music includes various stage-themed variations of the main Simpsons' theme and for the most part are pleasant sounding.
While The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World can be a frustrating experience due to certain game control issues, the game also offers both simple enjoyment and a surprisingly complex depth of gameplay depending on how the player wishes to proceed. The value of the bonus ending after collecting all the unique Krusty items can be questioned but at least it's better than the simple "All's Well Again, The End" many NES games are known for. Overall, players with enough patience to get through the bogged down controls will find a very enjoyable game behind The Simpsons' franchise.