The addicting popularity of Grand Theft Auto, which I’ve surprisingly never been drawn to, is given a colorful twist in The Simpsons Hit & Run. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the series or just familiar with the crazy antics of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, you’ll no doubt find something to enjoy in this freeform action adventure game.
Anything goes in The Simpsons Hit & Run. From hijacking buses to kicking that little wiener Milhouse square in the glasses, you’ll immediate mesh with the open-ended gameplay that puts you in charge of the cartoon mayhem. Take control of some of Springfield’s most beloved characters as you explore a variety of maps, including downtown, the suburbs, and the Nuclear Plant. Each of these maps is very expansive and usually has a way to loop back on itself so you’ll never get stuck in a dead-end. As the single player campaign progresses you’ll uncover and intricate and sinister plot that looms over Springfield. Along the way you’ll steal cars, race classmates, and discover a variety of hidden items scattered across the town. Each chapter is broken into a series of missions that you can begin at any time, or if you like you can drive around the city and cause enough havoc that the SPD will be on your tail. Once you do accept a mission you’ll get an infinite amount of chances to complete it, which is great because some do get incredibly challenging. You’ll be performing tasks as simple as driving to a certain location to something as crazy as destroying another vehicle before it gets out of your sight.
There are also some decent 3D platformer experiences in SHR, especially when you’re on foot. Springfield is more than just a ground-level place, and you’ll often times find yourself hoping onto buildings and climbing the Lard Lad Statue in the hopes of discovering secrets across town. This freedom is a really nice touch and lets you fully enjoy the hard work that went into creating each map of the town. You can move the camera around without too much trouble as well. Sight-seeing Simpson style.
The control scheme in SHR is broken into two parts…walking and driving. I think both fulfill their purpose well, although the controls aren’t as matured as they probably could have been. Walking with the control stick and jumping/punching at the push of a button is no problem. You can even jump and perform a downward smash by pressing B. This comes in handy when you want to break open boxes, or simply torture random inhabitants along your way.
Is it funny that I didn’t learn until half-way through the game that you can run? Boy that would have been helpful to know. Although taking a leisurely stroll is definitely a good thing, some times you are required to cover some decent ground on foot and being able to dash and get somewhere in the half the time is definitely a good thing.
The driving controls are pretty good too, though a lot of your success relies on the type of vehicle you’re in. Driving Apu’s Firebird will probably provide you with a little more bang than an Ice Cream truck. Once you’re behind the wheel, it’s a typical turn, gas, e-brake control scheme that feels a lot like the old days of Crazy Taxi. Since most things are destructible you don’t have to worry a great deal about staying on the road. Just make sure to keep an eye out for your police meter as you go rampaging across town in Cletus’ truck.
Replay Value: 8/10
The think the appeal of this game comes from picking it up and rediscovering it from the beginning. As long as you have enough time in between games, you’ll fully enjoy the sites and sounds over again, and chances are you’ll see some new things that you missed previous times around. And that’s a good possibility because the intricate detail of each map is sure to overwhelm even the sharpest of eyes.
The addition of a multiplayer mode, which I was all excited about, is actually a let-down because it just consists of an overhead series of race tracks that you can traverse with up to three other friends. This is okay, I guess, but it really doesn’t fit into the rest of the game at all. I was hoping for a coop or competitive mode that would let you and a friend go out into Springfield and commit capers together. Ah well, in either case, the replay value earning by SHR truly comes from the involving and hilarious single player.
The graphics are a bit simplified in SHR, but I think they are still very well done. At certain points, they even tend to poke fun at themselves, which adds to the comic genius you’ll enjoy every step of the way. A lot of cell-shading and cheesy particle effects underscore the cartoonish mayhem you’ll be unleashing as you drive through graveyards, leap over tire fires, and discover the secret hideout of the StoneCutters.
Even though the graphics might not be ground-breaking, there certain is a lot to look at. The entire town is lush with people, soda machines, and skylines that really make you appreciate the well-thought game design. After all, how could you not fall in love with a sign that says “Don’t eat beef…eat dear”.
The music is sort of an afterthought in this game, but at times there are some nice scores that illustrate the mood. Sometimes you’ll be in a high-speed chase, others you’ll be casually walking across the lakefront, and the music seems appropriate for all these situations. And occasionally you’ll even hear some specific songs from your favorite episodes like when you’re barreling down the Stonecutters hallway. I’d only wish there would be more recognizable moments like this in other parts of the game.
The voice acting is truly the best part of the single player campaign. All the characters sound perfect and read from a very extensive script as you progress through the storyline. There are as many jokes as a full-length Simpsons episode and it really makes playing through the game a joy, even if you aren’t a hardcore Simpsons fan. Beyond the characters you’ll encounter, the game is also littered with explosions, honking horns, and other typical sound effects that are nicely tailored to the road rage you’ll unleash.
I’m a big fan of this title, though it seems like it wasn’t as well received as it should have been in the gaming industry. Living in the shadow of GTA is obviously a crippling place to be, but SHR does an excellent job as a stand-alone title and adds such a fun layer to the action adventure platform. If you’ve never played this, I totally encourage you to do so. If the gameplay doesn’t resonate as much with you as it did for me, at least you’ll have fun kicking Flanders until he falls down and can’t get up.