A nice tribute to the TV series and a really fun racing game as well.

User Rating: 8 | The Simpsons: Hit & Run PS2
It can be really nice to play a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, and if that's what you're looking for, you could do worse than to check out the Simpsons Hit and Run. It is a nice combination of humour and traffic madness that really does the Simpsons' name justice. It is really charming how Bart stays in character while voicing the tutorial saying in a bored voice which button does what, then adding "you know, just like every racing game ever" and after the tutorial finish by asking himself why he agreed to do the stupid tutorial.

From there on out the game consists of a variety of missions. There is a story line, but you might also want to take some side quests to unlock new vehicles. In each area there are also three races you can complete to win an extra good vehicle, and then there are some vehicles you can buy with money you get from breaking things – with boxes and bending machines being the ones that gives you most money. In addition there are collectibles to find and there is also some bee-like surveillance robots to smash.

The missions themselves all start the same way. You talk to someone, and they will ask a favour of you or you of them. Each of them have some cute-scenes (no typo, just pun). were the quest-giver tells you his/her problem in a humorous way that is the kind you would expect to find in an episode of the series. The only difference is that the facial expressions aren't as good in the three-dimensional game as in the two-dimensional television show, which to me reduces the quality of each joke by about sixty percent compared to how it would have been on TV. It is still pretty neat though, and if you disagree you can press X to skip it.

The missions are pretty varied, and they are part of the success formula here. There are quests where you have to chase a car, flee from a car, destroy a car, crash into a car to make it drop things, pick up stuff and deliver it, race a car to a certain destination and so on. Most of them have timers and some of them are really difficult. One mission might also have more than one task. One for instance is to drive somewhere and pick something up with a time limit, then once that's done drive back with a new time limit. Another is to destroy a car, then escape from the police. Also adding to the variation is a lot of short-cuts and obstacles. In each level there are seven missions, one side mission and the three races. The races have some variation as well, because in each area one of the races is to race alone with a certain number of laps and a time limit, one is to compete against other cars in a race with laps and one is to race one car from point A to B.

Now the levels are divided on three different areas and five different playable characters. An area is basically like a very small sandbox where you besides taking missions can drive around, destroy things and collect money, steal cars, buy new cars and so on. If you need any of the cars you own, you have to find a telephone booth and call for them.

The cars are a big deal in the Simpsons hit and run. Actually it is more correct to refer to them as vehicles, because you can drive around in vans, monster trucks, police cars, ambulances, a clown car, a clown limo, regular cars, trucks, a monster truck and some vehicles that have an insane design (one of them turns translucent while driving). The vehicles have different attributes and each of them feel unique. The clown car for instance is quite fast, but it turns very quickly and is hard to handle. The Plow king on the other hand turns very slowly and is not the fastest car, but if you crash into something, it takes a lot of damage and you hardly feel it – and you will crash a lot, because except from the races there are normal cars out driving on the road that you're taking a mission on.

That is another success factor by the way. The missions take place on roads with normal cars, so while the controls are simple, the gameplay is quite complex. Not only do you have to complete your mission, you must avoid crashing into civilian cars and objects. Not only do they slow you down, but you take damage from them and after a while (how long depends on the toughness of your vehicle) it will be wrecked. You might want to cut the turns and drive on people's lawns to avoid them, but then there is the danger of crashing into big trees. You can hit garbage cans, small trees and streetlights without being slowed down or taking too much damage, but there is another factor too. The police metre, that if it gets full will get you into "Hit and Run" mode with the police hot on your heels. Besides slowing you down if you are in a mission, getting busted will cost you 50 coins.

The least enjoyable part of the experience is the parts where you have to go out of your vehicle and do some plattforming. The controls feels pretty clunky or just plain bad. In addition, the camera might change automatically in the middle of a jump to a less than helpful camera angle. This is frustrating since you can normally use the right analogue stick to set the camera, so why can't it just use the camera angle you set it too? Another frustration is the comments from the characters you are controlling. While they are fun to begin with and contribute to give the game that Simpsons feel, they do get old after a while (though some might disagree with me on that). They can also be distracting in particularly tough missions.

One more complaint is that the last area is terribly dark, and with some vehicles being so small and dark they are next to impossible to spot, making some of the missions tough for the wrong reasons.

But the bottom line is that the Simpsons hit and run is a brilliant game that manages to both have a lot of the Simpsons charm and be a fun, varied and (eventually) challenging racing game. While the graphics might be average – or even creep you out to begin with, and the comments might get old, the gameplay and music is good and the game is well worth checking out.

PS: It is quite satisfying to celebrate winning a race by kicking Marge's sisters and watch the hilariously bad animation when they fall.

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