The Simpsons Hit & Run – XB – Review

I’m a huge Simpsons fan. I smiled when I got
this. I smiled when I watched the opening sequences (which play out like an
actual TV episode intro). I smiled when I played it. As I write the review, in
reflection, I am still smiling. In fact, I hope to get back to it– soon.
This isn’t a toss-away attempt to cash in on a commercial, marketing success
like some Olsen Twins gig; this is legitimate, grin and go fun that just
to be associated with one of the longest running TV shows of all

Simpsons: Hit and Run
is a thrill. It’s a worthy sequel to Road Rage. The game has so many facets, I
am not even sure where to begin. I also do not want to tread too deeply
into some of the thrills, as it’s like spoiling the end of a movie. The
surprises are fun to experience. First, the introduction? As I mentioned, the
game opens like an episode from the show. The 20th Century music and logo. Then,
the "Grace" sequence. You know the one. The actual game starts—  finding Homer
on his sofa and the world of Springfield before you. You can tweak options,
watch clips (OK, so almost all of them are locked at this stage) or start a
game. Go right for the game!! 

This game offers a large world of fun for you to
experience. There is the obligatory Tutorial to begin with, which is spoofed by
a Bart voice-over. Bart mocks the mere idea of a tutorial– which makes it less
painful for those of us that usually try to get underway without "practice".
Bart’s taunting made it fun to be new at it. The mission is explained, and off
you go (please take a moment to at least read how to drive the car and move
about on your feet). 

The details of the first, basic, mission need not
be explained. What is interesting is that this game does not make you
conform to its direct intentions. For example, though you have been sent out to
________, you can stop (unless this is a racing situation!!) at any time and
explore the world of Springfield. Once I would complete a non-timed experience,
I would hop out of the car and explore back yards and alleyways. Hint: money
grow on/in trees. 

Yes, there is driving. A lot of it. There is
driving to missions, and racing against characters as well. In any
situation, Homer is a wrecking-machine. Using that large car, you can
pretty much demolish the whole town if desired. Take note, too much damage will
call out Springfield’s finest a la Grand Theft Auto. If you behave (or jump out
to seek shelter within buildings) your "Hit and Run" meter will decrease and
your risk of being chased diminishes as well. If your car becomes too battered,
a phone booth will allow you to get another car, or look for a glowing gold
and poof— car repair on the go. Driving can be fun, though
brutal. Homer takes off the edge by making light of running down pedestrians and
destroying property. It’s worth being destructive just to hear Homer’s

Like I said, you can exit your vehicle at any
point and explore. Like Mario, you can roam and collect gold coins. What does a
man like Homer, whom has everything, need with coins? Maybe a muumuu.
Yes, you can use your earned cash to buy Homer’s infamous working-from-home one
piece "fat outfit" to wear. Or, select from other snazzy selections (though, I
am not sure why it costs $$ for him to go around in his underwear
only??). Kicking/beating various items will reward you with a jumble of floating
coins. Collect and spend when given the chance. You can get (literally) lost in
your own game– just walking around collecting coins. Whether you are in town,
or out in the country with Cletus, you can wreak havoc and collect booty- such
as collector cards that allow you to unlock goodies. 

The game entertains you. I was so thrilled with
the various winks to us fans— I didn’t mind re-playing various races and
challenges when I’d fail a mission. It just meant another chance to experience
some of the fun. It is riddled with subtle (and not subtle) characters, objects
and "flashes" of the series. There are scenes to unlock, and characters to talk
to for mission information. It’s a very deep world to explore.

The graphics are great. Much more in depth than
Road Rage. Though I think cell-shading (ie: Jet Grind Radio) would have been
great, the 3D Simpsons world is nice to look at. The characters look good, and
the landscapes look great as you whiz by in a race. I think the developers
pushed the tolerances of the platform, then pushed again. It worked. Though is
odd for me to see "flat" cartoon characters rendered in 3D, it makes for nice
gaming. I did have some issues with the camera angles, but not too bad. You can
pan about at your leisure.

