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GameCube Review: The Simpsons – Hit & Run

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If it has ever been your quiet secret illicit dream (as it is frequently mine) to cruise through town in a squirrel-squashin’, deer-smacking’ drivin’ machine, the The Simpsons: Hit & Run has just fulfilled it, in spades.

Hit and Run is possibly the best Simpson’s game ever to hit any console. It essentially offers up, a la Grand Theft Auto, a grand tour of Springfield and all of its many twisted denizens and locales, including three major map areas (the Evergreen Terrace neighbourhood, Downtown and the Eastside, and the Squidport/Observatory).

Within these winding mission maps are multiple locales familiar to fans of the series (and some notably obscure ones). Missions generally consist of the standard GTA fare — chases, timed runs across town, gather objects, destroy vehicles and races. Different levels bring up different characters for the player to play including Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, and Apu.

Also populating the game are all of the myriad characters that make up the Simpson universe including Comic Book Guy, Grandpa Simpson, Snake, Apu, Burns & Smithers, Principal Skinner, Cletus, Dr. Nick and more. The sheer volume and variety of the dialogue is marvelous, with all of the original actors contributing their voices. The only noticeable (and highly disappointing) lack is Sideshow Bob’s voice.

As a virtual tour of Springfield, the game is terrific. You can cruise down to the Quik-E-Mart, drop by Moe’s or the nuclear plant (complete with Stonecutter’s secret tunnel), or hunt down Lard Boy Donuts. Just touring town is entertaining as the game is filled with hidden gags, references, and jokes in every corner.

The meat of the game however is the vehicles. There is a superlative variety of vehicles in the game, most of which are unlockable via purchase (from collecting coins), or via winning races and/or bonus missions. Vehicle selection and capabilities is critical in successfully completing missions (as is mastering the art of the sliding turn). For some missions, speed and handling is paramount, for others durability and toughness is key. You can hop behind the wheel of Homer’s car, zip along in Bart’s speedy Honor Roller, cruise through town in Professor Frink’s fast but delicate Hovercar, borrow Barney’s robust Plow King, swipe Snake’s roadster or Apu’s Camero or just grab a passing the school bus or pizza van.

Plot wise the game revolves around a sinister plan to control the minds of Sprngfieldians through introduction of a new cola drink. However, the thin plot is just an excuse to hang high-speed road mayhem on. The game permits fairly extensive (and fun) destruction of vehicles and property but beyond some suggestive language and cartoon destruction, there is no blood or other graphic mayhem, not even from Itchy & Scratchy.

The one major flaw within the game is the save system. If you save mid-level, when you come back, you start out at the Main Mission start, not where you left off, even though you might have progressed through almost all of the level. Apparently you can go back to the start of the sub-Mission you left off on, but finding how is not easy or intuitive. I didn’t locate it until near the end of the game. The most telling minor flaw is simply after you have progressed through the first half of the game, the variety of the driving missions does begin to pale and you start wishing for new areas to explore.

Overall The Simpsons: Hit & Run is a wild and woolly tour of Springfield that, to a Simpson’s fan, will be great fun. If you aren’t a Simpson’s fan or are not familiar with the show, the vast majority of the jokes, one-liners and characters simply won’t register.

The Simpsons: Hit & Run is rated Teen (13+) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief, Mild Language and Violence. This game can also be found on: PC, PS2, Xbox.

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