previews\ Aug 11, 2003 at 8:00 pm

The Simpsons Hit & Run - PS2 - Preview 2

"It’s crashing time!!" proclaims Homer Simpson, clambering into the pink Simpson’s family car.

Is nothing safe? Is nothing sacred?

The answer to both questions is, obviously, no. We are, after all, talking about the Simpsons, arguably the most well-known television cartoon family ever. And in the latest arcade-style adventure, the family is in glorious three-dimensions in The Simpsons Hit and Run, a PlayStation2 release from Vivendi Universal, Fox Interactive and Radical Entertainment.

Irreverent humor, tongue firmly planted in cheek and fast-pace entertainment are the hallmarks of this game. Not to mention getting to pilot the Simpsons maniacally through the streets of Springfield in a variety of vehicles. was invited to strap into the pink Simpson’s vehicle and journey through the home town of arguably the most famous cartoon family in television history on a wild adventure with the PlayStation2 preview. And in case you are wondering, there is a story here.

It seems that mysterious cameras, looking like wasps, have popped up all over Springfield. And black vans have been spotted, spying on people. Interspersed with resolving this mystery, there are a host of side quests and mayhem that can be created. But before you get to all that, take note of an article on the front page of the Springfield Shopper:

Study: 90 percent of all video games start with an easy tutorial level.

The game begins simply enough. A nice cutscene talks about a new cola, Buzz Cola, endorsed by Krusty. And Krusty puts it: "New buzz cola will give you the get up and go to do all the pathetic stuff you have to do." Of course, that is enough for Homer, who just has to have some.

Welcome to the tutorial.

As one can imagine, this is a game that is part negotiating the ground elements by running or driving recklessly through Springfield. Bart guides players through the tutorial. His unique way of explaining the controls is wonderful.

When it comes to the driving aspects, Bart explains breaks down the simple instructions, which include using the thumbstick to steer, the X to accelerate, the m for break and reverse, the q for the handbrake and the 5 to get in and out of vehicles and buildings. Or, as Bart puts it - "You know, just like every driving game ever."

The game is a rapid series of events in which players must race the clock, or collect items in order to succeed and advance. Some of the timers are lengthy, but some are short and require some precision driving - or taking advantage of the shortcuts available. The game does provide a map and road arrows as a guide.

But this game is, in every sense, completely in line with the comedy of the television series.

After halting the latest release of a violent video game, Marge complains to Homer that everyone should play more games about sharing.

Homer: "Marge, you know I abhor crazy plans. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go spy on my boss."

The game’s graphics are completely three dimensional and have the color combinations that Simpsons’ fans have come to know and enjoy. The PS2 graphics are a little brighter than its Xbox counterpart, but just as richly colored. The characters all move just like the cartoon come to life, and Springfield is a great driving venue, full of twisting corners, two-way traffic, hills and trees and plenty of other obstacles for Homer ("I have road rage and I know how to use it") to drive over.

This is a driving-based game with some out of car gameplay thrown in for variety.

The Simpsons Hit and Run features many of the old crowd you know and love from the television show, all playing parts in helping to solve the mystery.

The sound of this game is wonderful, with the voices and musical stylings of the animated television series all in place. The control elements have been kept relatively simple. This is the type of game that players can leap right into and play with little time spent trying to work through a tutorial. And you really won’t have time to get into a tutorial. This game is fast-paced. The true difficulty in playing the game lays in trying to navigate the courses without laughing too hard at the jokes flying past faster that pedestrians over or under the car.

The game is somewhat linear in design, but you do have the opportunity to take shortcuts throughout the town, adding to the replayability. And each mission has some little treats worth hunting and discovering along the way, not to mention the power-ups which help repair the damage to the cars.

The Simpsons Hit and Run is quite fun and enjoyable. It is a mirror of the antics of the television show, while giving players free reign inside their crazy world. This is not your typical smash’em up driving game. Rather, it is a great deal of fun, and if you listen too closely to the dialogue being casually bantered about, you might be laughing too hard to keep your mind on your mission.

The game has yet to be rated, but the language and some inferences are not appropriate for younger children.

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