Review by: Michael Rack
Published: October 10, 2003
It was in the modest beginnings of brief clips on the Tracy Ullman show, that the Simpsons crept onto TV sets. Amusing fans with madcap dysfunctional family antics, it wasn’t long before they were picked up for their own show. Bringing non-stop hilarity around the globe, the Simpsons claimed a fan base larger than Homer’s immense gut, leading to a line of products including action figures, posters, and eventually video games. Making the translation to home consoles is no small task though, and most TV/movie conversions end up as weak bargain bin pickups at best. Even Simpsons games tend to be little more than copycat titles, dumbing down the mechanics of existing offerings and slapping on shallow representations of the main cast. However, Radical Entertainment has attempted to set the bar up a notch with its release of The Simpsons Hit & Run.
This time, the Simpsons find themselves not on skateboards or offering repetitive taxi services, but rather in a lively rendition of Springfield, full of a wide assortment of classic characters. With voice-overs from much of cast, personalities such as the annoyingly nice Ned Flanders and the ever-sarcastic comic book store clerk are fully recreated. You’ll wander around as Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and even Apu, constantly assisting and interacting with the town denizens. You won’t have to hoof it the whole way, as several comical vehicles are available, or you can even hitch a ride with anyone on the road. Of course, no Simpsons experience would be complete without a colorful story, so the writers from the show have concocted a plot that unfolds as you advance through the game.
This tale begins the same way many Simpsons episodes do – with Homer working on solidifying his precious butt-crease in the couch. Along comes a bee, inviting Homer to do what he does best. He quickly flattens the insect, but it proves to be more than meets the eye, sporting a metal thorax and camera lens head. It didn’t come alone either, as a hive of the buggers have descended on Springfield along with a fleet of surveillance vans and a suspicious new cola which could be a danger to anyone who drinks it. Naturally, the only real town authority must uncover what it all means. No, not Chief Wiggum; the Simpsons set out to unravel the mystery, and save everyone from a fate worse than reruns.
You won’t need to follow the story constantly, as there are a number of diversions throughout town. Several simple gags can be found through exploration, and you can gather some collectable cards to unlock multiplayer races. Occasionally you’ll find people who want to race, be it for a new set of wheels, or some spare coins. Perhaps the easiest way to make some cash is by destroying the camera-bees or insidious cola machines, which can quickly add up to enough change to buy new outfits and vehicles. If you’re feeling destructive, you can simply tool around ramming everything in sight to relieve some tension.
You’ll have to exhibit some restraint, however, as a threat meter encircling the minimap measures how bad you’ve been. As fun as it is to back over Flanders in a delivery truck, doing so will quickly bring the meter to full steam, flashing to warn you when you’ve gone too far. Keep pushing your luck, and the cops will come bearing down on you with a fifty coin ticket in hand. Your only option is to try and stay away from them until they give up and head back to the Kwik-E-Mart for more coffee and doughnuts.