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The Simpsons: Road Rage
Platform:  X-Box
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Fox Interactive
Publisher:  EA Games
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
A few years ago, a game called Crazy Taxi was all the rage in the arcades. Soon enough, ports of the popular arcade game made their way to the home console market. It wasn?t long before the people at Fox Interactive got the idea to combine the popular gameplay formula of Crazy Taxi with the popularity of The Simpsons. The result was a simple, fun, easy to pick up game that would appeal to a broader audience and eventually lead to the game receiving ?Platinum Hits? status. Having played the Crazy Taxi games before, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with Road Rage. It offers just enough, unlockables, goals, and Simpsons humor to make the game refreshing and slightly more fun than Crazy Taxi.

Road Rage does not have as clean of graphics, nor as polished gameplay Crazy Taxi. And if you are not a fan of the show, then there surely isn?t anything here for you. But if you are a fan of the show, then you won?t pay much attention to the screen pop-up, not-so-great collision detection, or the occasional invisible wall. It?s all about experiencing the Simpson?s world. You will enjoy exploring Springfield, chauffeuring the residents, and visiting the places you know so well in the show. You will see well-known places such as the Simpson?s home, the Kwik-E-Mart, the Elementary school, and Moe?s Tavern. You?ll even make a visit to the Springfield Dam, the downtown area, and get a chance to drive around the Nuclear Power Plant. In all, there are six environments you can unlock and explore.

Road Rage features a couple of different play modes, but the main mode by far is the Road Rage Mode. In this mode, Montgomery Burns has bought the city?s Transit Corporation and is overcharging the residents of Springfield. Not only that, but he has converted all of the city buses to use nuclear power. This has alarmed some of the residents due to the potential health risk. Enter Homer Simpson. Homer has the bright idea of starting his own transportation system. You will take to the streets picking up the citizens of Springfield and taking them to their destinations as fast as you can. Your goal is to collect one million dollars to be able to buy back the Transit Corporation and rescue the town of Springfield from Mr. Burns? tyranny.

Initially you will be able to play as Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa or Grampa, and will have one part of Springfield unlocked to explore. Each character has a different handling custom automobile. For example, Lisa drives an electric car, while Marge drives the family station wagon. Bart runs around in a soapbox car that is made to look like the space shuttle. As you earn cash by driving residents around, you will reach certain milestones of fares collected ($1,000, $10,000, $25,000?). Once you pass a milestone you will be able to unlock either an extra character, or a new area. There are at least 12 characters to unlock including, Groundskeeper Willie and his tractor, Apu and his sports car and Otto and his convertible school bus. There are also five more Springfield areas to unlock. By the time you reach your $1,000,000 goal you will have unlocked them all. Best of all, it will be your choice as far as what you want to unlock once you?ve reached a milestone.

After you chose a character, you are off to the streets. Your job is to chauffer the citizens to their destinations as fast as possible to earn maximum cash. Don?t worry about hitting trees, fences, cars, billboards or other people. However at times, a passenger will request that you avoid all cars, or perhaps, inflict a certain amount of damage on your way. Following their wishes will earn you extra time and money. Finding your way around the levels is pretty easy. Each level has a map to help you navigate, as well as a giant pointing finger to tell you what direction you need to go to reach your goal. However, there are short cuts, so it would behoove you to find and use them.

The game has three different difficulty levels: easy, medium and hard. The difference is mostly in the game timer. On the easy setting you will start out with 75 seconds, the medium will give you 50 seconds, and hard starts with only 40. Also, the harder the difficulty the more money you get for time left over on your trip timer. At the end of your round, your total score is displayed and you are given a rank. If your score was high enough you?ll make the high scores list. Also, whatever money you made will be added to your accumulated total. An average round will earn you $5,000 to $10,000 but once you get good, you will be able to make over $15,000 a round. I like the use of the accumulated total as both a marker for unlockables and as a goal to complete the game. It gives the game a little more purpose.

