Hey everyone, Retroplayer here. Games based upon The Simpsons have never been good. My first Simpsons game was Barts Vs The Space Mutants. That was one horrific game, and pretty much kicked off a long, long list of Simpsons related videogame failures. So you’ll understand if I approached The Simpsons: Hit and Run with some slight trepidation.
Developed by Radical Entertainment and released in 2003, The Simpsons: Hit and Run in many ways tries to deliver GTA: The Simpsons. After a swarm of robot wasps descend upon Springfield, each member of the Simpson family go about their daily lives and unknowingly stumbling upon a galactic plan for world destruction. It’s a game that never takes itself too seriously, and thankfully one that is actually quite surprisingly good.
Hit and Run is a third-person open world game that, depending on what character you’re playing as, allows the player to explore different areas of Springfield. If you’re like me, that’s something you’ve always wanted to do since the very first Simpsons game. Spread over seven missions, gameplay usually jumps between both on-foot and driving sections, and for the most part focuses on racing, item collecting, or just simply interacting with characters. Missions are accessed by talking to certain key characters in Springfield, and are always over the top and funny. As mentioned before, there’s the distinct feeling that Radical Entertainment were going for a Simpsons take on the GTA franchise. Beyond the small references to GTA in the game, the controls and basic game mechanic is quite similar. While most of the actual missions are undertaken in by car, thankfully both exploration aspects of Hit and Run- on-foot and driving- are handled equally as good. Between missions the player can freely explore a small chunk of Springfield, drive any car they want, do miscellaneous missions, take part in races, unlock secret outfits and cars, and collect a whole host of special items. While there is an excessive amount to collect and do in Hit and Run, the missions are extremely rudimentary and tend to cover the same basic idea time and time again. This lack of variation can almost kill the game at times, which is only saved by its incredibly fun play area and spot-on humour. The missions are fun, but exploring Springfield itself is far more entertaining than the actual missions themselves.
The most noticeable aspect of Hit and Run at a first glance is how well Radical Entertainment has replicated the look of series. Everything looks right. The characters are all nicely rendered, the textures are absolutely perfect, and despite cut scene animations being overly simplistic and wooden, Hit and Run feels like The Simpsons. This is mostly down to how well Springfield has been re-created in the game. From the Simpsons house, the Kwik-E-Mart, the Comic book guys store, right down to the Stone Cutters secret tunnel, everything is expertly presented. That said, there are a few layout decisions that I simply didn’t agree with. For instance, the location of the Comic book guys store and Mr. Burns’ manor didn’t fit into the mental layout of Springfield that I had in my head. From watching The Simpsons over the years, every viewer has a mental plan of Springfield in their heads, and Hit and Run makes some rather unusual choices even to the most passive player. But this can be forgiven as everything looks the part individually, even if as a whole it’s a little strange.
One of Hit and Runs best aspects is the dialogue. If you’re like me, you’ve seen The Simpsons go from the funniest thing on TV, to an absolute mere shadow of itself. I could rant about this for awhile, but the series lost its way, ditched the best writers, and will never reached the comedy heights of episodes such as “Lemon of Troy” and “Marge vs. the Monorail” again. That said, some of the dialogue in Hit and Run, which is written by some of the newer Simpsons writers, is fantastic. It’s a rare thing that I laugh out loud at a game, but Hit and Run knows where to deliver some great laughs. In an early mission Homers needs to prevent Smithers from reaching the power plant, in order to stop him from carrying out an inspection on Sector 7-G, Homers work station. Using Barneys Plow King, as seen in the episode “Mr.Plow”, Homer must destroy Smithers’ car. Once his car is blown up, and Smithers lies on the ground, Homer says, “that’s what you get for trying to make me do a job I’m being paid for!” Brilliant. Also, Hit and Run is crammed, absolutely crammed with jokes and references to countless Simpsons episodes. There’s far too many to name, but a moment didn’t go by where I didn’t hear a reference, saw an obscure character, or interacted with an object that wasn’t a direct nod to an episode.
Overall The Simpsons: Hit and Run is a highly fun if quite simplistic adventure game. While I commend Radical Entertainment for their authentic presentation and portrayal of Springfield and its inhabitants, the missions themselves are often quite similar, and frankly, a little boring. Hit and Run is quite a mixed bag, but looking back I was more entertained than bored, more pleased than frustrated. While I do feel that Springfield itself should have been one large city, that animations could have been a little more like the series, and that Radical Entertainment should have been a little more daring in their overall approach, The Simpsons: Hit and Run is worth your time. It’s the best Simpsons game to date.