Bucking the recent trend of poor-quality licensed games, The Simpsons: Hit & Run on the Gamecube is a pleasant surprise. A humorous riff on the GTA series, this offers players the chance to explore the city of Springfield in more than 50 missions. Hit & Run mixes driving and on-foot exploration and allows you to play as Bart, Homer, Marge, and Lisa. Other characters like Comic Book Guy, Chief Wiggum, and Krusty appear as well. The storyline is classic Simpsons, with unexpected hilarious turns. The series' cast also their considerable talents, making for a hilarious adventure. Join in the fun as The Laser finds out why this smartly designed game will appeal to any Simpsons fan.
In The Simpsons: Hit & Run, you take the role of one of the Simpsons clan who have accidentally uncovered a sinister plot to destroy Springfield. As the game begins, players start with Homer, who discovers that something is definitely going on. As you play through the game, you can take the role of the other Simpsons characters as well. The gameplay involves a lot of driving with racing and collecting missions. During the game, you'll need to your vehicle and talk to other characters, at which point the next mission begins. You can also exit the vehicle and can walk around the streets freely, and reach areas where your car won't fit. If this is all there was, Hit & Run would be a dull game. Thankfully, the gameplay is more exciting than that. The developers have taken a page from GTA, and let you take over other cars and drive them. Being able to jack cars adds a level of unpredictability to the game and makes the hours you spend with it go by faster.
For such a seemingly complex game, Hit & Run's interface is remarkably streamlined and transparent, rarely interfering with the gameplay. Its driving sequences are simple, the vehicles are responsive, making fast turns easy to perform, though their responsiveness, and durability varies. Jumping into and out of the cars only requires you to push the Gamecube's Y button, which is simple enough. When the characters are walking around, you have to press the key to run and can hit pedestrians. You also press the Y button to talk to other characters, which makes memorization easy. The controls are quite intuitive and this simple approach that makes playing a pure joy. The game controls feel smooth and intuitive throughout, which allows you to immerse yourself in the Simpsons universe unobstructed. Also helping are the arrows that appear on the street, that point to your next destination. While it seems a tad condescending after awhile, the use of these arrows definitely makes locating your next objective easier. There's also an onscreen map in case you get lost. Overall, the developers have done an excellent job with the controls; it's easy to play and should be accessible for gamers of all abilities.
This is a lot of fun, and there are loads of different types of vehicles to choose from which gives Hit & Run plenty of variety. Each vehicle in the game has its own handling characteristics, which adds to the fun. During each mission, you have to be careful not to run over too many pedestrians or get into to many accidents. If you cause too much havoc, your meter will start flashing and the cops will come chasing after you. You have to race away from them because you lose coins when you're caught. If you sustain too much damage, you can repair it by pressing the auto reset key or running over the wrench icons. During the game, you can also enter a variety of locations including The Simpsons home, Comic Book Guy's Shop or the Noiseland Arcade. Here, you can talk to characters or buy additional costumes for your characters. While driving around is the main thrust of the game, you'll also spend a lot of time on foot, and you can talk to people or hit them, causing them to fall down. However, you can also get into trouble doing this as well. You'll also find numerous phone booths and entering these allows you to select from the cars in your garage. This is important because some missions require specific vehicles to complete.
During the game, you can collect coins by running over objects, smashing boxes and damaging other vehicles. When you collect enough of these, you can use them in the special stores to buy additional vehicles or outfits. Players can also earn extra coins by winning special races during the game. Additionally, you'll find various collector cards in the game, locating all seven of these on each level unlocks a special mini racing game, so it's definitely worthwhile. Another cool aspect of the game is the stunts. At various points in the city, you'll find giant ramps, and driving these usually cause another event to happen, while the action switches to a dramatic angle. This is slick and performing these stunts successfully adds to your coin count.
Hit & Run's missions are surprisingly varied and involve racing against another vehicle, collecting all the objects in an area or damaging other vehicles. These are all time-limited and players have to complete these in order to progress. Some of the initial missions are easy, but things get harder later on as Hit & Run throws more at you. The missions gradually become more difficult, but most players should have little problem progressing at a satisfying pace. The game is rarely frustrating and most of the missions can be beaten with ease after a few tries. However, some of these require you to do two things simultaneously, such as smashing a rival car while collecting items they drop. The collecting missions can be tricky, but the key here is not to forget that some areas are unreachable by car, and you'll need to get out and walk to collect some of the items. While there are loads of individual missions in the main story, the sub quests and side-missions add to the game's depth, and extend the game's replay value significantly, as you try to find all of its secrets.
Simpsons fans will be happy to know that the game faithfully recreates the look and feel of Springfield. While the characters are 3D renders, and not flat, their personality and spirit remains true to their origins. From a visual standpoint, the game looks really nice and colorful, with all the elements you've come to expect. The graphics engine is quite impressive, especially when you consider the size of the environments. There's lots of detail throughout the game, with small touches such as posters creating a perfect environment. From a technical standpoint, the game is excellent. Driving becomes quite fast later on but the action continuously moves at a decent frame-rate throughout, for a silky smooth appearance. The city itself is massive and impressively rendered with many pedestrians and denizens of the city walking about, which makes it feel alive. While there are some minor glitches with walls and objects when the characters are walking around, the camera system is remarkably good, requiring manual changes only rarely. Hit & Run's rendition of Springfield is quite impressive which will please even jaded fans. It offers a large environment to explore and you'll find many of the more famous Simpsons landmarks. During your missions throughout Springfield you'll find many familiar locations including Moe's Tavern, the Kwik-E-Mart, Burns' Nuclear Power Plant and of course, Comic Book's Guy's store. While not all these are in the exact locations as they were in the cartoon, the city's layout is relatively faithful to the cartoon's spirit.
Adding to its authenticity are the voice-overs from the Simpsons actors. This definitely adds much to the experience and makes playing the game like interacting with an episode of the series. While many licensed games to date have barely tangible ties to their source material, Hit & Run's level of involvement is evident in the highly polished script, witty dialogue and hilarious inside jokes. We don't want to ruin the fun, but those fans who've memorized episodes will find plenty to enjoy. For example, some of the alternate costumes come directly from famous events from the series' history. Another cool thing about having the series' writers involved is that the characters in the game actually stay in character. This is even more appreciated after years of playing Simpsons video games that seemed to come from developers who never watched the series.
Overall, Hit & Run is a highly polished and intelligently designed game that should please fans of the series. Its open-ended play allows for plenty of freedom and exploration but the storyline propels you to keep playing. Sure, the game takes elements from GTA, but it mixes in the trademark Simpsons humor and atmosphere to give it a personality all its own. It's probable that some players will dismiss this as a cheap GTA clone but those that do are missing a great time. This license has been abused a lot over the years, but Hit & Run is the game Simpsons fans have been waiting for. Each situation seems well suited to the characters you're involved with, and the gameplay itself is solid. This is an example of a licensed game that delivers what fans of the series want, and is highly recommended for any Simpsons devotee.