The Simpsons videogame franchise has been stuck in a rut for the last few years. A number of ill conceived Simpsons game titles that "borrowed" ideas from other successful franchises, failed to capture the hearts of fans of the series. Simpson's Skateboarding, for example, aspired to bring the wildly-popular Tony Hawk Skateboarding premise to the land of Springfield, but was met with poor reviews. Then there was Simpson's Road Rage, which had our loveably dysfunctional family dashing about the streets, shuttling familiar characters through various Springfield locales to earn taxi fare. This is virtually a direct copy of Sega's Crazy Taxi, and again, critics and devotees of The Simpsons were not impressed.
Gameplay issues aside, the root causes for the failure of these games are the tacked-on premises and duplicated designs and genres. It's not enough to simply play a Simpsons character that fans have known and loved, and simply toss in a few quotes from show, while performing some in-game action that is totally outside the TV show world. The key is to provide a Simpsons game experience that makes use of the show, and lets gamers take part in scenarios that are both familiar and logical. How often in the current series does Bart Simpson do tricks on his skateboard anymore? Rarely. How many episodes have there been where Apu pays Homer to take him to the Quik-E-Mart? None come to mind. Simpsons fans have had to suffer through many a poorly designed game, but worse still is the lack of inspiration.
Now we come to The Simpsons: Hit and Run, which, like the Statue of Jebidiah Springfield, stands triumphantly at the top of the heap of past Simpsons' games. It still features the same "let's dupe a popular genre" design call of previous games, but the difference is in the details, and how the actual characters and premise work together to provide a much improved Simpson gaming experience.
The game story could be considered a Simpsons' epic. It involves swarms of mechanical bees, mind controlling cola, and black vans flooding Springfield, and its up to the family Simpson to uncover their intentions. Strongly "inspired" by the Grand Theft Auto Series, Hit and Run lets you control Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa as they run a series of racing, delivering, and destruction-based errands that are as wild as the TV series itself.
The missions are quite varied, and for the most part, don't stick to a straight formula. One might have you race to Springfield Elementary to deliver Lisa's diorama for the school fair, while another will put you in the shoes of Bart on a quest to get fireworks from seedy residents like Snake, Moe and Ralph Wiggum. Progression of the main plotline takes a while with these divergent goals, but if there weren't some sporadic diversions in the story, it wouldn't be a Simpsons game.