Review by Mega

"It's time to make some crazy money with... Homer?"

What makes “The Simpsons” so great? Is in the fact that Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and Maggie are household name? The Simpsons are quite possibly the most popular TV family in the world today, and for good reason. The family’s hilarious and never ending antics entertain millions of people worldwide. The Simpsons always come up with new, original ideas for their show and parade them with great skill and talent. They are so popular, you can walk up to a person and say “Homer,” and he will reply “Simpson?” In fact, the whole family is mega stars. But whom do you think gets paid the most?

In the special and hilarious VH1 spoof “Behind the Laughter” episode of The Simpsons, a family quarrel reveals Lisa gets paid the least. This shouldn’t be! Maggie cannot even talk; she should get paid the least! But I digress. Due to the character’s popularity, I’d estimate that Maggie would be paid more then Lisa. Next, I figure Marge would be a rung up in the salary ladder above Lisa and Maggie. Now we get to the tough ones, Homer and Bart. Without a doubt, these are the two most popular Simpsons. The plots in the episodes usually revolve around them, and they get the most screen time. Would they get paid equal amounts? I doubt it. But something tells me that Homer gets paid a tad amount more then Bart due to him being the family patriarch. All of these salaries are fine and dandy, but they need to pay the best Simpsons character of all the most…

Mr. Burns! He should be paid the most! Mr. Burn’s evil ways and sickly figure entertains me more then any other character. Sure, some say Apu is the best character, and others say Smithers takes the cake. The more daring fans proclaim their love for Professor Frink, or even Comic Book Guy. Pah! Mr. Burns is the villain of The Simpsons, and shall always be. In fact, Mr. Burns is even the villain in this game, which is better then I thought it would be.

Mr. Burns has bought out all forms of public transportation in Springfield, and replaced them with nuclear radioactive buses. These buses are dangerous to people’s health, but since they are the only forms of public transportation, they humble Springfieldians are stuck. Homer, on the other hand, comes up with a quick plan. He runs outside and paints “Homer 4 Hire” onto the family station wagon, and reveals that he is going to become a taxi of sorts and earn enough money to buy back the public buses and other forms of transportation. The other citizens catch on to this and decide to chip in and help Homer buy back public transportation from the greedy Mr. Burns.

As you saw from the ads, the game seemed to be a direct Crazy Taxi rip off. This isn’t necessarily true. Sure, you drive people to their destination, drop them off, and repeat, just like in Acclaim’s Crazy Taxi, but S:RR offers enough new things to make it worth a rental even if you played Crazy Taxi.

If you’ve played Crazy Taxi, you’ll be familiar to the premise. You pick a person up, and take him/her to his/her destination. In Crazy Taxi, you had to do some cool stunts like swerving in and out of traffic and performing crazy jumps to earn tips. This is gone in S:RR, instead you earn a dollar for every tenth of a second you have the gas pedal down. No tips makes the game lose a little fun, although the game does offer an extra tip once you get the fare to his/her destination. If you get there fast, you earn a bigger tip. Get there in average speed, you’ll earn a medium tip. If you get there slow, no tip for you! Occasionally when you pick up a fare a bonus will be activated, such as “Destroy Stuff” or “Avoid Traffic”. When one of the aforementioned bonuses are activated, you’ll see a counter in the top corner of the screen. When you have the “Destroy Stuff” bonus, you’ll see “0/Random Number”. You have to run into and destroy and level anything possible. Every time you destroy something or run into something, the 0 will go up. If you get the 0 up to the random number, upon dropping the fare off you’ll earn a big tip. “Avoid Traffic” is essentiality the same thing; You see a random number in the top, and you must avoid traffic. Every time you hit a car, the 0 will go up. Hit as many cars as the random number says and you’ll lose the bonus.

There is a small, but very noticeable problem with the fares themselves. They never want to go anywhere different. Let’s say you are driving around Evergreen Terrace, and you pick up Comic Book Guy, who was standing in front of the Church. He’ll tell you to take him somewhere, and you do so. You drive back to the Church and see Ned Flanders standing in front. You pick him up, and he tells you to go to the exact same place Comic Book Guy wanted to go. You take Ned there, go back to the Church, and pick up Apu. Same thing goes with him. Every spot where a fare stands is a set destination, so there are no real random destinations in the game. You’ll pick up a fare the same place five times, and they’ll want to go to the place the first one wanted to go to.

One of the strong features in S:RR is the ability to buy new characters and cars, which is explained in the next section. These characters are a great throwback for Simpson fans, and you’ll be surprised at their cars. Moe, for example, has the station wagon that he tried to have Homer destroy in an attempt to gain insurance money for his new girlfriend in one of the episodes. Groundskeeper Willie drives the tractor, Barney drives the Plow King plow, and Krusty drives the clown car. These cars are taken from episodes of the Simpsons, and you’ll need to be a true fan to recognize them all.

