The Simpsons: Hit & Run GameCube Review
The Simpsons license has been involved in videogames practically ever since the industry was created. Some have been of decent quality, but most have been rather subpar unfortunately. However, with the most recent game in the franchise, Simpsons Hit & Run, the license finally has something to be proud of. Hit & Run (referred to as H&R; for the rest of the review) is most definitely the best Simpsons licensed game to be created to this date. It features a comical story that definitely feels like it could be applied to the television series, a very fun and engaging gameplay engine, fun music, kooky dialogue and a very nice graphical presentation!
The main story that drives it is a mysterious new soft drink called Buzz Cola. It’s apparently having strange effects on those who drink it, and something is strange about the environment around you. There are mysterious black vans appearing on street corners, there are mechanical bees buzzing around with cameras attached to their butt ends, some citizens are mysteriously disappearing, and no one seems to know what’s going on! Well, it’s up to Homer and Co. to figure things out, and boy are you in for one heck of a spin!
When you start your game, it will open up with a cinematic cutscene showing the beginning of the story. It shows the infamous Simpsons house with Homer’s car parked in the driveway and Homer is sitting on his trademark couch doing what he does best, watching tv! He’s watching the news when all of a sudden a commercial advertisement featuring Krusty the Clown and a supporting cast member that is promoting a new type of soft drink! The new “hot” item is called Buzz Cola. Apparently this Cola is at the heart of the game’s story, because for some reason it’s been having adverse effects on the people who are drinking it. Of course Homer drools at the thought of this new Cola, but Marge quickly breaks his trance and tells him he has something to do!
The opening scene does a great job of giving you that Simpsons atmosphere that those of you know and love, and giving you that comical feel that it brings. You will feel right at home when you start your first mission, because Homer is just like how he is on television!
Most of the game’s controls will involve two things, driving cars and foot navigation. It’s not hard to drive cars, especially since it’s virtually the same controls as any other game that involves driving, and walking and running, well, that should most definitely be simple enough for the common gamer!
You will have absolutely no problem fine tuning yourself to play this game, and around 30 minutes should be more than satisfactory.
Just as the Simpsons is a cartoon show on television, the graphical presentation in this game reflects that kind of style. Now there is a slight difference, because the television show mainly features a sort of “cel shaded” presentation (LoZ: Wind Waker, Killer 7), but H&R; features a more 3D kind of presentation. This coupled with a sort of cartoony style approach sort of makes the characters look a little misconstrued in some physical aspects, especially when it comes to their eyes. But given the presentation and how they are presented on television, it’s truly understandable.
That’s really the only thing one could complain about the graphics in this game, because everything else looks very good! The world of Springfield is massive, and it’s no different in H&R.; There are 3 main areas in the game that you will find yourself navigating. The main neighborhood where you can visit the school, stores and other such locations. Downtown Springfield where you will find a large construction site, Moe’s Tavern, the doctor’s office and even the town library! Finally, you will have the harbor-like area where you will find several restaurants, afternoon/evening hangout areas, and the town’s beautiful looking water!
So yes, based on what was just said, you should be able to figure out that this game is a free-roaming game. You are free to go whereever you want and whenever you want! So you can experience what the Simpsons world of Springfield has to offer at all times. Now even though your environment is massive, that doesn’t mean the graphics have been sacrificed due to it!
Everything around you looks impressively good, the most noticeable things and even the smaller, not-as-noticed things! Houses look fine, and even scaled well compared to the character avatars. Trees look very nice as well as all the other natural aspects of your environment. Stores, gas stations, restaurants, and all other kinds of important buildings look just like they might in the show! Even such things as swingsets and bomb shelters in the backyard look impressively authentic! If you are in search of a Simpsons game that features one of the most impressive graphical presentations to date, H&R; is most definitely what you’re looking for!
Finally, the last thing that you will see a lot of that is obviously the most integral part of the game is the game’s available vehicles!
Now this definitely isn’t your average run-of-the-mill game when it comes to what vehicles look like. You don’t have any licensed cars, nothing that would be seen in the real world. Now there are some vehicles that look like they could be real most definitely, but others are definitely “out of this world!”
You of course have Homer’s trademark pink car. But the more money you get and the more vehicles you unlock, the stranger and more advanced the vehicles will become! You will unlock anything from a brand new convertible to a space shuttle vehicle that is driven by Bart! That’s right, some vehicles are actually exclusive to certain characters, and it really only makes sense because of what some of the vehicles actually are. But as strange as some of the vehicles can get, they definitely look great, and this game is definitely very realistic when it comes to vehicle damage! You will see the smoke, you will see fire, and you will see explosions! Sure they aren’t the most realistic looking things in the gaming world, but they sure are fun to look at!
Overall, H&R; features a very unique and impressive graphical presentation. The only thing one can really complain about is how bulgy the eyes can look in some of the characters. But considering the 3D conversion of the characters from their cel shaded origins on tv, it’s really nothing to get overly frustrated over. So with that minor quip, combined with everything else around you that looks great, it deserves a quality score!
