The Simpsons Hit & Run (a GTA clone that recognizes its own lack of intelligence

Try and get this image out of your head.

My family has a few traditions that we’re quite proud of. Beer at five o’clock, frequent extended Lord of the Rings marathons, and a love of cutting remarks and sarcasm that stems from our British roots. I know, we’re soooo cool. But one of our great obsessions is with that of the Simpsons. From the gatherings to watch the two re-runs played at five and six (with our beers during the five o’clock showing of course), to the comics I have stashed away in my closet, to the endless repetition of our favorite quotes, our #1 being “everything’s comin’ up Milhouse!” This infatuation of mine is a big reason I’ve decided to dust off the old Gamecube and stick in The Simpsons: Hit and Run. But surprisingly, this is a game that can resonate with gamers who haven’t even seen an episode of The Simpsons. Sure, some of the lines and references will go over your head, but the game is still over-the-top in all the right ways, and is vital to the game library of someone who enjoys reckless driving and destruction. And if you haven’t seen an episode of the show, since apparently you’re living in a cave with an inexplicable source of wi-fi, I place a curse on you until you ‘ve seen at least three seasons. You know what, go watch the whole series right now. I’ll wait.“Oh, the cursed one. How’s that curse I cursed you with, cursey?” Now if you did your homework you’ll know which episode that’s from. But the curse is gone now so we’ll move on. Now those who say that Hit & Run is simply a Grand Theft Auto clone set in the Simpsons universe are both right and wrong. Hit & Run does have driving missions that range from collecting items around the town, to various types of races, to escort missions (not the inappropriate type of escorts, a key difference between this and GTA, The Simpsons is a family show keep in mind), and of course destruction missions. What Hit & Run doesn’t have is the dull but gritty realism that you got in the fourth installment of GTA. There is no mission in which you drive your cousin to and from the bar while he blathers on about the American dream in a quickly irritating Eastern European accent. In Hit & Run, you can get out of your car like in GTA, but rather than doing this to go bowling or something as equally dreary and depressing, you do this to find coins to buy collectible and interact in a world filled with gags that are delightfully hilarious and even reward you for making the effort to find them. And break stuff. Duh.

The story is in the classic Simpsons style of storytelling. The family starts out their day perfectly normal-like before getting involved in something way over their heads. Featuring suspicious surveillance vans, mobile spy cameras disguised as bees, and creatures from outer space, these sort of shenanigans are typical occurrences for Homer and kin. The player gets to play as Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa, as well as the town’s local Kwik-E-Mart owner and family friend Apu Nahasapeemapetilon for some unknown reason as they all try to get to bottom of all this suspicious activity. The game does a good job of incorporating all of its mission types into tasks that relate to the story. This can include fetching evidence, tailing bad guys, even delivering nuclear bombs (in a safe manner, obviously).

The only problems I see with Hit & Run are minor. When driving without regard to human life through the streets of Springfield, it takes about seven to nine citizens being run over before the police decides to take notice. They are also incredibly easy to drive away from. But considering the fact that the police force in the show are about effective as a squirt gun in the middle of a forest fire, one could say that the game’s doing a good job in keeping true to the Simpsons universe. Also, the later levels are simply the beginning levels rehashed. Based on all the locations seen throughout the city through the show’s decades of being on air, there exists the potential for about ten levels given the size of each level, although there’s only about four or five.

The reason for widespread agreement that Grand Theft Auto III and San Andreas were the best in the series was because their emphasis was on mayhem and carnage as opposed to the mood-killing story of trying to make it in America seen in GTA 4. This change of pace in GTA also explains why series such as Saints’ Row have risen to prominence, a series that would rather see you in the middle of a wacky gang war than in a run down apartment in Liberty City. It’s games like Saints’ Row and the original GTA’s, as well as shows like The Simpsons that aren’t trying to be serious, and trying to play video games seriously is one of the biggest contradictions since Starburst. That wasn’t a plug for Starburst, I just really like Starburst, I swear. The Simpsons Hit & Run epitomizes what’s most important in a video game: fun. When you have a game that encompasses mayhem, stunts, action, comedy, and Homer Simpson dancing around in a devil’s outfit singing “I am the evil Homer”, everything really does come up Milhouse.

“My feet are soaked but my cuffs are bone dry!”


1 Comment

Filed under Retro Reviews

One response to “The Simpsons Hit & Run (a GTA clone that recognizes its own lack of intelligence

  1. I remember spending the majority of my time searching for famous Simpsons landmarks and references. Just driving to the nuclear power plant via the stone cutters secret enterance, was a geeky dream come true. The Simpsons; still the greatest TV programme ever commissioned. FACT!

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