Well, I haven't had the best of luck with the Game Boy Advance games. Two of the worst games I've reviewed were for the GBA: Mario Pinball Land and Garfield: TheSearch For Pooky. That's why I'm getting scared now every time I have to review one of those. But I shouldn't fear. Not all these games are bad... right?
Now, let's talk about something that brings a collective small “yay” from a crowd and a collective groan from another: The Simpsons. The series has been going for twenty-five years now, and it's still going, as impressive – or as annoying – that might be. Has it gone on for too long? Well, it still extracts a laugh from me from time to time, and some recent episodes were fine (if we forget the horrible pacing problems) but yeah, quite a number of recent episodes were sorta hit or miss. Yeah... As for the games? They're also kind of hit or miss.
The Simpsons: Road Rage is one of a few Simpsons games based around driving cars. Fun fact, both are also references to Grand Theft Auto; they reference other road-based crimes. Road rage, and Hit and run. Now, is this game as clever as its title? ...Hm, not sure...
So, you start the game, and you access the main menu. From there, you have many options: “Road Rage”, which I suppose is the Story Mode; “Performance”, kind of an Arcade Mode; “Sunday Drive”, kind of a Free Play; “Mission Mode”, self-explanatory; “Head to Head”, a... Multiplayer mode???; And last but not least, “Options”. I'll look at those one at a time, but before anything else, it's Story Time!
And of course who says “A villain in The Simpsons” says... Charles Montgomery Burns, of course! Okay, it also says “Sideshow Bob” or “Snake Jailbird”, maybe “Fat Tony” or, if we stretch it, “Joe Quimby” or "Russ Cargill"... But still, Burns was the obvious choice this time around. In this game, the greedy billionaire has bought all the buses of Springfield, converted them to nuclear power, and let evil drivers loose aboard them all over the city. The only way the citizens can stop him is by collecting money themselves, to buy the buses back. As it turns out, since public transportation is now lacking in Springfield, the Simpson family found a good idea; Let's convert our cars into cabs and drive people where they want to go, like a taxicab enterprise! Maybe this way they'll collect enough funds to buy back all the buses from Mr. Burns and peace will return to the city.
And the race is on, now, to collect a million dollars. You're lucky, all the Springfieldians are a tad too rich already. They have hundreds of bucks to spend in traveling.
|And they all got cars. How much did|
|Head for the floating baaaaaaaaaaalls.....|
Each destination zone is made of large concentric squares. When you reach the destination zone, you must try to stop your car closest to the center as possible; being far from the center nets you maybe fifty bucks, when being right at the very center gives you five hundred! See, now, why I said it was important to learn to use B to stop the car quickly? You also get money on the time you took to reach the destination with the passenger; the longer you take, the less money you earn. And it gets tricky because, as time passes, the passengers demand you take less and less time to drive them to their destination (as in, the time limit they ask for decreases each time you pick them up). And this goes on until the time runs out, which is a Game Over. But a positive one, actually, as you just add the money you've earned to the total amount you've already collected.
Also, when there's a passenger on your back seat, you can do a lot of things. See, the roads are dangerous, what with construction areas and objects on the sidewalks and other cars that you won't always see coming, and other stuff like that... There's also a lot of hills going up and down, letting you do a few stunts for the person. And every passenger you can take on a ride has a different personality, and will react differently to what you do. You get access to a square showing the character's face during the ride and his/her emotions while you drive. If the response is positive, you get a little bit of money. If it isn't, however... Anyway, some people like jumping stunts and others don't, some people like when you bump into other cars while others don't, and some people will like when you ram into objects while others, you guessed it, won't.
Also, when you're picking up a person for a ride, you could have an additional challenge to do. There's only three of those.
-Bring the passenger to its destination and ram into X objects on the way;
-Bring the passenger to its destination and hit zero car on the way;
-Bring the passenger to its destination while ramming into X cars on the way. (ROOOAAAD RAAAGGGEEE!)
These challenges net you a bonus amount of money when you succeed. Of course, you still have to drop the passenger on time at its destination.
|Bat loves jumps...|
|....Moleman hates them.|
As for Sunday Drive, you just drive around a location you pick without having to care about passengers or destinations or anything. Perfect to learn the map for a district you just unlocked. But aside from that, it's the most useless mode in the game, with no money being collected.
