So I come home the other day and find The Simpsons: Hit & Run waiting for me. I have other things to do, so it sits on my coffee table for approximately 45 minutes before my curiosity gets the better of me and I pop it into my X-Box for a quick play. Three hours later it’s way past my bedtime, I haven’t done anything I need to do in my apartment, and I can’t stop playing. Another hour goes by before I can tear myself away from one of the funniest, and freshest games I’ve played in a long while and get some sleep.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run melds the best features of so many games, I lost count of them all. For example, it uses the free-form driving environment of GTAIII, the senseless-yet-hopelessly-addictive coin collecting from any Mario game, while also giving characters new outfits, collectible bonus cars, and dozens of races to run. It also brings Springfield to such vibrant life that I just drove around for hours to see all the sights. This is absolutely the best The Simpsons has ever looked and the sheer amount of fun in this game is downright infectious.
As with some of the better episodes, Hit & Run starts off with a completely random event (giant bees with cameras strapped to their backs invade Springfield) and involves the player in a metric ton of sidequests and diversions before somehow tieing it all together in the end. You can play as each of the Simpson clan, with Homer being the tutorial level pawn, then giving way to Bart, and then Liza and Marge. Each has their own story-driven missions, like Bart hunting for the latest hyper-violent video game, and each has unique things available to them. Homer can buy his infamous Muumuu outfit, while Bart can play as Ninja Bart, and so forth.
The majority of the missions are timed races through areas of Springfield, but a few others are destruction based. The destruction missions can be won or lost because of the car you choose, but fortunately should you decided to cancel a mission or decide not to try it again after failing, you continue from that point on and can decide when you try the mission again. In the meantime, you can wander about Springfield hunting for those bees, picking up collectibles, or running races or bonus missions. I was never lacking in things to do, and I loved it.
Everyone also has their own selection of quotes, which do tend to get repetitive (Bart is especially guilty of this), but overall they’re well-chosen and well done so it always feels like something they would say. Below are my favorite quotes from the game:
“Chest pains… having… chest pains!”
“At last, Rapture!”
“Win this race and the man-ladies will give you a prize!”
“So few cards! I laugh at you! Ha ha!”
“Render me a favor, and it might jARRR my memory.”Springfield looks amazing. All of the cars, the landscapes, and the characters all look fantastic. There are so many jokes and references scattered throughout the vast (and I mean vast) boards that it can take a few hours just to fully explore each one. Plus, it’s a ton of fun just driving or walking around and seeing everything the game has to offer. The little details like glass shattering, reflections and shadows, and even exhaust, are meticulous enough that it just took my breath away. I love how this game looks, period. All the voice actors appear as their characters and every one is in prime form. Especially the voice of Comic Book Guy. This character has always cracked me up, and he’s really funny here. The music is also well done, with each level reflecting the character who’s currently taking center stage. For example, when Lisa is walking around, there is a swell blues rift underneath the missions, and when driving around the music launches into a showtunes version of the theme song. Likewise, whenever Cletus is involved, there is a great banjo tune that kicks in and is great fun to listen to. Top notch sound effects also apply, with explosions all rocking and I swear they ripped off the “gathering the coin” sound effect from somewhere in Vegas. Very easy to use controls are the order of the day here, and I only knock it a few points because I kept getting my reverse (B button) mixed up with the hand brake (X Button) when driving. Other than that, the A button is for jumping and the X button is for attacking, and the scheme is intuitive enough that you’ll pick it right up. The Simpsons: Hit & Run is an absolute blast to play and the more I write this review, the less time I have to play it. I want to get back into my living room right now and continue racing and secret hunting. This game is a ton of fun. I’ll admit there isn’t a great deal of diversity to it, but each timed mission is unique because they rarely go over the same path twice. Any X-Box owner would be shortchanging themselves if they didn’t at least rent this title. While it may seem a little on the short side (as a first-time player I found practically everything in Bart’s segment in a little under three hours), some of the later missions have things very well hidden and you’ll take plenty of time finding them all. Adding to the replayability, if you collect enough hidden loot in each segment, you can unlock multiplayer maps which are also a blast to play through. And if you miss anything the first time through, you can go to Mission Select in the Options menu and jump to any completed point in the game. Then you can hunt down any missing collectibles you passed by the first time. After you gather up everything in the game, the multiplayer is still there for you. Not to mention many of the game’s missions bear replaying simply due to the high fun factor.