The sound was superb. The actual cast provided
their voices to oodles of dialog just for the game. There are also snippets of
dialog from the episodes, which are fun to hear. Though you’re busy doing your
task, you can’t help but get distracted by some of the comments made by a
pedestrian-charging Homer. The music and environmental (crashing!) sounds were
good. They didn’t try to make it sound like a REAL trashcan being smashed, but
instead made that effect cartoon-like, as it should be!

To say that the game is fun is as minimal a
comment as saying Bart has bad manners. The game excels in being beyond a game,
in the same way the show itself exceeds the boundaries of being just a "comedy"
show on Fox. They may have used up the "Road" theme, but it would not surprise
me if the somehow managed to top it in the future. I would not have though Road
Rage could be improved upon, either. Even if you do not watch the show, this is
a good game to play. However, being a fan and knowing the characters adds to the
experience. To date, it’s one of the best games I have played on the Xbox.
Behind the fun and run action, there is a (drink Buzz Cola!) mystery to
be solved. Even without that challenge, the game stands alone as a superb
addition to your gaming collection. Any single element of the multi-layered game
is better than a lot of games out there. I can’t wait to get back to it. I am
sure I missed pillaging someone’s back yard, somewhere

Gameplay: 9
Sheer fun, and easy to enjoy. Some games require a lot of manual-study and
trial and error before you get comfortable enough to play, relax and have fun.
Not here. You’re able to jump right in the ole car and get to smashin’. There is
an adventure/mystery to solve, but enough extras to keep you busy for hours and
hours. Despite all the time spent on it, I still want to explore more, and know
that I missed a lot. 

Graphics: 9 
The visuals are great. The Simpsons in 3D is odd at first, having spent so
much time watching them in 2D on TV, but I adjusted and had fun seeing Lisa’s
spiked hair with the extra dimension. I would love to see them do a cell-shaded
treatment of the Simpsons, but what you have here is by no means weak.
The colors are sharp, and the direction arrows on-screen are clear and easy to
read. Little things like that help when you’re "plowing" (there’s a hint)
through Springfield at high speed. 

Sound: 9.5
With the surround sound on, the sound is excellent. Having the original
actors supplying all of the dialog is great. I suppose they could have made a
great game using nothing but clips and snippets from past episodes, but they
went the extra mile (and a half!) to make the game more fresh. Those nuances are
part of the total package that makes this so much fun.  

Difficulty: Easy
Though I rate this aspect as "easy", that is not a bad, thing. It is easy–
in that there is no huge learning curve before you get going with the real fun.
The only time I like devouring manuals is in sports games, or in-depth titles
like "Hitman". Otherwise, give me some basic info, a vibration controller and
let me go!

Concept: 8 
Originality is not its strong point– perhaps the only shortcoming of
the game, but not a bad thing at all. It plays a lot like Crazy Taxi or GTA.
That’s OK. I like this one– better. The previously mentioned titles gave a lot
of fun, but having familiar characters make it unique and personalized. I felt
like I was making my own Mega-Episode as I played. They may have played-out the
driving theme with this one, but I won’t be surprised if they somehow top it. 

Multiplayer: N/A
You can play with up to four in a race,
but I did not try this. Still, I can only imagine that would be a great thing to

Overall: 9
This is a solid game. Only minor things keep me from giving this a higher
rating. It’s a smile-making good time. There is so much to explore and
experience, there is (almost) no end to the gaming fun. I played for hours at a
stretch, yet I never got bored. I would start a mission, then get lost in some
distraction side-adventure. I enjoyed probing back yards and streets looking for
bounty and fun. Talking to the various neighbors and "enemies" was fun to do. I
spent a LOT of time just listening to Barney on the sidewalk! I still can’t
believe he gave up drinking! If you need a fun escape from shooters and
uniformed sports action, give this a try. If you’re a Simpsons fan and have an
Xbox, GET THIS GAME– NOW. It’s better than a fresh bag of pork rinds and
a Itchy and Scratchy rerun. Now THAT is saying a lot!!