"Because The Simpsons Road Rage not only frequently equals Crazy Taxi in terms of playability but sometimes passes it, and because of the well-used Simpsons license, this is one title I have no problem recommending for at least a rental and perhaps even a purchase."
There's no pleasant way to say this: The Simpsons Road Rage is a blatant rip-off of the Sega-developed arcade and Dreamcast masterpiece, Crazy Taxi. Yes, this is another game using a license--in this case the familiar Simpsons license--to help more copies of a game to fly off store shelves. In the case of The Simpsons Road Rage, though, the product is actually so good you'll probably want to play it.
The goal in Crazy Taxi was to pick up a customer, take him to his destination, pick up another, take him to his destination, and repeat. Getting in the way was a timer. If you didn't make your stops more quickly than scheduled, you'd soon run out of time and have to begin anew. That basic premise is untouched for The Simpsons Road Rage, which almost makes you wonder why they bothered making a new game. I say 'almost' because while there are some obvious similarities at every possible juncture, The Simpsons Road Rage has enough of its own ideas to make it not only intriguing, but semi-original.
When the opening sequence appears, you see Bart playing video games, a point to which his father soon objects because he wants to watch the news. Then the news is on and it turns out Burns has bought up the transit system and is now using radioactive busses to ferry people about. This is a bad idea, and in no time, Homer's fuzzy brain sees the potential. He paints 'Homer 4 Hire' on the side of his piece-of-crap car and the adventure begins. As he drives--or rather, as you drive--others will join the team in an effort to regain the less than stellar system that existed before Burns' hostile takeover. All this story really does is give Electronic Arts and Fox Interactive a chance to copy Crazy Taxi and have fun doing so.
While there's no real cartoon in this game, the Simpsons presence is indisputable. That means a lot for Simpsons fans, but it can become annoying after a while. Even the most diehard Simpsons fanatic will get tired of hearing grandpa talk about the evolution of the sandwich, or the minister talking about his righteousnes, or whatever. And there are plenty of voices. Most of the time you're driving, you're going to be hearing little comments. Some of these are context-sensitive, some aren't. Most aren't, sadly. This means you can have some odd situations, like when Grandpa Simpson picks up Homer and Homer wants to go to the retirement home to see Grandpa Simpson and his treasure map. Most likely, Grandpa Simpson will ask if Homer has seen his pills. More amusing is when a member of the Simpsons household delivers a passenger to their home who has expressed his intentions to loot their house. ''Easy come, easy go'', Marge might say. Okay.
Complaints about inappropriateness for comments aside, though, the voices are nice. And there are plenty of them. You'll hear mostly the same familiar comments as you play, though. You'll have things memorized, in fact. But from time to time, they slip in something new and you laugh all over again. Yes, most of the bits of dialogue are quite amusing.
Less amusing are some of the game's flaws, most of which are minor. I read a review that made it sound as if every corner you take is in danger of poor hit detection. While I found that the hit detection is minorly off track at times, it's really not bad. I would say about 1 out of every 100 tight corners I take ends up with me spinning my wheels on a target I can't see, but for the most part controls are responsive and hit detection reasonable. In fact, controls are good enough that they didn't mind tampering around with them a bit; different vehicles control differently. I use Grandpa Simpson because he's small, quick, and easy to move about. There are other extremes, though, including Barney and his dump truck. You'll have fun deciding on a vehicle that suits your style.
Another flaw I should mention is the load times. There are about two of them for each game you play, and they last around a half-minute each. When you're playing the game's main mode, Road Rage, this isn't so bad. You play quite a bit before another loading session. But if you're trying the mission mode, this gets crazy. Play 20 seconds, wait a minute, play 20 seconds...even choosing 'retry' will subject you to a load time. Bart sitting on the floor playing games isn't an interesting enough load screen, either. It's tragic that Electronic Arts still hasn't learned how to trim down the times. Load times can ruin a game. Fortunately, they fail to do so with this title. Still, it's an annoyance.
Another annoyance is the amount of time you'll have to spend unlocking characters and areas. To get every feature the game has for you--ending movie included--you'll need to wrack up an insane $1,000,000. That's just too much play time. Figure that once you get good the average game nets you $7,000 and you can see my point. The positive side is that the first few things you can unlock come rather quickly. You can get all the areas available and some cool characters before the features come so far between.
That's right, areas. Like Crazy Taxi, this game has multiple areas in which you can do your taxi business. This time, though, you have a total of 6 areas. Some are more enjoyable than others, and some are highly reminiscent of others, but there are enough differences--sometimes drastic ones--that you really feel like you're covering a lot of ground. The first area can grow boring, but then there's the more run-down town, then there's the dam and surrounding hills, then the power plant (my personal least favorite), then downtown with a ton of turns and shortcut opportunities, then finally the forest. Of these, the one that feels the least like Crazy Taxi is the last. It feels almost like a Need for Speed sort of area. Still, it works well.
So you have cool characters true to the series, and you have the multiple areas. Those aren't the only changes to Crazy Taxi's formula that you might appreciate, though. The last differences I should mention are actually quite cool. Instead of the multi-colored rings present in the game that inspired The Simpsons Road Rage, you see one color of ring. Then the customer will wish to go to a location and you have your time to get him there. Sometimes, though, you can get special bonuses for completing one of two special tasks. One is to avoid hitting more than 2 cars on the way to your destination. The other is to hit a certain number of targets. These targets can be trees (it's great fun running through one and watching the top roll down the street ahead of you as you swerve around it), mailboxes, people, or any other number of things. Complete the task and you get 5 seconds instead of the typical maximum of 3 for a speedy delivery. Another great way to earn time is to hit the booths advertising the Burns transit system. 2 cool seconds are yours for each one you find.
Perhaps the only change I felt could be viewed as negative was the addition of the school bus and Burns himself (driven by Smithers) in a limo. Both will get in your way, in the latter case always intentionally, in the former I think also. They block the path you need, they ram you out of the path, or whatever. Truly annoying, and more so as your score climbs toward the higher numbers and ratings.
In conclusion, The Simpsons Road Rage could have been so many things. A lot of people rightfully expected it to cash in on the license and fail to deliver the goods. Some reviews even suggest that it has mostly done just that. However, it is a rare game that can force me to neglect so many of the other ones in my library for such an extended amount of time. Because The Simpsons Road Rage not only frequently equals Crazy Taxi in terms of playability but sometimes passes it, and because of the well-used Simpsons license, this is one title I have no problem recommending for at least a rental and perhaps even a purchase.
Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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