With the license of the Simpsons, you just can’t go without what is needed most in this game! That’s right! Every character that you encounter or play in this game has a predetermined set of lines that he or she might typically say based on the television show. This is where the mild language of the ESRB rating comes in, because a couple of the characters actually do say some naughty words, but thankfully they don’t do much to ruin the overall experience of the game. Of course they could’ve been done without, but what do you expect with the Simpsons?
But obviously with the Simpsons come those one-liners that are meant to spice up the game’s comical atmosphere and bring that Simpsons feel to the game that fans of the television show get when they watch old or new episodes. Most of them are actually pretty funny and that’s hard to come by in this gaming generation. Whoever wrote the lines for the characters in this game had one heck of a tough job, and he/she/they performed beautifully. You really hear the personality of the Simpsons characters in their voices, and that is definitely a plus when it comes to this game. Now of course the one-liners to tend to get a little repetitive after awhile, but it’s not quite as fast as it might be with some other games. If you want a Simpsons game that has those trademark phrases and one that will make you laugh, H&R; is most definitely for you.
As for the music in this game, it really wasn’t done too badly either. Although it didn’t seem to be as crucial to the game being a good one since so much of it was focused on the characters’ dialogue, it was still there, and definitely had a hand in making the experience what it was. A lot of the musical compositions are scores of techno and pop music, with some hints of rock here and there. Most of the music you hear happens during the game’s main missions, and especially when you’re at the peak of the mission time and the tempo of the music picks up a few notches.
The music will definitely bring you into the game and keep you interested in what’s going on, even if some of the scores are rather strange in some areas. Especially the area downtown by Moe’s Tavern, the music there is oddly mellow and delivers a sort of “melancholy” type mood, and that really doesn’t seem to fit considering how it normally is during the tv show. But nevertheless, most of the music in the game fits where it’s been placed, and that is a definite plus. The upbeat theme keeps the game fun and will help you to not get bored too quickly, even if a mission happens to be pestering you!
With regards to sound effects, there really isn’t a whole lot to this game. You will hear the car engines, you will hear impacts with basically anything you crash into, you will hear car horns, and you hear the impact of you busting open anything that is destructible for the coins that you can obtain. But none of these are really new so nothing ever really stands out in terms of the overall experience. But nevertheless, they are there, and serve their purpose, but don’t really expect to be wowed by anything. They do what they need to, and that’s really enough to satisfy any Simpsons fan.
Overall, the voiceovers are very good, and each are done by the corresponding actor who takes the role of each character on television. The music, while odd sounding in some areas, does a great job of keeping you in the game and maintaining the entertainment level. The sound effects aren’t anything special, but like stated previously, they serve their purpose.
This game features 3 main engines of playing, and to keep this section as organized and flowing as possible, it will be broken up into 3 different sections, driving, foot navigation and main missions!
Driving: Now this game could obviously be compared to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, because you can take control of pretty much any vehicle you come into contact with. But where this game differs from GTA is the fact that if you don’t actually “own” the car yourself, you simply get in the passenger seat of a vehicle and have the original driver of the car take you where you want to go! Now that doesn’t mean you actually have to “tell” the person literally, you just drive whatever vehicle you’re in with your Simpsons character in the passenger seat.
There are a handful of vehicles that will eventually be at your disposal the further you get into the game. You can unlock new vehicles by either purchasing them from sale booths with your coins that you can obtain a number of ways, or you can unlock them through participating in 3 hidden circuit races under each set of missions! It doesn’t matter how you net them, but if you want to progress through the story, you almost HAVE to just because you need a faster or more physically dominant vehicle to accomplish some of your objectives.
Now you might think of this as a hassle, but it really isn’t. You can switch vehicles at pretty much any time, you simply have to visit a phone booth to do so, and when you do, the car will appear right next to you ready for use! Now if you actually destroy your car, you will have to pay a small fee to get it fixed before you can use it again, but normally it’s not really detrimental to your funds to actually have to do that.
However, what IS actually similar to GTA when it comes to this game is the very reason why it’s called “Hit & Run.” You do have a meter on your screen, and every time you do something that could be considered “a crime” such as hitting innocent pedestrians walking down the sidewalk, hitting others’ cars and taking out other peoples’ property, your meter will begin filling up. If you manage to fill the whole thing up, you will trigger a “Hit & Run” sequence. During such, Officer Quimby will basically come after you full force either by himself or with a backup unit or 2 and will do everything they possibly can to stop you dead in your tracks! If they manage to stop you dead, you will be tagged with a pretty hefty fine, and you will have to go from there! No you don’t actually go to jail, but making up that lost money certainly isn’t any easy task!
As much fun as it is sometimes to cause needless destruction, it’s in your best interest to stay away from filling that meter at all times!
As for how the game controls with all the various vehicles, it really couldn’t be any more realistic and smooth. Bigger vehicles such as Marge’s personal SUV are clunky, difficult to control and very resistant to physical damage. But other vehicles like Bart’s space shuttle vehicle and some of the more luxurious looking vehicles are fast, very nimble but VERY susceptible to the slightest bump into anything! Even bumping Bart’s space shuttle vehicle front end into a mailbox can cause his windshield to crack!
