Monday, June 22, 2015

VGR The Simpsons Road Rage

VGR: The Simpsons: Road Rage 
From Radical Entertainment/Electronic Arts/Fox Interactive 
Played on Nintendo GameCube
Also available on Xbox, PS2 and Game Boy Advance

Type Arcade/Racing
Year 2001

Over the years there's been a ton of merchandising inspired by Matt Groening's series.
Due to their huge world-wide popularity, The Simpsons have been declined into all kinds of collectibles, toys, etc., including various comics and several video games inspired by the show. And that ranging for all sorts of the consoles released over the years concurrently along the show, and even several arcade titles, handheld games and even a couple of pinball machines!

The most popular amongst those is without a doubt one of the best video game adaptations you can
probably find, the fan-favorite The Simpsons Arcade Game by Konami.

The Simpsons: Road Rage was developed by Radical Entertainment (Crash of the Titans, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Prototype), and published by Electronic Arts

The game was originally released for PS2 in 2001 this time, with Xbox and GameCube versions following shortly after. 

With the new technology at the time, this marked one of the first few titles to see The Simpsons make the jump from 2-dimensional artwork to 3D graphics. Which took quite... some refining until they were finally made looking decent in The Simpsons Game. What truly makes this game unique at the time was to see the entire voice cast from the cartoon reprise their voices for the game! 

The game can best be summarized as a "Crazy Taxi" with The Simpsons characters thrown in it.

Believe it or not, the game actually as a story and contains a few cutscenes glimpsed here and there, mostly after playthroughs.

It all begins with Bart playing a videogame. Then Homer drops by and make him stop playing those stupid videogames... Go drive a car or something!

More seriously, the plot revolves around Mr. Burns' latest crazy scheme. Burns has had all public transports nuclear-powered. And now these buses are threatening public safety. Hey, can anyone play taxi as long as you have a car? That's when every citizens of Springfield starts providing their own services to make some cash out of this mass panic while getting back at Burns at the same time.

As you can see, the plot is a nonsensical as you can imagine to justify the entire concept and gameplay of this game. 

You start the game with the ability to play as either Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa. The goal is to provide a safer alternative to Burns' radioactive buses and earn some money at the same time.

As for the gameplay itself, it's basically simply a Crazy Taxi clone.

Like Crazy Taxi, the goal is to simply drive around and pick up passengers. And then drive them as quickly as possible to their destination.

In fact back then the game was considered close enough it warranted Sega to sue Electronic Arts and Radical Entertainment for patent infringement! And the lawsuit had every reason to be, believe me. They basically ripped off the entire concept of the game. I'm personally usually fine with clones, since the entire gaming industry is really based on everyone copying everyone else, but here it feels pretty lazy for Radical. They didn't even bother trying to add anything new or original to the formula. The whole story was ultimately settled in court.

The goal is to score as much money as possible before the time runs out.

With this hard-earned cash you then can unlock up to 6 different "starting locations", starting from the Evergreen Terrace to the Springfield Dam, Downtown or also the Nuclear Power Plant to even the Springfield Mountains. Or you can either choose to instead unlock any of the 16 characters that can drive 18 vehicles from Grampa to Krusty the Klown, going through many classic characters such as Groundskeeper Willie, Apu, Barney, Otto, Chief Wiggum, Ned Flanders and a few others!

The only real difference from Crazy Taxi is that you might and will encounter a few "enemies" such as Burns' radioactive transit buses (which can become really bothersome) or Burn's limousine which will try to take you off road... 

The only real way to progress in this game is to collect as much money as you can get... Which you can't do in the free mode, without the timer. That mode's only for checking out the scenery (for some reason..).

There's also a few "challenges" in the form of ten missions you can do to practice the game. It would have been nice to allow you to unlock stuff through this mode, but it's only really a sub-par tutorial. Not unlike Crazy Taxi's Crazy Box or Crazy Pyramid, it requires you to perform a few specific tasks to learn to control the vehicles.

Sometimes some passengers will also provide a few similar optional challenges in game while you drive them to their goal, depending on the characters, such as avoiding or causing destruction, etc.

Finally there's also a very light multiplayer mode in which each player compete to pick up passengers as fast as possible.

Road Rage is... not a particularly good game.

What the game really got going for it is that is successfully captures The Simpsons atmosphere, thanks to the return of the entire voice cast from the animated series. Or else it would feel like playing a really weak Crazy Taxi clone. Outside of The Simpsons paintjob over it, it doesn't have much going for it at the end of the day..

The idea to buy what you decide to unlock yourself is a nice idea, but badly executed. It requires way too much points, it quickly comes down to deciding if you really want another character over a new location.

The rate in which you get to unlock new content shouldn't go that fast up in my eyes, since the game gets pretty repetitive pretty quickly. And unlike Crazy Taxi it simply doesn't randomize anything. Which means you quickly learn patterns and turn playthroughs into the quickest easiest route to memorize to get the cash you need on the go.

Overall, I love this game, but it's not particularly great and a bit clucky. But I love it. 

There's a few bugs here and there, but nothing gamebreaking as some reviewers made it sound like at the time. Bad detection and stuff like that. The game has a pretty solid voice acting, but it gets pretty repetitive fast.

All in all it's a pretty fun game, far from perfect. It gets really tiresome and repetitive after a while, so don't play it too much. But for a Crazy Taxi clone it's decent. It simply lacks the same addictive arcade nature as Sega's game.

Road Rage was also ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2003, the port was developed by Altron and published by THQ. They were able to keep things pretty close, all things considered. It's mostly the same overall identical game, only in 16-bit "mode 7".

Check It Out if you're a fan of the series, but otherwise I can't really recommend it much since there's so much better options out there (Crazy Taxi itself).
I give it:
1.5 / 3 Quacks!

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