The Simpsons: Road Rage
I slagged the Xbox version of Road Rage a couple issues ago, not for its blatant plagiarism of Crazy Taxi, but rather for its many gameplay issues. I kept my expectations low going into the GameCube version this month and saved myself the disappointment. This is the exact same game as its Xbox and PS2 counterparts, which means you'll still have to deal with irritating load times and janky collision detection problems (it's easy to get your car stuck on objects and buildings). What's worse is that RR still has very little in the way of depth. Like CT, the object is to make some dough by driving the denizens of Springfield around town. The faster you truck, the bigger the buck. But man, did these cats miss the point of CT or what? RR doesn't reward you for weaving through traffic, pulling off jumps or causing near-misses. In fact, there isn't much technique here at all. Leave out these moments of skill and all you've got is a very bland rip-off starring the cast of our most beloved animated series. Sorry Simpsons fans, this is not the game it could have been.
Download The Simpsons: Road Rage
"I'm Bart Simpson, who the Hell are you?"
Ahhh, the hallmark of everyone's favorite show, "The Simpsons." I anxiously waited to play this game thinking it would be as cool as the television program with all the same characters, buildings, and real dialogs - I was royally disappointed.
M.C. Burns is up to his nasty ways again and the remainder of Springfield must try to save the city's transit system. Mr. Burns has replaced all buses with radioactive buses. So, Homer and his family use their vehicles as taxis in the town of Springfield to raise money to buy back the transit system.
The goal of the game is to pick up people throughout the town (with big blue circles around them indicating a potential passenger), drive them to their destination as fast as possible (with large yellow boxes around the area), and earn money from doing it. The faster you go the more money you earn. Your money is tallied once time runs out and it is added to your bank, where you are working your way toward $1,000,000.
As you gather more money and reach each monetary goal, you can choose to unlock the remaining five worlds or one of the remaining characters and their car (you begin with Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, and Grandpa). Sometimes you can get a $250 bonus for avoiding traffic (can hit a maximum of three vehicles) or a $1000 bonus for destroying stuff (hence, the name Road Rage). The game appears to center on these two themes'pick up people drive them fast to their destination and do it with as much reckless abandon as possible. This continues to be amusing for only so long.
In addition to the standard race, you can do 10 missions where you usually must run into a specified number of objects or...no that's really the only goal ever. This breaks up the monotony of the regular race, but it has no advantage (you don't gain money) other than to complete all 10 missions, where at the end you get a somewhat exciting new car and the personal satisfaction of being a winner. The strange thing about the missions is that if you keep failing on one of them, they eventually give you the option to just skip the mission and unlock the next mission. I did this once (darn tree mission) and was able to finish all of the others and unlock the bonus car, even though I hadn't officially completed all the missions. In theory, just by sheer attrition you could unlock all missions without ever finishing them and just get the bonus car. But, since most of the missions were really easy you won't have the need to do that anyway.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
For a racing game that was developed by the same company as Need for Speed, I got the impression that the two factions never spoke to each other or shared some common knowledge. This game was far, far away from the NFS experience. Its intention was to be like Crazy Taxi, but it didn't really do that well either.
The physics of the driving experience were laughable. Each character's car would bob and sway like boats around the road at the slightest touch of controller input. In addition, it didn't appear that different cars really showed much difference, for I didn't see any real advantage over any one I chose. They all drove about the same, appeared to go the same speed, and the only difference was they sounded different (oh, and the horn was different).
The whole "road rage" idea and being able to destroy lots of stuff was amusing for a while. Honestly though, I found myself concentrating on following the arrow and getting to the destination as fast as possible to not think about wrecking the town. Of course, since the driving dynamics were not so great the game helped me run into plenty of things along the way. The irritating thing is that some things you could just plow right through like trees, rocks, bushes, signs, while other you couldn't like some walls, flower holders, and buildings (naturally). Most of it is likely logical, but there wasn't a real noticeable difference between what you could run over and what you couldn't until you tried it.
Finally, there were inconsistencies in reality. Usually you couldn't run into buildings because they were solid immovable objects. But, you could flip your car on its top (which always rolled itself over) or jump of the dam and fall zillions of feet where you just land on your wheels and can start driving again IN THE RIVER as if it was a mere puddle. There was never vehicle damage and nothing else really got damaged. A tree might fall into two pieces, but usually you just knocked stuff around like bowling pins.
You can play against a friend in split-screen action by going through a maximum of four worlds. The lame part is you have to unlock all but one in the regular play - which is irritating. The goal is to pick up and deliver passengers who are worth $1000 a piece. You can set a limit of $5000, $10000, or $15000. Each time you pick one up (which there is only one passenger available at a time and you're told where they are) you must deliver them before the other person finds you and hits you. If hit, they steal your passenger and you must hit them back.
This is actually kind of fun, especially if you have a skilled opponent. You can really stir up some heated arguments by just bumping into each other over and over swapping the passenger back and forth and no one can ever get them delivered. Then again, maybe this isn't such a good thing...
The graphics were like the one episode where they put all the characters in 3D. Remember that? I personally thought it wasn't that cool then and I still don't think so now. In fact, the opening video is downright scary; because they are just so hideous and malformed (especially the eye lashes) you have to laugh that someone would actually think they look ok.
Each town has a variety of landscapes, but they are all super cheesy. I felt the graphics were the biggest downer of the game (besides boredom). For an Xbox game they were soooo bad. Graphics were cheaply done and a lot of it didn't even look as good as the TV show. I was thoroughly disappointed with the graphics of this game.
