Life is full of cyclical patterns; just take the Simpsons series of licensed games for example. It all started out quite nicely with the launch of the Konami Arcade game, but after that the quality of the games plummeted. Instead of getting high quality brawlers gamers were forced to play lame 2D platformer after lame 2D platformer. Then recently Vivendi released Simpsons Road Rage
, a Crazy Taxi
clone, for the PS2 and Xbox and the future for the franchise looked bright again. Now the company looks to continue that trend with Simpsons Hit and Run
, a game derived from the same vane as Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto
In Hit and Run players control some of Springfield’s most beloved characters as they complete various tasks in and about town. It works very much in the same fashion as GTA in that you can drive around freely and cause havoc when you’re too lazy to focus on the primary goals. When you’re ready to get your act together you can drive to the next mission point to get your objective. Usually the map will tell you to drive to a certain part of town in order to meet up with someone, when you meet up with that denizen you’ll get your next objective. Most of the missions have GTA-esque undertones but with significantly less violent themes. For instance, instead of whacking an important mob boss out for a Sunday drive Homer might have to prevent Smithers from getting to work so that he can’t write his employee evaluation.
I am evil Homer! I am evil Homer!
Hit and Run is broken up into seven different areas, each of which places you in control of a specific character in a specific part of Springfield. A negative aspect of this is that you can never actually drive through the full city of Springfield, just specific areas of it. So in the beginning when you play as Homer you’ll have access to the suburban areas of Springfield while the next episode features Bart in the downtown business district. Some of the areas seem a little simplistic in design and aren’t quite what I envisioned when I thought of what Springfield might actually look like. Most of the time there’s only one way to access specific parts of town and you’ll drive through the same areas over and over again. Not that this is a bad thing but it just seems odd that a town designer would layout the city in such a linear fashion.
There are plenty of missions for you to partake in, all of which feature briefings by members of the real vocal cast. For true Simpsons fans this is the major gem that they’ve been waiting for as they get a little something extra from their favorite characters. Nearly the entire primary and secondary cast is represented as well. From Marge to Cletus to Dr. Nick Riviera (Hello Everybody!), everyone that you’ve laughed at in the past decade or so is here in full force. The best part of it all is that each of the voices and personalities are true to their television counterparts. That is you won’t find Cletus asking you to whack Mr. Smithers for no apparent reason. Instead he’ll ask you to get into his truck and collect road kill so that he can deliver it to Krusty Burger.
While the company won’t win any awards for originality it definitely will win awards for creativity. It has effectively kept most of the intriguing elements of the GTA series while sustaining an air of tastefulness. Sure players can hop into any vehicle that they want but they don’t steal the vehicles a la Tommy Vercetti, they hop into the passenger seat while the owner of the vehicle drives. In essence you’re “borrowing” the vehicle, a very clever way to avoid GTA’s violent nature. You’ll also be able to run amok and beat up on Springfield’s denizens but you’ll only have a small variety of moves at your disposal. Instead of using chainsaws and machine guns you’ll be able to kick, punch and butt-stomp your way through crowds. While there’s physical violence it’s kept down to the cartoon minimum and in the end you can’t ever actually kill anyone.
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