The Simpsons: Road Rage
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, GC, Xbox
Publisher
Electronic Arts
Developer
Radical Entertainment
Genre
Driving
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Comic Mischief, Mild Language, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Lot's of new Simpsons cast dialogue
• Authentic recreation of Simpsons characters and environments
• Lots of unlockables
• Fun Head-to-Head mode

The Bad

• Unlockable prices get steep towards the end!
• Simplistic Gameplay
• Occasional glitches

 
Grade
B

Gameplay: Road Rage has gotten kind of an unfair rap. I mean, it is a "Greatest Hit". Now, not that number of copies of a game sold determines the quality of a game, but if it was really the stinker a lot of reviews would have you believe then it wouldn't have sold so well….Simpsons license or not. Much like has been done with the more recent The Simpsons: Hit and Run, Road Rage derives its gameplay from simply jacking the formula to another game, in this case Crazy Taxi. In fact, Hit and Run builds a great deal on what was previously done in this title.

Basically, Mr. Burns has tried to implement a public transit system in Springfield via his nuclear-powered buses. This is met with mixed reaction from the public, and of course Homer decides that public transit might be an easy way to make some quick cash and starts his own sort of taxi service, and is quickly emulated by most of the other townsfolk. In fact, there are a little over 30 residents of Springfield voiced in the game, and 17 of them are playable as drivers, including: 3 versions of Homer (one with the Plow King and one with The Car Built for Homer), Marge, Lisa, Bart, Grandpa, Flanders, Willie, Krusty, Moe, Barney, Reverend Lovejoy, Snake, Chief Wiggum, Apu, Otto, Professor Frink, and I believe you can unlock Mr. Burns being chauffeured by Smithers. Each driver has their own car, which controls a little differently from the others, although only a few of them control really well. Each driver also has their own (rather large) set of phrases that they spout while driving around, some when they pick people up, some when hitting things, or when they make good time, etc. The passengers all chatter as well, and the non-drivers (including the Mayor, Ralph, Principal Skinner, and many more) still add a lot in the way of funny dialogue, reacting when you're going super fast or slow, or when you're hitting a lot of objects. Some even have extra character specific dialogues, such as when members of the Simpsons family pick up each other. All in all, the characters are done very well, it's cool to see all the different vehicles that go with the characters, and you never get tired of the massive amounts of dialogue in the game. You start out with only the Simpsons family available to drive, and the rest can be unlocked by spending the cash you earn in the single player game. The Car Built for Homer is a special case; it's an additional vehicle for the regular Homer, unlocked by completing all the goals in Mission Mode.

You'll spend your time driving around town stopping near pedestrians to let them in and ferrying them to their destinations. You get more cash the longer they're in your vehicle, but the clock counts down for the amount of time you have to play the stage, and the only way to extend that time is by delivering passengers to their destinations in under the average time. This will gain you a few seconds bonus, and can add up to extend the play time of the stage considerably. The stage ends when you run out of time, and the money you earned is your score. You can earn additional money by delivering certain passengers without hitting much in the environments ("Safe Trips"), and even more bonus money is provided during certain passengers rides where you're required to smash through a certain amount of objects ("Road Rages"). You can also add a couple seconds onto your clock by smashing through any of the bus stops Burns has put up around the city! The environments have a lot of destructibility as far as surrounding objects go, just don't try and plow through any houses or anything, which is fine by me, because the stages are laid out so well I wouldn't want to change a thing.

The stage layout is the real star of this game. Few games, especially driving games, get stage layout right like this. Not since Twisted Metal Black, and before that Twisted Metal 2, have I seen it done this well. There are only 6 stages, but they're pretty massive, comprising distinct regions of Springfield as we've seen it on the show: Evergreen Terrace (comprising mostly residences), the Entertainment District (including Moe's Tavern and the Rusty Barnacle), the Springfield Dam (and it's surrounds, including Quimby's Mansion and Rancho Relaxo), the Nuclear Power Plant (and some warehouses and parking lots), Downtown (including the Mall and the Android's Dungeon), and the Springfield Mountains (including Burns' Mansion and Springfield Gorge). The stages all have various splits, turns, and shortcuts, providing multiple routes to get to just about any location. In the single player game, you need to learn the fastest route to where you're going (which you may see on the on-screen mini map), but in the 2-player game the multiple routes adds a lot of strategy and excitement to trying to bump into the other player and steal his fare before delivery. You can follow an onscreen arrow, but you'll find this doesn't change direction quickly enough if you're going fast; and the mini-map doesn't show shortcuts, so you'll need to be perceptive and wily to beat your friends. In fact, the Head-to-Head mode is more fun than it has any right to be. And if you set the dollar amount you're trying to reach at a lower cap, you'll find you and your buddies playing rematch after rematch. Only two stages are available for play initially, you have to purchase the others, and even then a couple stages are only single player stages….why, I'm not sure.

Control: The controls in this game are laid out pretty standard for a driving game. You've got your gas, brake, emergency brake. There's a button to change your view and one to honk your horn (which has no purpose that I can tell, but each vehicle has a distinct horn and its fun to taunt with in 2 player mode.) The controls are basic but there's not really anything lacking. Unlike some games, the different vehicles do control differently, varying in handling, braking, and acceleration slightly to significantly. Some of the vehicles outright suck and others clearly rule, with most falling in the middle. This is more of a fun racing game than an intense simulator, so most vehicles can't make tight turns and handle beautifully no matter how well you control them…but it makes for good fun.

Graphics: The look of this game is more cartoony than cell-shaded. It's simplistic, but captures the look of the series very well. Don't expect to be blown away by anything, but everything runs at a smooth frame-rate and looks pretty-much just like the show.

Sound: As I said before, there's a lot of voice work by the show's actors. It's all good, and all funny. Even if you play this all day, it'll take weeks before you're hearing the same stuff over and over, and even then it's still amusing. There aren't a ton of sound effects, but there's nothing noticeably lacking. The cars have their own distinct honks and engine noise, and there are suitable crashes and squeals. The music is perfectly in keeping with the regular Simpsons background music. You won't be humming it, but it doesn't get annoying. One cool thing, at Game Over, each character has their own disappointed end music. Took me a while to notice that, but it's a nice detail.

Final Verdict: On the surface, this game appears to be Crazy Taxi with a Simpsons license. And it is. It's simplistic in graphics, sound, control, gameplay. But is it bad? Far from it. All the Simpsons characters and environments are lovingly and faithfully recreated, replete with references to specific events in episodes. Much of the game has subtle details that escape you until you've played it for a while…you may not find shortcuts until having played a stage dozens of times, might not notice particular significant buildings, or realize certain character details. This game doesn't have a ton of depth, but it's well crafted and a lot of fun.

So what's not to like? First off, Simpsons license. If you hate the Simpsons (you commie bastard), then go home. Second, cartoon racer. You want super-crisp control and realistic crashes? Go home. Third, game bugs. Particularly in 2 player mode, I've found several times when you crash and are thrown someplace you can't get out of. Once, a friend of mine was flying in the clouds, unable to get back to the ground to race me! Lastly, there's a great system set up for unlocking new characters and stages to play, but it costs exponentially more as you use it. At first it's compulsive to keep unlocking more stuff, but as you go on, you have to play for days before you can unlock the next item. You earn about $10, 000 per game, and the final unlockables cost $100,000 then $200,000 then $300,000 and so on with the final one costing $1,000,000!! You'll find your desire to play the single player mode waning quickly at this point. So, overall, a much better game than some would have you believe, just keep in mind what it is and appreciate it for that.

- - Jeff Light

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