|“||Save Springfield! By car. By foot. By the seat of your pants.||„|
|~ Box Art|
The Simpsons Hit & Run is an action adventure video game based on the animated sitcom The Simpsons. Hit & Run was released on September 16, 2003 in the United States and October 24, 2003 in Europe. It was developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Vivendi Universal and was released for the GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Microsoft Windows. To make the game more involved, all dialogue and story were crafted by writers from The Simpsons, with all character voices supplied by the original cast.
There are seven levels in the game, each with a unique plot, though the setting for four of the levels is a previous level with somewhat altered topography. Each level has a specific character which the player controls. The five characters are Homer Simpson (played twice), Bart Simpson (played twice), Lisa Simpson, Marge Simpson and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
The Simpsons Hit & Run is played much like Grand Theft Auto III and its successors; the game uses a sandbox style format with emphasis on driving, and the player controls their character from a third-person view. The player can also perform similar, albeit more benign, acts of violence or destruction. Pedestrians can be attacked, cars can be blown up, and much of the environment can be destroyed in some manner. However, pedestrians can never be killed (merely annoyed), and when other cars are destroyed, their occupants will usually make some sort of humorous retort to lighten the mood ("Spines don't bend that way", "Gee, thanks a lot Mr. Break-my-legs").
On foot, the player character can walk, run, and performs several kinds of attacks: a normal kick, a jumping kick, or a smashing move. Buildings require the player to be on foot when entering them, and most missions must usually be started on foot. The player is incapable of dying, though there are several ways to lose coins and a generous supply of hazards that force the player to repeat certain actions if they fail to avoid them.
To drive, the player can either commandeer one of the many civilian vehicles that litter the road or 'call' for those they have earned using one of the numerous blue phone booths scattered around each level. Civilian cars are typically inferior to those the player can earn. The cars earned by the player have different stats, rated by one to five: some are tougher, others are faster, and these stats are typically higher for cars earned in later levels. Cars are earned in several ways: by beating a level, completing the bonus mission in each level, completing the three races in each level, buying them from Gil, or by buying a specialized car from another character. Every car can be damaged and eventually destroyed, but numerous floating wrenches in each level will automatically restore the vehicle to pristine condition. Destroyed cars can still be driven, albeit awkwardly, so the player may repair the car if they can reach a wrench. They can also be repaired for ten coins by the phone booths.
Like Grand Theft Auto III, The Simpsons Hit & Run has a warning meter to indicate when the police will retaliate for bad behaviour. Located in the bottom-right corner of the screen, the circular 'Hit and Run' meter will fill when the player runs people over or destroys things, and likewise decrease when they cease doing so. When filled, several re-spawning police cars are summoned to chase the player down for the duration of the 'Hit and Run'. While being chased, the Hit and Run meter will deplete twice as fast, aiding in losing the police. Should the police cars manage to stay within an invisible proximity field for a certain period of time, the player will be fined fifty coins. Hitting the police cars will not increase the player's meter.
In each level there are numerous items the player can collect. The primary item is coins, which are essential to buying new cars, which in turn are required to progress in the game. Coins can also be used to purchase costumes, some of which are also required for missions. There are also secrets the player locate, such as Wasp cameras or Itchy and Scratchy cards. By collecting all 49 of the latter, seven in each level, the player can unlock a special Itchy and Scratchy episode.
The game starts with a cut scene showing a hoard of wasp-shaped cameras descending on Springfield. After Homer completes several tutorial missions (self-acknowledged by Bart, who narrates) a further cut scene shows more mysterious happenings going on around Springfield. The next few missions follow Homer exploring the strange goings on where he is lead to believe Mr. Burns is behind everything. He denies any responsibility and fires Homer, despite being unaware of who Homer is.
Bart is next to take up the story. After completing a series of missions including evading the truancy officer (Principal Skinner) and purchasing illegal fireworks, Bart meets Professor Frink who needs Bart to find objects so he can complete his 'Truckasaurus' — a giant robotic dinosaur that destroys cars for the purpose of entertainment. After completion of a few further missions, a cut scene shows Bart entering the stadium which the Truckasaurus is in. A tractor beam abducts Bart from the outside of the stadium.
