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Platform

Gamecube

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Vivendi

 

Developer

Radical Entertainment

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

September 2003

 

 

- Great settings

- Lots of stuff for fans to love

- Good driving action

- Smooth graphics and speed

- Great audio

- Some multiplayer

 

 

- Kinda short

- Non-fans might lose interest

- Hit & Run meter seems tacked on

 

 

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The Simpson: Hit & Run

Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Just days before Halloween, robotic wasps arrive in Springfield.  At the same time, suspicious black vans are spotted around town… there’s something sinister afoot, but what?

 

So begins The Simpsons: Hit & Run (H&R) an amiable Grand Theft Auto-like experience, where you’ll spend time exploring Springfield’s environs – from the depths of the Stonecutters secret shortcuts to the heights of the Springfield observatory – through various driving missions and on-foot.  

 

simpsons-hit-run-1.jpg (37367 bytes)          simpsons-hit-run-2.jpg (33034 bytes)

 

The reference to GTA may be a bit of a red herring.  H&R doesn’t quite have the same open-endedness or penchant for extreme violence as GTA, but you can still commandeer any vehicle you see and explore the world on foot or in a vehicle (though you’ll spend 85% of your time in a vehicle).  You’ll perform tried and true platformer conventions like collecting coins (so necessary to buying vehicles and changes of clothes) and finding collector cards (so necessary to, uhm, well, so you have something else to collect – and to unlock multiplayer races).  But as the title infers, H&R is mostly about bombing around Springfield, causing damage and completing various missions handed out by Simpson regulars, which leads to H&R’s first weakness.

 

The main story missions (and side missions and races) are mostly straightforward but often make no sense – even in the world of the Simpsons. (Why must Marge race Chief Wiggum to the donut shop so she can ask him a question?  After all, he stops at the donut shop!)  The missions can be broken down into three categories: chase, evade and damage – all self-explanatory.  The problem is that after a couple of levels, it doesn’t feel like enough variety even though you’ll be driving through different sections of Springfield.  Another failing of the missions is their lop-sidedness.  You’ll breeze through four missions then get stumped on the fifth for a dozen or more (increasingly frustrating) tries.  Being able to just drive around looking for shortcuts and Easter Eggs alleviates this somewhat since you can get away from the frustration for a while. (Each story mission you complete can be re-visited.)

 

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You’ll play as Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge and Apu and each can access the impressive roster of vehicles such as Otto’s school bus, Barney’s Plow King, and the Simpson pink family car (all accessible from the numerous phone booths spread throughout each environment as you unlock them).  All handle differently and are more suited for some tasks than others (i.e. use the fire truck for damage missions).  And for some reason, even if the car is not a convertible, you get to see the interior.  Irregardless, the overall control is very good (less so when you’re on foot).

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No matter what vehicle you’re in you always have to watch the Hit & Run meter.  Max it out by plowing into pedestrians or causing property damage, and cop cars will begin to swarm you.  If they catch you, you’ll have to shell out some of your collected coins.  It’s not much of a penalty but it can certainly hinder quick collection of outfits and vehicles.  

 

simpsons-hit-run-3.jpg (36382 bytes)          simpsons-hit-run-4.jpg (39492 bytes)

 

This being the first Simpsons game I’ve played in a long time, my brain in uncluttered by recent efforts, which seem to have landed between bad and mediocre or average.  H&R is fun to play, more so it you’re a fan of the show as you can appreciate all the extras Radical has thrown in.

 

Part of this is thanks to the graphics, which are smooth, cartoony and entirely watchable for long stretches.  All the voices are performed by members of the cast and this adds oodles of credibility.  Obviously there is quite a bit of humor ingrained throughout the entire game, like the way Ralph counts down from three to start races or the many one-liners sprinkled all over.  It’s not the same as the rapid-fire of the show but it does manage to be funny.

 

I suppose the upshot of it is, is that I would recommend The Simpsons: Hit & Run, particularly to those that may have been let down by prior Simpsons games.  Of course, it’s not perfect but it manages to be enjoyable enough that the downsides don’t knock the fun out of the game.

 

- Omni

(October 11, 2003)

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