The Simpsons: Hit and Run

The Simpsons meets Grand Theft Auto

Snap38You can find the answer to all of life’s questions by watching The Simpsons. Life, death, what happens when Homer goes to clown collage, it’s all there. But one question has remained unanswered: How do you turn the greatest animated television show in history into a decent videogame? Radical Entertainment has the answer, in the form of The Simpsons Hit & Run. This “Grand Theft Simpsons†perfectly captures everything that makes the show great: the writing, the setting, the humor, and the characters.

You get to play as each of the four primary characters (Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge), and each one starts in a different section of Springfield. You advance the game by completing simple missions – mostly involving either racing or platforming – but can also engage in typical GTA-style free roaming on the side. You discover easter eggs, gather gold coins, complete bonus races, and can eventually buy better vehicles and episode-referencing outfits. There’s a police system similar to GTA as well, but law enforcement in Springfield is noticeably more relaxed. You can run over roadside objects, people (they amusingly bounce around but never get hurt) and crash your car for quite some time before the cops come after you, as indicated by a useful wanted meter.

Everyone and everything from the show gets thrown into the game, including the original voice actors providing their original voices. Springfield is painstakingly recreated, and it will take an encyclopedic knowledge on the player’s part to get every inside joke. It’s rendered in glorious detail, with references that are obvious (the Springfield tire fire is still burning) and slightly less so (Jasper frozen in Apu’s freezer).

Old Set of Wheels

Originally designed for all platforms, the controls for the PC version are merely adequate. While it’s intended for an analog gamepad, the controls for driving with the keyboard are on-par with the PC versions of Grand Theft Auto. Running around on foot introduces some weirdness, as the camera has a tendency to go wonky and the mouselook option is half-assed, but manageable.

Snap19Any control issues fade into the background when you actually sit down and play the thing, however. There are 49 missions in total, plus a “Bonus†one on each of the seven levels. The missions are almost exclusively races, but for the most part they’re all winnable. (The quantity compensates for the lack of difficulty.) In fact, everything about the game is designed to make it easier on the player, unlike the brutally unforgiving Grand Theft Auto 3. Paths in any race are marked on the roads with arrows and you can restart missions at your whim.

Completing missions opens new areas of Springfield, and completing some of the secondary tasks unlocks new vehicles. For any fan of the series, the self-referential tone, humor and fun gameplay make this a winner. To put it mildly, if you can’t get enough Simpsons, then this game was made for you.

System Requirements: Pentium III 500 MHz, 192 MB RAM, 16 MB Video, Win98

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