The new modes and bells and whistles make this different enough from Crazy Taxi for it to be a fun, fresh rental. First of the modes is the Road Rage mode. This is the beef of the game, and it S:RR’s “arcade mode”. You at first have the choice of only the Simpson family: Marge, Lisa, Bart, Homer, and Grandpa. Playing as one of these characters, you drive around Springfield and take fares to their destinations and earn money. You are timed, so once the timer runs out you are done. The money you earn in Road Rage is used for buying back the public transit and buying rewards. Every few thousand dollars you are allowed to buy a reward, either a new driver or a new map. This is important because it enriches the game’s replay and fun factor. There are five maps to buy, and tons of Simpson characters to buy. The maps range from the Nuclear Plant District to the Springfield Dam. While buying characters sounds more attractive, I’d buy maps first because you’ll quickly tire of having to play the same map over and over to buy different characters. The maps aren’t exceptionally large, but that doesn’t really matter when you have five to play.

Next we have my favorite mode, Sunday Driving. Sunday Driving is a blast. Sunday Driving allows you to pick a map and character you have unlocked and explore that map at your own pace. There is no timer to worry about, and you can take as little or as long as you want picking up and dropping off fares. Sunday Driving allows you to search for shortcuts and other faster ways of getting to your destinations. You are also able to drive around and do whatever you want, from crashing into cars, driving cars off of ditches, running people over, leveling the landscape, etc. There is a huge amount of interactivity in this game, and it shows in Sunday Driving.

The Mission Mode is not as good as the other modes, for reasons that become evident as soon as you try the first mission. It has you playing as one of the characters, and you must do a special objective like getting Homer to work on time or running over mascots. These objectives are told to you through use of newspapers, and it seems that they very sloppily tried to think of reasons of objectives for this mode.

While the game comes through with surprisingly good modes of play, the graphics are a mixed bag. Remember the “Tree House of Horror” episode where Homer crossed into the 3rd dimension and became 3D? Imagine if the entire world of Springfield was tossed into that dimension. Sure, it sounds good, but has quite a few flaws. Lisa and Marge in the opening movie have a terrible case of tarantula eyelashes, and they look really funky. While driving, you’ll encounter the Simpson characters, and they’ll be your fares. Too bad that the characters are rather limited, so that means you’ll be taking Chief Wiggum somewhere four or five times during the run of a map. Buildings and houses look bland and odd due to the fact that the back and sides of the houses usually don’t have any windows, doors, etc. Every time you finish a run in Road Rage, you see a short little clip of Mr. Burns making fun of your efforts. This is terrible. Mr. Burn’s is a pasty yellow and lacks any details on his face at all, and his office looks like it was drawn together five minutes before the game hit the market. While the maps themselves contain much detail and ho hum textures, the 3D look of everything makes it feel… odd. If they made it 2D instead of the strange looking 3D, the game would look much, much better.

Sound is something the Simpson games always gets right, and this is no exception. Great voice clips and awesome sound effects round out the music, followed by forgettable background music tunes. The voice clips are hilarious and a riot to listen to, but alas, a problem plagues them as well. Sometimes there is a rather noticeable lag in the voices, but I couldn’t find out why. For example, let’s say you took Marge to the family house. You drop her off, and you spot Homer standing a few feet away. You quickly pick him up, and instead of him saying something witty you hear Marge compliment your driving. Then, as you are already driving down the road to Homer’s destination you here him say “Take me to the bar!” and your character replies “Alright!” There is no real reason behind the lag in the voices, but it makes some of the voices sound awkward. Sound effects, on the other hand, are rather good. Crashing into cars fills your ears with the sound of crushing metal, and driving through a glass window makes you cringe as you hear the shards of glass crash to the floor.

While Crazy Taxi had the better of the controls, S:RR tries hard. Shifting gears is mad complicated, and going into reverse requires use of the C Stick, which confuses your fingers if you are a Crazy Taxi veteran. They try hard to make a original control scheme that doesn’t copy Crazy Taxi, but it doesn’t fare too well.

The tons of characters and five maps allow for good replay, solid fun, and a good rental. The absence of stunts to earn tips shortens the fun factor, as do the missions (Which can be beat by losing five times, then it asks you if you want to skip the mission). If you were a Crazy Taxi fan and had even a ounce of interest in it, head over to BlockBuster and pick this up for the weekend.

NOTES:
If this wins ROTW or ROTD, I’ll drink out of my baseball uniform cup.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 02/18/02, Updated 02/18/02


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