Simpsons:  Hit and Run
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5  |  Behold the power of a popular license!
fishbulb , 7/7/2005 6:03:12 AM
A comercial currently airing for Simpsons Hit and Run proudly proclaims it as 'the best Simpsons GAME EVER!' Normally that would be an arguable claim, but in the long, long existence of the Simpsons and their branded merchandise, they have produced almost 20 different games, and only one of them has been has been anything worth playing. Claiming this one as 'the best' is like saying 'that was the least painful hernia I've ever had.' Not that the game is hernially bad, but its not exactly great company to be in.

A lot of press has been given to the game, comparing it to Grand Theft Auto. Other than the fact that you can drive and blow up cars, I think that is a bit too loose of a comparison. Sure, there are large levels which you have to explore to complete missions, and you can randomly run up to cars on the street and control them (although you definitely aren't stealing them as in GTA, apparently everyone in Springfield is more than willing to give Homer a ride to the Kwick E Mart at any time) the game has a more distinct structure than the now popular free form GTA series, requiring you to complete a set of missions to advance to the next area of the town. Most of the missions require you to drive a vehicle, so the game actually plays more like a racing/driving game than an adventure game, but there is a heavy emphasis on collecting items (each stage requires you to collect 7 collector cards, 20 'bee cameras' and some visual gags to complete it) which you mostly need to do on foot. The game play works for the most part, with some variety between mission completion and collection, and the various car races in each stage, giving the player some freedom to do as they choose. One of things you can collect is coins which are randomly placed in levels and inside boxes. You can use the coins to purchase new outfits for the characters (MuMu Homer, Lisa dressed as the State of Florida etc...) and new cars (Mr. Plow!). Also, as you cause destruction all over Springfield you can eventually get the cops on your tail, amazingly enough, the Springfield PD can actually catch you, but laughable the fine for being caught is 50 coins. Yeah. You can't die either. If the 'bee cameras' harm you with their little laser stingers, you lose coins. Wow. Challenging.

Unfortunately the game is plagued by a couple of problems. First and foremost, the camera is pretty terrible, frequently getting 'stuck' behind objects when you need to make precise jumps to collect a floating card or coin. Second, the game is relatively repetitive. There are 3 areas of Springfield (the power plant and Evergreen Terrace, downtown/city hall area, and the Squidport/Mount Springfield area) which you play through twice (3 times for the first area). Small things change each time you play the area, but the location of coins, and for the most part, the bee cameras and visual gags are identical. That's great, I can watch the Simpsons swing set fall apart on 3 separate occasions. Joy. Also, you have to play a level as Lisa. That qualifies as torture in some countries.

Luckily the problems with the game aren't so bad as to make it unplayable, but they don't help it raise itself to any great level. If you're a Simpsons fan the references both obscure and obvious will probably entertain you through at least the first play through of each area, and perhaps through the entire game if you're patient enough to kill the same bees over and over again on each stage. At least its a step in the right direction for the Simpsons franchise, hopefully it will result in the development of some better games eventually.

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