You don't have to be a fan of The Simpsons TV show to appreciate how The Simpsons: Road Rage combines two of pop culture's most beloved facets: Simpsons characters and reckless driving. Unfortunately, the many flaws evident throughout the game significantly detract from what could have been an uproariously entertaining product.
The Simpsons characters provide a taxi service for six neighborhoods in Springfield.
The most accurate way to describe The Simpsons: Road Rage is that it's basically an imitation of Sega's Crazy Taxi set in the town of Springfield. Montgomery Burns has replaced the city's bus system with a series of expensive, nuclear-powered vehicles, and the only way for the people to get their old transit system back is to come up with a million dollars by running their own taxi business. Just as in Crazy Taxi, the goal in Road Rage is to ferry passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible. In addition to the cash you rake in from each fare, you can earn bonus bucks for taking shortcuts and driving in a manner that reflects each passenger's personality. For example, if you have Bart in the back of the cab, you'll get a bigger tip if you smack into other cars on the way to the destination.
The list of features is solid, though not spectacular. There are four single-player modes. Two of these--road rage and performance--allow you to earn money by ferrying passengers around town. In the road rage mode, you earn money for each passenger you successfully deliver. The faster you reach the destination, the more money you make and the more time is tacked on to the time limit. Once the timer expires, the money you made during that run is added to the grand total. The performance mode is somewhat different, in that you carry just one passenger during the entire run and earn money by driving recklessly in a fashion that reflects the passenger's tastes. Every time you bank a certain amount of cash, you unlock a new drivable character or one of five new locations. Each character's vehicle has its own unique handling characteristics, so there is some incentive to unlock the entire cast just to see who has the best car overall. The other single-player modes are primarily for practice, allowing you to explore the six different neighborhoods at your own pace or participate in a series of missions to improve your ability to execute expert driving maneuvers. Wrapping up the list of features is the game's only multiplayer mode, in which two players compete against one another to see who can pick up the most fares.
Although Road Rage borrows many of its core gameplay elements from Crazy Taxi, it isn't nearly as fleshed out as Sega's game. Each neighborhood has its own layout of streets, alleyways, and dirt roads, and there really isn't a set path dictating how to get to one place from another. An onscreen map and an arrow tell you where to go to drop off the passenger, but you're free to find your own way if you choose. The problem with the neighborhoods in Road Rage is that they're just too tiny. On top of that, the number of possible passengers and destinations is extremely limited. The reason Sega did so well with Crazy Taxi is that there were so many potential destinations that you were constantly exploring new areas of the city. In Road Rage, fares appear in the same spot and request the same destinations time after time. You end up feeling like you're driving back and forth between two points instead of exploring the entire city.