The Simpsons Hit & Run takes the free roaming gameplay of Grand Theft Auto (minus the gunplay, blood, and hookers) and combines it with a hilarious plot and dialogue scripted by some of the show’s top writers. Radical Entertainment has brought Springfield to life with a mostly solid 3D engine to match the gameplay, and the addition of voices done by many of the original cast members only makes the game more fun to play. It’s definitely the best Simpson’s game to date, and it comes recommended even to the mildly curious.
Starting off as Homer, you’re lead through a hysterical tutorial that eases you into the controls (which mimic GTA, of course), and you’ll want to play through it just to hear Bart’s smart-ass narration as he guides you along. The main game is broken up into linear segments where you control first Homer, then Marge, Bart, Lisa, & Apu. All of the playable characters will meet up with other popular Simpsons regulars, and some of these folks will offer you optional missions. These side quests are pretty lucrative, as you’ll earn money (for purchases or paying those Hit & Run fines) or cool bonus items.
Scattered throughout Springfield, you’ll also find coins, trading cards and robotic wasps floating about in both easy and tough to reach locations. Reaching some of these things requires a bit of tricky platforming, and some of those wasps shoot lasers at you, so a bit of caution is needed. Of course, in tried and true platform game fashion, a butt bounce or other attack kills all. Clearing stages of all the coins, cards, and wasps adds some really cool bonus items to the options menu, and it’s a snap to keep track of what you’re missing. One great touch is that all the playable characters have alternate costumes based on episodes of the show. You’ll see Bart as a ninja, Lisa with a hockey getup, and everyone who plays this game NEEDS to see the “Homer Casual” getup
Despite all the humorous in-jokes and bright colors, the game can be quite difficult at times if your driving skills aren’t sharp enough. Things start out simple enough with the Homer and Bart stages, but by Lisa’s stage onward, completing some of the missions and side quests becomes really challenging. Fortunately, you can skip missions that give you grief and come back to them later on. You can also hop back into destroyed rides and chug along every so sloooowly on the blackened frame. It’s hysterical, but if you’re close to a phone booth, you can repair your dead wheels or call up any of the cars or trucks you’ve earned. Can you say Mr. Plow?
And you will be coming back for more – Hit & Run is a really great looking game that features impressively huge levels with little to no pop-up in the distance and a solid sense of speed in the driving sections. Occasional clipping issues and cars you jack getting hung up on certain corners or trees are a bit annoying, but Radical has done a great job overall. It’s an initial shock to see Homer & company in full polygon regalia, but you’ll get used to it after a few seconds in the game. The music and voices are excellent here, although on long drives, the cast tends to repeat phrases over and over. I was laughing one second at Homer yelling “Learn to drive, Jerkass!” rant as I smacked into a car while racing for some cash. Then I smashed into a tree a few seconds later, and I realized that he was probably talking to me- D’oh!!!
As great as The Simpson’s Hit & Run is, I wonder just what sort of game could possibly follow for the franchise. While another game that follows a similar format would no doubt be welcome (with the minor issues fixed), it would be even better to seer a new game with different gameplay elements. After all, anyone who makes the next Simpsons adventure will have well over 10 years of material to draw from, so whatever comes next will definitely be interesting.
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