It's been over 14 years now since the weekly television debut of The Simpsons, and over that period of time, more than a dozen video games have carried the license of the seemingly inviolable Simpsons franchise. However, with perhaps the sole exception of Konami's 1991 arcade action game, The Simpsons, none of these games have ever managed to really capture the sharp humor and unique personalities of the Springfield universe, and none have really even proved to be much in the way of fun either. Thankfully, this trend has finally come to a close. The latest title to use the Simpsons name is The Simpsons: Hit & Run, an action adventure game that borrows heavily from the gameplay style and design of the recent entries in the Grand Theft Auto series and, in so doing, finally manages to bring the world of the Simpsons to life with proper justice.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run lets you play as Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and even Apu.
The story of The Simpsons: Hit & Run is perhaps a bit convoluted in its design but seemingly in an intentional way. At the beginning of the game, Springfield is being overrun by mechanized bees, mysterious black vans and cars, and an insidious cola that is controlling the minds of the city's residents. In the game, you'll take control of the four core Simpsons family members (Homer, Bart, Lisa, and Marge) as well as resident Kwik-E-Mart proprietor, Apu, to investigate the origins of and motives for all these strange happenings.
As the game follows the same structure as the GTA entries, much of Hit & Run involves a linear series of missions, with a number of exploration elements to boot. The game uses a basic level structure, with seven total levels, each with seven primary missions. Each level in the game is assigned to one specific character. There's one for Lisa, Marge, and Apu, while Bart and Homer get two apiece. Missions are assigned by interactions with the city's various characters. They generally involve collecting and delivering items to other people or locations, racing other characters, and even getting into full-on car combat situations. In actuality, practically every mission in the game is a direct clone of one of the GTA driving missions. However, the lack of originality in the game's mission structuring is more than made up for by the decisively original style of Simpsons humor. The end result is actually very fun.
Each level also has one bonus mission and three non-story-related race missions. Completing both the bonus missions and race missions help you to unlock new and unique cars in the game. This is key, as vehicles are the most important aspect of Hit & Run's gameplay. Hit & Run has a bevy of different cars to choose from, ranging from the more generic and standard looking cars, to a host of different, episode-specific cars that fans of the show are bound to recognize. Each character in the game starts out with his or her own car. Marge has her road-rage-inspiring Canyonero, Homer drives the family sedan, and Bart drives Martin Prince's entry into the Springfield soap box derby, the Honor Roller. These are not the only cars that each character can drive, however, as certain missions will require them to purchase new cars from vehicle merchants located around Springfield. For example, one early mission requires Homer to destroy Mr. Smithers' car before he can get to the power plant to conduct Homer's employee review. So, to do this, Homer purchases the massive Plow King from his good friend Barney. In a pinch, characters can also borrow cars from passing motorists, though these cars are all pretty generic. However, if you can find one of any of the numerous phone booths strewn about the town, you can access any of the different cars in the game. There is a seemingly endless number of different cars to unlock and purchase in the game, from Homer's self-designed car (aptly titled "The Homer") to Comic Book Guy's beaten-down jalopy to Professor Frink's futuristic hovercar. All in all, the selection of cars should keep you plenty entertained as you navigate the streets of Springfield.
The game's storyline has you uncovering a plot that involves mysterious vans, mind-controlling cola, and robotic bees with cameras in their heads.
The game's mapping system is denoted by a GTA-esque circular street map that appears in the corner of the screen. It shows where you are in relation to where you need to be. Additionally, there's also a system that works by having arrows appear on the street, pointing out the path you need to follow. In many ways, it's actually a better arrow system than the one used in the GTA games, and it keeps you from ever really getting confused while driving.
Driving isn't the only way to get around Springfield, as you can opt to just run and jump around town, sans vehicle, any time you please. Each character has basic jump, attack, and jump-attack functions. Each can be used to destroy enemies and objects or to explore hidden areas. You can even kick a passerby. Every character can also double-jump, and each also has a unique jumping slam attack. Homer, for instance, can land a pretty hefty butt-stomp when the occasion calls for it. The game also employs an action button, which can be used to activate different objects, like moving platforms and the like.
Outside of the game's storyline and missions, there's plenty of stuff to discover and explore in Hit & Run. Items, money, and hidden gags can be found throughout the city of Springfield. Money comes in the form of coins, which can be obtained by destroying various pieces of the scenery, like soda machines, street signs, and lampposts, as well as the evil mechanical bees that pop up all over the place. Wanton destruction, however, is simply not permitted. Not for long. Cause too much chaos, and eventually you'll end up with the cops on your tail. Your level of rampage is monitored by a meter that appears in the lower corner of the screen. Once it fills up, the police will chase you down. If you're caught, it's a 50-coin fine, which isn't too bad. But if you're careful enough, you should be able to collect coins easily enough without having to constantly deal with the police.
You can drive a bevy of different cars in the game, ranging from the basic Simpsons family sedan to Professor Frink's futuristic hovercar.
Once you've got the cash, you can obviously buy cars from different characters; but that's not all. Each character also has a different set of outfits that can be purchased at different locations around town. Some of these outfits come directly into play with the game's storyline and are necessary to complete missions. Others are simply there for the fun of it. All the different outfits are throwbacks to episodes of the show, including Homer's muumuu from his brief flirtation with morbid obesity, Marge's cop uniform from her days as a member of Springfield's finest, and Apu's "American" outfit, complete with baseball jersey and oversized cowboy hat.