Review by JTrost

"America's favorite family goes Crazy Taxi, and the results are good."

What happens when the world’s favorite family and their friends team up to overthrow a multimillion-dollar mass transit empire? You get the most satirized, road raged, passenger delivery game ever seen on any console. Previous games based on The Simpsons have not been up to par with what gamers are looking for in video games these days, but EA set out to change that with The Simpsons Road Rage, and they did. Although many were skeptical of how this game could let innovation perspire despite its overwhelming similarities to Crazy Taxi, EA have gone that extra mile to make sure fans of the show will enjoy The Simpsons’ comical mischief through many enduring hours of passenger delivering.

The premise of this game is set in everyday Springfield. C. Montgomery Burns has just bought the Springfield Mass Transit system, jacking fare prices up to unbelievably high prices and infecting buses with a mysterious, nuclear substance that causes life-threatening cancer. Outraged, Homer turns the family Sedan into the town’s newest taxicab, and sets out to deliver Springfield’s citizens to their destinations in hopes of initiating a boycott against Burns‘ busses. Soon, many other citizens follow Homer’s lead, and before we know it eighteen of them have joined Homer’s odyssey. Mr. Burns is a rich man however, and he will not go down easily. The people must raise $1,000,000 in order to buy their busses back, and that isn’t a very easy task.

“But I’ve already played Crazy Taxi,” one may say, “how will The Simpsons Road Rage be any different?” Gameplay-wise, not much may be too different, but The Simpsons do offer much more than Crazy Taxi ever has, including many unlockable areas and new drivers. Each one of Springfield’s drivers has his or her own attributes that come into play during the game. A character such as Barney who has an enormous plow at his fingertips will have more control over the roads than old Abe Simpson does in his small beater car. On the other hand, Abe does have more speed with his vehicle than Barney, meaning that he can deliver passengers much more quickly. These attributes and many more such as maneuverability, acceleration, and turning all play a huge factor in the game, something that Crazy Taxi has never offered.

In addition to extensive character traits, The Simpsons’ mixture of satire and nonsensical humor make this experience as fulfilling as possible. Drivers and townspeople have hundreds of different quotes they say to one another, which stays true to the relationships they have built on the cartoon show. The voice actors for the series also did the voices for The Simpsons Road Rage, which makes this pseudo-Springfield seem more realistic. To any fan of The Simpsons franchise, this can be an entertaining experience, being able to interact first hand with their favorite cartoon personalities. Alas, there are flaws here and there with this feature. If the game is paused in the middle of a quote, whatever the character is saying is negated, as if it never happened. All current gameplay circumstances still apply, but a possibly comical quote or conversation has just been ruined. In order to earn $1,000,000, one must play this game for many continuous hours. Doing so causes repetition among character quotes, which quickly makes a once funny comment not so funny anymore, adding to an exponential incline of annoyance as the game progresses.

The visuals are comprised mainly of cel-shading and poorly rendered 3D models. Cel-shading is used to style the cars and scenery, and they are very well done, fitting in with the television show’s artistic style. The cel-shaded environments, cars, houses, and backgrounds stay true to Matt Groening’s designs so well that at times it seems as if this game is more like the television show. For that, EA deserves a pat on the back, but what in the world happened to the characters? Each driver and passenger is modeled in three dimensions for some odd reason, which does not fit in at all with the rest of the cel-shaded environment. In fact, the character models are the worst yet seen on the GameCube, they appear to be suitable for a first generation Nintendo 64 title to say the least. The introduction and ending cinemas aren’t all that eye pleasing either. In the cinemas, everything is modeled in 3D, which isn’t very Simpsons-like. Since the majority of the game is cel-shaded, then everything else should be as well. It is very illogical to blend in grotesque 3D models with cel-shaded environments.

The main game, Road Rage, is repetitious in itself, so one would think that the mission mode would be the perfect heaven of innovation. There are ten missions that are focused around two main ideas: destroy objects, and deliver a passenger to a location while avoiding Mr. Burns. Eight of the missions simply have the player destroy a certain number of objects in either thirty or forty-five seconds, while putting a little story behind why a character wants to destroy these objects. In the two other missions, a passenger must be delivered to a set location while avoiding Mr. Burn’s car. This can be somewhat challenging and intriguing at first, but quickly becomes dull and boring. The mission mode isn’t anything to anticipate, as it is basically rehash of every other mission the game has to offer.

Despite many bad features that plague the gameplay, The Simpsons Road Rage is just plain fun. It doesn’t require any thinking or planning, just the need to have a good time. Any fan of the franchise will love to hear all of the zany comments, both from the show and some that were made exclusively for the game. An easy learning curve and great controls don’t make this game the best of the best in terms of quality gameplay, but the best of the best in terms of enjoyable gameplay. It’s hard to flat out hate this game because it has some very light-hearted, fun-loving environments, lively, talkative characters, and its overall entertainment level is one we haven‘t seen since Conker‘s Bad Fur Day. Secret holiday characters for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years adds to the already high level of fun, which wants to make players who are addicted to the gameplay come back for more. The Simpsons are back in the lucrative field of video games, and they do not disappoint.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 05/08/02, Updated 05/08/02

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