Each time you collect enough money, you unlock either a new driver or a new district to drive in. As the game progresses, the districts become increasingly complex and dangerous. Beats me why, really. Who are the unlockable drivers? Groundskeeper Willie (on his tractor!), Krusty, Snake, Frink, Otto (in his school bus), Barney (on the Plow King!), Moe, Chief Wiggum (I don't trust him...), Apu and Mr. Burns. Yep, you unlock him once you've collected a million bucks.
|The first mission has Willie shredding mailboxes with his|
tractor. Huh. Guess he hates receiving his paycheck.
|(Imitating Krusty) Urrrrrrrgh... I'm good at physical comedy,|
not at stuff that needs talent!
By the way, before I get to the Options and Extras, I have to mention that there's the multiplayer mode titled “Head to Head”. For this, you need to find... someone with a copy... of The Simpsons: Road Rage... and another... functional Game Boy Advance (Good luck with that one!)... With another copy of the cartridge... AND the Link Cable... Crap! Crap, crap, crappy idea! All those instances of Link Cable Multiplayer are crap! No wonder I don't have pictures for this one. I doubt anybody's even seen that damn mode!
|You can also use a password to unlock everything. Yay!|
Perfect for the lazy Homers of the world!
And last but not least, the Extras. Little somethings you get once you've completed a number of missions. Extra Number 1 is... the ability to change the background image at the main menu, from the Burns casino to the Simpsons' house to a few other well-known Springfield locations. Extra Number 2 is... Just being able to see a larger version of the layout of all the courses you've unlocked. Extra Number 3 is... Wow! The great prize! In this Extra, you can edit the color of all the drivers in the game! No, really, you are given all the colors on the 3D model, car and driver included, and you can literally change every single color of every car! You can turn them all black or all white, you can change the colors at will. That's freaking awesome for such a game. And Extra Number 4 is... the final cutscene to the game. Yeah, that one isn't really special.
I've said everything I could... But for the Heck of it, let's end this review by going over the main details again, You know I like to do that. The Simpsons: Road Rage is... A pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting something like this to happen. Really, in retrospect it's better than I thought.
Okay, the story is nothing to be amazed at, and the concept is laughable (I mean, seriously, shouldn't slamming into objects and other cars be deadly?), and at first sight it really just doesn't seem that great. The way the passwords work is also pretty awful, what with having to write the names of the characters on a piece of paper; this makes lengthy passwords to write (example: Krusty-Krusty-Krusty-Moe-Burns-Wiggum-Abe-Otto). The multiplayer mode is pointless, absolutely pointless, and besides you'll probably never get to see it.
BUT! As a game? It's really great. It offers different difficulties, to accommodate everyone. There are many modes in the game, so you can choose what you feel like doing best. The characters include Springfield's best-known citizens, so almost everyone is guaranteed to have access to their favorite character. Even if the concept is laughable, it's still very well-done, what with the tons of items lying around to bump into. Even if you can control only 16 characters in total, you'll see the others in the main modes, as you'll certainly pick them up somewhere in one of the six districts of the game. And there's always the Sunday Drive Mode to familiarize yourself with any district you unlock. Okay, after that the mode is pretty pointless, but still, when you've just started playing it's kinda useful. The Mission Mode, while annoying because REALLY difficult in places, is still a very welcome challenge. Might be way too difficult in Hard mode, though... Also, the music isn't too bad, and the environments are very detailed.
And, most of all, as I probably hinted at in this article, The Simpsons: Road Rage contains tons of references and shout-outs to the early Simpsons seasons. It's always great to notice a little in-joke that appeared in one episode.
So, do I recommend this game? Actually, I do. I'd say anyone can have fun with this game. Of course, it's a lot better for those who are fans of The Simpsons. And in fact, I'd say this game should please those who prefer the early seasons of the Simpsons.
Did I forget anything? Oh, right, I forgot to talk about... something... Damn, I forgot what... D'Oh!
Yeah, that's what I had forgotten! The obligatory Simpsons reference to Homer's famous catchphrase! As if that wasn't enough Simpsons, next week is the first part of a two-part review of The Simpsons Game, for the Nintendo DS. You won't want to miss that; it's gonna mess with your mind, big time.