A lot of rodents
I don’t like funhouses, although, I suppose I haven’t given them a fair shake. I’ve never been inside one, but I’m pretty certain that makes no difference. You see, videogames trained me at a very young age to hate funhouses. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention, but the damage was done as I always found two examples particularly unsettling.
The first of the two games is the latter chronologically, but had the most impact. Krusty’s Fun House on Sega Genesis was simple and (relatively) innocent in premise. Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons had a titular funhouse that was overrun by rats. He needed to create paths that would lead the rats to an extermination machine run by Bart (or, later, a number of other Simpsons characters).
What should have been an interesting action-puzzler with a coat of hot branding ended up as unnerving. Looking back, it’s mostly due to the music and sound effects. Hearing slightly warped circus music on a loop with interspersed pogo noises doesn’t exactly make for a relaxing time.
Adding an extra layer to the subtle creepiness was Krusty’s mostly permanent toothless grin. That expression just stared back at you for the vast majority of the game. Even something was slightly off with Bart when he’d unflinchingly and sadistically crush the poor rodents one by one.
Some cartoons end up being more distressing than anything else. That’s the category that Krusty’s Fun House fell into for me. And, it turned me off to funhouses for good.
My first introduction to funhouses was in Mickey Mousecapade. Well, that’s an overly specific statement, because it was also my introduction to videogames as a whole. I was just a wee lad when I got an NES, and Mickey Mousecapade was the first game I played.
The initial stage in Mickey is titled “Fun House,” although it’s anything but. It’s a level rife with spiders, snakes, and sentient brooms. Halfway though, there’s a witch who’s guarding a key that’s necessary to exit the stage.
It’s tough to pinpoint exactly why this didn’t sit well with me when I was a kid. The music’s a bit abrasive, but it’s right in line with all the other games of the time. More likely is that I didn’t like the idea of mysterious birds swooping in to kidnap Minnie. When that happened, you had to find a special key which warped you to a different room, where you had to correctly guess which of four creepy statues she might be hidden in.
In hindsight, Mickey Mousecapade probably wouldn’t have had an effect on me if I hadn’t played it at such a young age. Still, the juvenile action-platformer holds a very special, yet unsettling place in my heart. And, it’s the reason I got off on the wrong foot with funhouses.