At first, the characters each have their own little one-liners and there is a great deal of wit. It's funny and a lot like the TV show, plus, they use the real voices. Unfortunately, over time this just gets old and somewhat irritating. You come to find out they NEVER say anything new. The passengers always have a new bit in each world, but the quips and comments never change. I found this really irritating in the missions, because they say the same exact thing over and over again. At one point I almost hit mute, because I was tired of hearing Lisa say, "This is somewhat ironic when you think about it" during one mission (darn tree mission).
Second, they often don't know who they're talking to or where that person is. Thus, they will say a lot of things that don't make sense given the situation. It's as if all the sounds get queued up and then they just let them roll out one by one until complete. I often had people thanking me for the ride when they were no longer in the car. Or, they would say "Hey, can you go any faster" when I just dropped them off. Or Marge will jump in the car and they will reference her as male. This inconsistency continues for every character and it isn't very well done at all.
This game wasn't original by design. It was a bad rip-off of Crazy Taxi and it was copying a well known TV show. It had three cool features. When the voices weren't well known, it was funny to listen to the different dialogs and rants of each character. Second, you get to tour Springfield and see all of the places that they have in the show and many of the vehicles they drive. Third, it was pretty creative in how it used the different places (Krusty Burger, Quick-E-Mart, school, Power Plant, etc.) and placed them in a world.
On a side note, I have to admit that the little kid Carl (Officer Wiggum's boy I believe), made me laugh every time, because he was so random yet believable. Here are some excerpts (imagine high pitched weak voice):
"Can I go home? The leprechaun tells me to burn things."
"I want to go to the Box Factory. Yeah boxes!"
"At the Power Plant I saw a flower and it yelled at me."
"Take me to the cemetery. I see dead people."
For such a simple game with a very basic premise: destroy stuff and deliver passengers - I was hugely un-impressed. It just becomes very repetitive and boring after the first few hours, because you realize that it will never improve. You are always just picking up the same people, delivering them to the same places, and making small amounts of money. In the beginning you progress through the rewards quick enough that you don't notice. But, once you reach the point where everything is $50,000 to get a new reward you find that you have $800,000 left and only new cars to look forward to (depending upon if you unlock the levels like I did, because I would get bored with only one pretty quickly). Then the game no longer becomes fun, although it was never all that fun in the first place.
Saddled with bad graphics, poorly coordinated sounds, limited variety, and bad graphics (did I mention it had bad graphics?) the game becomes painful after about two hours. I even completed all of the missions to spice things up a bit, but cruised through those like they were nobody's business.
I would half-heartedly recommend it for the die-hard Simpsons fan that wants to own everything they put out. Or if you are the kind of person who wants an easy game that can be beat by just spending enough time doing the same thing over and over again, then this game will probably raise your self-esteem. In the end, I wouldn't buy this game. It was poorly done and it's a disgrace to the "Racing" category of games. I wouldn't even bother renting it, because you will likely find yourself saying what I did:
"Boy, I wish I had those hours of my life back."
Mr. Burns has decided to take over the public transport system, replace it with his nuclear power buses, and jack up the fares to boot. The Simpsons decide to thwart Mr. Burns' evil plan by using their own vehicles to transport Springfield's residents around town. They will then use the fees they earn from their passengers to buy back the buses from Mr. Burns.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The Simpsons: Road Rage is pretty much Crazy Taxi, Simpsons style. You can play as more than 30 characters from The Simpsons television show, although initially you are limited to the 'ain characters,' such as Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge and Grandpa. And who wouldn't want to drive Reverend Lovejoy's book burning mobile?
As you progress through the game you can unlock new drivers and locations by hitting various money levels. Eventually, you'll be able to play almost any of the Simpson's various regular characters and explore six different locations. You can also compete for passengers in a two-player split-screen mode.
The game controls are like most other driving games. You push one button for go, one for stop, one to blow the horn, and a joystick or gamepad to control the car's movement. The car physics are kinda loopy and the control feels loose, but that really doesn't affect the gameplay much, because precision isn't often required.
In Road Rage mode you basically drive around picking up passengers and then try to get them to their destinations as quickly as possible. The faster you get there, the more money and additional time you get. From time to time you also can earn bonuses by either avoiding accidents or destroying things, per your customers' preferences. Each run ends when you run out of time and then you'll get a rating and a tally of all the money you've earned so far and the number of cars and locations you've unlocked.
Road Rage also has a mission mode, though I have yet to figure out why. There are ten missions and they are all almost exactly alike. You either try to knock a certain number of things over or take someone someplace within a certain time limit. The scenarios are contrived, even for a Simpsons-based game and quickly get old and boring. Combine that with the irritatingly long load times between missions and levels and you will get tired of the mission mode very quickly.
Graphics & Audio
The graphics are pretty true to the series, but they look kind of odd. They don't quite look like a cartoon and they don't quite look like a video game either. Overall, they result in a bland and sometimes disjointed viewing experience. The frame rate is very smooth throughout and there are a few nice visual effects here and there.
The driving sound effects are passable, but not particularly good. The character' voices are all true to the show. The characters will utter various quips from the show as you drive along. Sometimes the dialogue is actually funny and there are some neat inside jokes for fans of the show, but most of the time the dialogue doesn't really fit the situation and can quickly get repetitive.
Like Crazy Taxi, this game is fun for a few minutes at a time, but it's not an engrossing experience. I liked it a little better than I did Crazy Taxi, because I am a Simpsons fan and I didn't like Crazy Taxi that much to begin with, however for the non-Simpsons fan the original cab driving game is probably the better bet.
The mission mode is worthless, so really the only thing you get here that is different is the Simpson's theme, so if you are a fan and you don't already own Crazy Taxi, rent this one and see what you think. It might be a good bargain bin purchase somewhere down the road.