Despite the animated television series’ widespread popularity, the Simpsons have never really made a smooth transition to the small screen of video gaming. Hoping that trend would come to an end, I was optimistic when Simpsons Road Rage was announced. But that optimism quickly turned to scepticism when the game was released to mixed reviews on the PlayStation 2. And when I finally had the opportunity to play the Xbox version, it wasn’t long before I was quoting our beloved Homer Simpson; “Doh!”
The story is a simple one. Montgomery Burns is up to his greedy ways again, purchasing the Springfield Transit Corporation and jacking up the fares and replacing the buses with nuclear-powered public transportation. Refusing to shell out for high rates, the citizens of Springfield, led by Homer Simpson, open their own taxi service to raise enough money to buy back their Bus Line.
Simpsons Road Rage plays like a stripped down version of Crazy Taxi. As any one of a cast of characters, you’re tasked to drive around Springfield, picking up customers along the streets and racing them to their destinations before a timer counts down. Depending how quickly and efficiently you complete each trip you’re awarded money and extra time before you head off to find your next customer. To add to an otherwise simple concept, Road Rage challenges drivers to achieve certain goals, such as not hitting any more than three cars, or destroying Mr. Burns’ bus stops, while en route to the passenger’s location.
Simpsons Road Rage is a very easy game to pick and play, which bodes well for younger gamers. The controls are simple to grasp and there are very few objects; trees, shrubs and other cars included; that will be left standing when you slam through them. The only real trouble you’ll likely run into is Mr. Burns himself, who cruises around with Mr. Smithers in search of those who are competing against his bus line. Unfortunately, this simplicity is also one of the game’s biggest drawbacks, as Road Rage becomes quite tedious rather quickly. As you accrue points, you’ll be able to unlock new sections of Springfield, such as the Entertainment district, or extra characters and their respective vehicles, including the likes of Krusty and his clown car or Apu and his sports car. The problem here is that there are long stretches where you’ll have to cruise with the same characters in the same zones while you accumulate enough cash to unlock the next extra.
There are four modes of play in Simpsons Road Rage. The Sunday Drive mode serves as a training tool, affording players to cruise through Springfield without any timer to worry about. The Mission mode requires you to accomplish a certain goal within a given time limit. For example, as Barney Gumble, you’ll be tasked to mow down a specific number of mascots. If anything, the Mission mode lets you play as characters you might not have unlocked yet in the Main mode. Finally, the Head-to-Head mode is a two-player game in which you and a friend will compete for the same fare. If your opponent manages to pick up the customer first, you must bump his car with yours in order to knock the passenger out of the vehicle. The first person to accumulate a predetermined amount of money wins the contest. All in all, the multi-player component of Simpsons Road Rage is extremely disappointing considering the possibilities that exist.
Visually, Simpsons Road Rage reminds me of that one episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes a 3D character. If you can picture the same fate for the entire cast and crew of Springfield, you’ve basically got Simpsons Road Rage in a nutshell. There are also several pre-rendered 3D skits featuring various key characters that help advance the plot as you progress through the game. Overall, the graphics weren’t particularly great, but it conveyed the city and characters well enough. Audio wise, Simpsons Road Rage is consistent with the television series. The character’s voices are terrific and each of them has a selection of one-liners ready to go when you pick them up and drop them off. They do get a little repetitive after awhile, but I could listen to Ralph Wiggum say “I bent my wookie” all day long.
Witty and creative are attributes I’d use to describe The Simpsons animated television series, but Simpsons Road Rage lacks both of those qualities. The game is arguably too simple for its own good and the result is a tedious and unimaginative gaming experience. Unless you’re a big fan of all things Simpsons, I advise you either rent Road Rage first or avoid this surprisingly dull ride altogether. Doh! is right.