Game Review: The Simpsons – Hit and Run

The Simpsons Hit and Run

For anyone who somehow missed one of the greatest games ever The Simpsons: Hit and Run is an Action-Adventure video game based on the American animated Sitcom ‘The Simpsons’. Now everyone knows the yellow skinned family that have been entertaining us since 1989. And this is not their first attempt at a video game, that honour goes to Bart Simpson vs the space mutant which was released in February 1991 for the NES. It is however the best game the franchise had produced.

In some ways Hit and run is a spiritual successor to Simpson road rage. Firstly because both game titles imply some sort of vehicular mishap and secondly because they base their game primarily around Simpsons characters driving a lot. Road rage however was limited and was mostly a crazy taxi clone with Simpsons characters (Sega obviously agreed with this point because the later sued the developers radical entertainment and electronic arts) but Hit and Run made a much better game because they developed on the mechanics of road rage but also gave us so much more.

It’s easy to see why this game was so good. It was written by the actually Simpson writers and voiced by the real voice actors. Something which I didn’t notice at the time is that Hit and Run and GTA III have some core similarities. For example the radar and the strong focus on driving. Not necessarily unique to both these games but both games also involve gathering random collectible items and doing missions for random people in return for goods or services and both have a third person point of view and an explorable sandbox environment. You can also steal pretty much every car in the game. Although unlike GTA III in Hit and Run you end up being a passenger instead of just taking the car. I guess they’re okay with running people over and then fleeing the scene but not stealing a car.
The animation style isn’t exactly like watching a Simpson episode. The closest it comes to it is episode six of season 7 or ‘Treehouse of horror VI’ the mini episode within entitled ‘Homer3’ in which Homer trying to find a hiding space to avoid another the visit from Marge’s sisters the grizzly Patty and Selma in his search he comes across a gateway to some 3rd dimension world. This isn’t a complaint so much as energy excuse to name drop a Treehouse of horror episode…feeling nostalgic yet?

But seriously though the animation style is superb you really feel like you’re playing in the real Simpsons universe and there’s just enough open world to explore to maintain that feeling while being closed off enough for the game to work. What I mean by that is that the Springfield the game presents is just one big racetrack. If you go far enough in one direction you’ll end of back where you started. What’s interesting about this is that you don’t immediately notice it and you can actually use it to your advantage. In racing games the computer always has the advantage but because the entire world is one big racing track with Simpsons things on either side you can learn the course and you get a real feeling of satisfaction that you got the victory because you took a shortcut or took a turn sharply to avoid a tree right round the bend.

Simpsons Hit and Run is made up of seven unique and distinct level each of which has its own story and subplot which tie into the overall story as well as its own unique locations, characters and bonus features. Throughout the seven levels we explore all that Springfield has to offer while smashing robot wasps, fleeing from surveillance vans, chasing cola trucks and trying to make sure Homer gets to work on time….spoiler alert. He doesn’t.

In each of the seven levels you control one of the Simpsons family and for some reason on one level you also play as Apu Nahasapeemapetilon the local distributor of heart clogging foods and gouger of customers.

As well as the main missions there are also bonus missions on each level wherein you assist some random citizen of Springfield in exchange for use of their vehicle. These bonus missions can be quite enjoyable because they all have their own little stories and you get a break from the main storyline which regardless of how good it is can sometimes be a good thing…see Skyrim as an example.

An interesting mechanic of the game is the ‘hit and run’ meter which is located in the bottom right corner and fills as the player commits acts of damage and violence for example and most obviously running people over or smashing trees and windows. When the meter is filled the player will he pursued by police cars. If they strike you before the metre runs out then you’ll be fined 50 coins but it is possible to avoid them and becomes more difficult as the game progresses and more police cars join the pursuit.

Throughout the game you’ll collect coins, you’ll find them either just floating around in unexplored areas, inside of vending machines and flying wasp robots both of which you smash and through other acts of random property damage. These coins can be used to purchase unique vehicles or costume both of which are necessary at certain points to progress in the game.

Scattered throughout each level are what are known as ‘Itchy and Scratchy cards’ each of which has a reference to an item in a Simpsons episode. My personal favourite is the Mr Sparkle Box card which can be found on top of the trailer park in level 1…don’t say I’m not good to you.

So all in all The Simpsons Hit and Run is a brilliant game with an engaging story and an incredible amount of replayability. I suggest anyone who hasn’t already played this game get a copy right now and make up for lost time and for those of you that have I’d suggest dragging it off the shelf and plugging in for hours of nostalgia and fun.


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