Welcome to part 3 of my retrospective of The Simpsons: Hit & Run. I've stated in the last two parts how I feel this game is the best licensed game ever (in case you somehow didn't see the title), and today I'm going to discuss the biggest reason I make this claim. This game was a love letter to fans of The Simpsons. There's no denying that claim when you look at the insane amount of minute details and references scattered throughout the city of Springfield.
Most of the references come in the form of collectibles, and there are three types: cars, costumes, and cards. This game came out in 2003, just prior to the first episode of season 15. The reason the fan service is above and beyond what you see in most licensed games is because they didn't cater to just people who were fans of the show at the time, they encompassed the entire fan base, with references from every season (and possibly every episode).
The collectibles don't serve any purpose other than to bring a smile to your face. For people like me who have been fans of the show since the very beginning, this game is like reliving your childhood.
All of the unlockable items require nothing more than having enough dough (d'oh?) in your pocket. The best way to score coins is to destroy the Buzz Cola vending machines, Buzz Cola crates, and wasp cameras scattered about town. But don't forget to drive through any plate glass windows you spot while driving, as crashing through them will land you 5 coins, and considering that these windows are around almost every corner, it's in your best interest to take them out, as one lap through the town could score you 50 coins or more. You're going to need them too, as some missions require you to use a specific car, which you'll need to purchase from good ol' Gil. For most missions and joyriding, you can use the car of your choice, and other Springfieldians will even give you a ride with no questions asked. If you happen to destroy your car, and hitching a ride isn't your forte, don't worry, you can stop by the nearest phone booth to grab a different one from your inventory, or fix up your newly out of commission car for a small charge. Some of the cars you can acquire throughout include Snake's "Lil Bandit," the Mr. Plow and Plow King trucks, the car built for Homer by his half-brother Herb, and Moe's sedan complete with rubber hippie daisy, among many others. The only car that I was sad to see not included was the Pool Mobile from "Bart of Darkness."
There are three costumes per level, and even non-fans would find them to be pretty funny. Homer in a muumuu, Bart as his evil twin Hugo, Apu's Be-Sharps outfit, all of them were excellent choices. The two that stand out the most are Homer's Treehouse of Horror "Donut Head" getup, and Lisa's makeshift "Floreda" costume. Both of these costumes are from episodes that casual fans of the show have perhaps never seen, but their inclusion brings a smile to the face of the lifers. The extra costumes serve no purpose, no new abilities or anything like that, they're just there so you can have them, and in a labor of love like this I appreciate that developer Radical went the extra mile.
The collectible cards is where they went really obscure, and will require some research unless your knowledge is on Good Will Hunting levels...or if you're like me and have seen every episode about 37 times. There are a total of 7 levels in the game, and you play as five different characters, each one assigned to their specific levels (Homer and Bart are each used twice, Lisa is used for level 3, Marge for level 4, and Apu for level 5). The cards you collect in the levels all pertain to the character you're currently playing as. So in the first level, while playing as Homer, you'll discover cards with images of Mr. Sparkle detergent, the Stonecutters parchment, and the inanimate carbon rod that saved him in "Deep Space Homer."
Almost all of the cards are of objects that are very easily missed in the show, most of them never getting more than a subtle mention in a single episode. I would be interested to know how many fans remember which episode something like Lisa's perpetual motion machine or Apu's chutney squishee are from. In level 7 Springfield becomes a living version of the popular Treehouse of Horror short stories, so all the cards are from those, like the "How to Cook for 40 Humans" cookbook, the monkey paw, and my personal favorite reference in the entire game, the "Smarch" calendar.
This game really is all about the fans, both old and new. The game is so jam-packed with love that it's hard to go more than a few virtual feet without noticing something from the show that makes you let out an Edna Krabapple-esque "Ha!"
This game also has the best interpretation of Springfield I've ever seen, they really made it come to life. I'll get more into that topic tomorrow in Part 4: Location! Location! Location!