There are a couple smaller one-player modes in addition to the Road Rage mode. One called Sunday Drive allows you to drive people around one of the unlocked areas without the pressure of a timer, or without gaining any fares. The purpose of the mode is to allow you to get familiar with the streets of the level as well as find any potential short cuts. The other one-player mode is the Mission Mode. In this mode you are given specific tasks to complete. For example, in one mode you will help Otto get his driver?s license by knocking over 15 light posts in a given amount of time. Most of the missions follow this formula of ramming a preset number of objects in a given amount of time. Basically it just boils down to finding and learning the correct path through the area where the objects can be found. Still, it?s a welcome diversion from the main game.

There is also a two-player Head To Head mode for people with friends. You and a buddy can fight for the fares of Springfield. Your goal is to be the first to reach a pre-determined earnings level ($5,000, $10,000, $15,000) by driving people around. Only one customer at a time is available so reaching a potential customer first is critical. However, your opponent can steal fares away from you by bumping into your car. This will cause the passenger to jump into your car. The player who successfully delivers the passenger to their destination will collect the entire amount for the trip. Just remember, ?All is fare in love and war.?

Visually, the game isn?t that bad, but it is definitely nothing to write home about. Occasionally you will run into some screen pop-up in the rare case that you can actually see far into the distance. But most of the time it isn?t an issue because trees, buildings and other objects in the environment will usually surround you. It?s definitely nothing that affects the gameplay. The rest of the graphics are a bit blocky but are very colorful. Since the game is based off of the television show, the lack of detail and textures is not that big of a problem.

The biggest problems are probably the rough feeling physics and the collision detection. Occasionally you will run into invisible walls. This is never more annoying than during some of the timed mission modes. In the Road Rage mode it usually happens if you are looking for short cuts or trying to jump over areas that apparently you weren?t meant jump over. Most of the environments are also destructible. You can drive through fences, trees, light posts, and billboard signs. But every so often you will find a fence or billboard that is not destructible, and you will come to a complete stop. Also, the physics modeling of the jumping cars, falling trees and other destructible items in the environments could have been better. Your car is actually pretty hard to flip, and trees fall and roll around as if they were rolling lollipops. It is cool that destroyed items will remain where they lay during a game. So when you come back through the area you just totaled, be prepared to be slowed down, when running over fallen light posts and broken billboards.

There are a total of six levels that you will drive through in both the Road Rage and Mission modes. These levels are well designed, full of interesting landmarks and destructible items as well as a containing a good number of secret short cuts. Later when you unlock the levels of the Springfield Dam, and the Springfield Mountains, you will find more driving challenges, such as cliffs and bridges that are out. If you have enough speed, you can jump across the bridges, but try to avoid going off the side of the dam. Overall, I liked the variety and character of the six levels.

Unlike other television show based games (can you say Buffy?), The Simpsons Road Rage features the voice work of the entire cast. The voices of Homer, Bart, Apu, Chief Wiggum, and Krusty the Klown are all there to name a few. As you pick-up and drop off passengers, the characters will exchange in some random banter. Usually what they say is pretty funny, but after a while the speech will get very repetitive. However, it would take a lot of time and spoken lines to incorporate enough dialogue into an arcade type game like this to not sound repetitive.

The music in the game is of course comprised of the Simpson?s theme song, as well as some other melodic overlays. This gets a little boring after a while. Also, the sound effects are not very spectacular. Tire?s squeal, horns honk, and things crash as you crash into them. Some of the cars even have slightly different sounding engines, like the high pitch squeal of Lisa?s Electric Car or horns, like the siren of Chief Wiggum?s police car. In the end, the sound is merely average, but the use of the real actors voices makes it acceptable.

Overall, Simpsons Road Rage is a fun game for anyone who likes the show or the Crazy Taxi series. It?s easy to play and good for parties as well as something to play for short periods of time. The unlockables and overall $1,000,000 goal are nice elements that give players something to shoot for other than just a high score. It?s not a masterpiece, as is evident by some of the graphics and gameplay glitches but it is definitely worth the Platinum Hits status and price for Simpsons fans.


Jesse Labrocca

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