Now that The Simpsons have been confirmed as America's most popular family (I heard that Homer was running for Governor of California), and probably the most influential programme in the history of the television, it is about time a game appeared that is both fun and realistic in representing what we see on the TV screen. It looks as though Hit and Run has finally achieved this. From what I can tell, and I have no direct experience here, the previous stock of Simpsons games have been a bit of a flop. At least the PS2 has got itself to a stage where games can actually look like the cartoon. In that, the colours are glorious as the clouds part above Springfield and the theme tune we know and love strikes up. It warms the heart, it really does.
The basic concept of the game is to do things around Springfield, either in foot or in your car. Starting as Homer, it was a case of setting off to do all things Homer-ish around Springfield. I went to the Kwikimart to get some cola and ice cream, then ran Lisa's project to school for her, before heading off to work at the Nuclear Plant. All in all, a normal day for Homer. I think if you have to find something to compare it to, the Grand Theft Auto is the obvious choice, although in this case, if you don't break the law, then Chief Wiggum will leave you alone. All the familiar characters are out and about Springfield, and as an official endorsed produce, they are all authentic, with their real voices. The quality of the sound is fantastic and keeps buzzing along with all the classic phrases that have come out of the programme - Aye Carumba and all that.
As far as graphics are concerned, this is probably as close to the cartoon as we are going to get in a game. All right, some of the characters look a bit digital, but The Simpsons cartoon is basically a construction of simple colours and lines - which replicates very well. I am still trying to figure out if the street plan is true to the cartoon world, I've been feverishly studying the map, but it is not to scale, so I'm somewhat lost. Overall, it is like driving around the cartoon.
You can get a 'mission' or rather, something to do, from a number of different people. Firstly Homer's taskmaster can be Marge - always happy to direct her husband around. Alternatively there are a number of different people you can agree to do things for in the streets. As you move around, the game unfolds. You collect tokens/money as you drive into things, which can then be used to buy--mostly--cars to increase your potential in different missions. I don't know where the game ends, or what the overall aim is, but who cares, when you are having this much fun! (Ok, you have to find out what is going on in Springfield with all the strange happenings...). It can also be played multiplayer with more controllers up to 4 people.
Overall, where can we go with this? It is a great cartoon spin off, and really is good fun to play. That's a bonus. Whilst the game isn't serious, or terribly challenging--which might deter the hardcore--it is The Simpsons. Existing fans of the cartoon (and there is a monstrous number of them) will love it. No question about that. There is very little in the way of violence, like GTA, so it is more suitable for children. At the same time, there is something uniquely satisfying in kicking a pedestrian and watching him roll around waggling his arms in a cartoon fashion. Great fun, enjoyed by all and a great spectator game- borne out by the fact that it was still in the top 20 for seven months following its release.