Attempting to find her brother, Lisa starts exploring the town for clues. After several false leads from Milhouse, Lisa discovers that the black sedans that have been appearing around town are connected to Bart's disappearance. After catching some fish for Captain McCallister (The Sea Captain), he directs Lisa to a black limousine which he said he saw Bart get into. After chasing and destroying the limo, Bart is still nowhere to be found. After again talking with the captain, Lisa eventually finds Bart on a ship in Springfield harbor, although he appears to have memory loss and is mumbling unintelligibly with occasional mentioning of the sedans, and of Buzz Cola; the new and improved cola drink recently launched by Krusty the Clown.
Attempting to discover what has affected Bart, Marge investigates a crop circle that recently appeared in Cletus' crop field. After helping him with his chores, Cletus gives Marge some information. In return for his help, Marge runs errands for Grandpa Simpson. His help reveals the crop circle is an exact replica of the Buzz Cola logo, which Marge saw at the Kwik-E-Mart while running Grandpa's errands. Marge takes a can of the soda to Bart. He snaps out of his stupor and reveals it to be mind-control cola produced by aliens. Marge decides to purge Springfield of the cola but in spite of her valiant efforts, the drink still maintains popularity.
Inspired by Marge's efforts, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon tries to discover the source of the cola. After several missions, he decides he needs to recruit the help of a criminal to track down the owner of the cola trucks. After following Chief Wiggum, he tracks down Snake. He initially tries to mug Apu, but agrees to give him information if Apu helps him with his 'community service', which turns out to include destroying an armoured truck. Afterwards, Snake reveals that the cola trucks are registered to the Springfield Museum of Natural History. Apu finds Bart, and together they destroy the curators' car to get in. Inside the museum, they find a meteor to be the source of the cola. They eavesdrop on a conversation between Kang and Kodos, who are masterminding the scheme. They learn that the wasp cameras are filming the antics of Springfield for an alien T.V. show, Foolish Earthlings. Attempting to boost ratings, the aliens are using the cola to make people go crazy by which time they will have distributed laser guns, driving the town to a violent massacre sure to draw many viewers.
Apu, being frightened of the aliens, refuses to help any further. Bart takes it upon himself to foil Kang and Kodos' plan. He precedes toward the Krusty Lu Studios where he asks Krusty to help him stop production of the laser guns. Krusty does not believe Bart's story, however, so Bart brings him an actual gun. Krusty latterly informs Bart that he has already assisted the Duff Brewery to set up free laser gun stands all around town, so Bart sets out and destroys them all before people can collect their guns. Bart goes to Homer for help, who is outraged that Duff would ever commit such a crime. The duo quickly pursues Kang and Kodos to the brewery, but they escape. Before departing, the aliens reveal the lasers were merely the beginning, and that they have already released Buzz Cola throughout Springfield's water supply. The Cola that is seeping into the ground releases the un-dead from the Springfield Cemetery, who rise up and begin to invade the town.
The final level is designed to be as spooky as possible and is based around the Treehouse of Horror episodes. It is Homer's turn again, and his first mission is to collect supplies to protect his family and home from the marauding zombies. After talking to Comic Book Guy, Homer pursues a further black sedan to the nuclear plant as he says it belongs to the aliens. Homer meets with Professor Frink, who has discovered the alien's weakness: nuclear waste. He plans to use the ship's tractor beam to suck up cars that are loaded with drums of nuclear waste. After successfully loading Professor Frink's car into aliens' tractor beam, Homer discovers he needs even more waste, so he decides to track down Mr. Burns. Burns gives him a map detailing the locations of nuclear waste throughout the town, though each time Homer visits exactly the same spot to retrieve further barrels. After loading three more cars into the ship it explodes and crashes into the school. The next day, Springfield is back to normal as Kang and Kodos watch down from heaven, only too pleased that their show was a success but annoyed that they have to watch the end credits.