Foot Navigation: If you couldn’t figure out the title means walking on foot and running, then we have problems here. But hopefully with having passed that, we can get into what is encompassed in this field of gameplay!
You are basically free to go wherever you want on foot, and this is actually how you obtain most of your money and destroy most of those “flying bee cameras” that were mentioned earlier. A lot of the environment in this game is interactive and destructible, including crates, mailboxes, trash cans and even vending machines! Each character basically has “kicking” motions that are what are used to destroy these items for your money, as well as those bee cameras. Each character can also jump, and that’s how you get to the harder to reach places that might contain hidden unlockables and those inconspicuous bee cameras that don’t particularly like to “show themselves.” Kind of ironic isn’t it?
Now running isn’t entirely realistic in this game like it is in GTA because you never actually run out of breath (although the characters complain enough about it). You can run as long as you want without having to worry about letting your character catch a minute break, but in some cases, that is truly a positive thing. Plus the Simpsons was never meant to be realistic so it’s rather fitting.
Finally, each character actually has an entirely custom wardrobe at his or her disposal! Some of the unlockable outfits are simply for laughs, like Homer’s “underwear” mode. Some outfits are actually required to complete some of the missions, like in Apu’s case when he has to dress up to look more “American” to complete one of his missions later on down the road in the game. These alternate costumes are bought, and it’s up to you where and when you want to wear them!
Main Missions: This game has an actual story, so of course there will be missions for you to accomplish! There are several chapters to this story, and each chapter is dedicated to a different character. You will use many of the Simpsons characters, especially Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and Apu. Each of them have their own unique obstacles to overcome, and most of the missions are actually quite engaging! Most of them will encompass some sort of “investigative” prowess because that’s obviously what you’re trying to do in this game. You’re trying to get to the bottom of the side effects of this “Buzz Cola” and why everyone is acting so weird about it. The story can certainly throw you through a loop, and each new chapter is greeted by a newspaper headline that is meant to drive the humor of what you are about to go through!
Now while most of the missions do feature some kind of “investigative” task to complete, there are some that are sort of “side” things that you still actually have to do, but really aren’t related to the main drive of the story. Sometimes you’ll end up having to collect things for someone and bring them back to them inorder to unlock a new vehicle. Sometimes you’ll have to follow a vehicle and pick up items they drop, sometimes you’ll even have to participate in a “town race” that isn’t one of the hidden circuit races just so you can make the story progress! It doesn’t really matter what you do, but most of the missions are diversified nicely and make the overall experience quite unique!
So overall, the gameplay in H&R; is very fun and can be rather addicting for the first time you end up playing it. There is a good number of missions per playable character and all of them have something fresh to offer for the most part. This is definitely a great Simpsons game that emulates the mission style of GTA, but does it in its own way so that you almost never get bored!
When you finally beat this game, you will view a cinematic cutscene that ends the story. The ending mission is actually REALLY hard just because of how limited the time is you’re given. But when you finally beat it, you will get a nice laugh at the conversation the Simpsons have with each other, which really makes you feel like you might be watching the end of an actual television episode. It’s a nice way to end the game, and doesn’t really leave any questions left unanswered!
This is where this game truly suffers a detrimental loss in it’s overall quality value. Everything about this game really is great, but the replay value just really isn’t there. Why is that? Once you complete all the missions, destroy all the bee cameras, and find all the hidden cartoon artwork that is hidden throughout the game, there just isn’t much to come back to. To be quite honest, finding all the hidden stuff and accomplishing everything really isn’t entirely difficult once you understand how the game plays out. You can easily find and do everything in about 2 weeks, and quite frankly, there just isn’t anything left afterwards. Unless you want to experience the story again, which really isn’t anything special after you beat it once, there’s almost no reason for you to want to come back to it. Sure there is a multiplayer mode where you can play a few mini games with your friends that emulate the SNES game Super Off Road, but even those tend to be a pain to play, and it quite frankly just isn’t worth it.
This game does have its merits to come back to if you’re a true, hardcore Simpsons fan, but for anyone else, even fans of the show, this game doesn’t have the “drawback” feature to it.
It’s unfortunate that one feature of a game could be so detrimental and hurtful to its entertainment value that one can’t really suggest purchase of it, but that’s where the stance of this review is. This game features very impressive graphics, and everything around you really looks great. The voiceovers are done extremely well, the music is well suited for most areas and the sounds do their job. The gameplay is very fun, it can be addicting and you will find yourself wanting to continually complete those missions. But once you do, and once you find everything (and it is quite easy in fact), there just isn’t much that will bring you back to the experience. The Simpsons Hit & Run is most definitely the best Simpsons game to date, but it unfortunately suffers from a lack of replay value that is truly detrimental to be enough to make someone buy it. Maybe at a bargain price it would be more worth it, but definitely not at top dollar. This would most definitely be a more worthy rent, but if you can find it cheap, then go for it.