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The day was approaching and I couldn't be more excited. The cards were on display, decorations up and that sparkling tree erected once again for another Jesus-born day of celebration.

Traditionally my brother and sister and I wake up with a present each on our beds; we open them and run downstairs to gather in preparation for the present-opening frenzy which is on the way. But like most blokes, when you get to 20 years old it becomes harder to be too excited.

Too hard to be 'up for it', even if it's just pretend to show Mum that Christmas day is still a special day for everyone. Some things that haven't changed compared to Christmasses been and gone. Every Christmas my gifts are always 70% or more Simpsons merchandise. I love The Simpsons and everyone I know knows it. So what more could anyone like me wish for than the arrival of a new Simpsons game. A game that claimed to be different from the others, a game that had been reported to be an excellent game and, possibly most of all, a game that had been given 5 G's by a reviewer on Sky One's Gamezville!

Okay, maybe not most of all, but I was impressed by the decent publicity it was receiving and was chuffed when I finally left GAME with it. When I got in I couldn't get to my PS2 any quicker, quivering with spasm inducing excitement.

The game starts at the Simpsons home. You, the player, are our lazy, beer-bellied Homer and first impressions are good. Plenty of that Simpsons-feel colour splashed all over the place and the graphics are a good representation of a computerized cartoon environment.

Like any game in which you are required to drive you want to jump in a motor and see if the handling permits the game to be playable. The family car sits in the drive just waiting to be sped around for the first exploration of our beloved Springfield. After being given instructions on the controls by badboy Bart I run over to the car and jump in.

Thank God! Thank him so much. I can really see myself enjoying this! The handling is quality stuff, none of this understeering or oversteering and you soon realise that if you are to get the most from the car at corners you have to use the handbrake.

So speeding off I go, handbraking into a smooth skid around every corner. Which, after several corners, I found it was easy to learn how and also easy to master.

It's a minor problem but no worries, let's have a look around. As you drive Homer starts singing, and making comments which bring a smile to the face for the first couple of times. "Eat my dust dusteaters!" is one I remember. Anyway, back to the exploration. True to the selling point - "Over 56 driving and on-foot missions in 7 huge levels spread out over the familiar Springfield landmarks'" - the levels are huge. Everything is there.

Over the seven levels certain parts are unlocked. For example, the missions in the first are centered around Flanders's home, the Simpsons residence and the Kwik-E-Mart. The second levels missions evolve around Moes tavern, the comic book store and Springfield general hospital - and so on. The missions begin fun enough and evolve around driving around collecting items - following someone and keeping close, picking up dropped items from a vehicle you are following, crashing into and destroying vehicles, crashing into them and making them drop items for you to collect and driving away from vehicles - all usually within a time limit.

Sound fun? It is...for the first time you do them. The stories which lead you to do these missions are interesting enough but the missions all boil down to completing these tasks and it gets very boring. Eventually the missions become a frustrating affair as it is usually a car getting in your way or driving into you that stops you from completing a mission.

'No worry', I hear you say. 'Get out of the cars and make with the footwork' but unfortunately there is not much variety here either. The on-foot missions are much the same thing - running around and collecting items within a time limit. With the writing genius of Groening's team you would think that they would have been able to have some creative input into what other tasks could be completed in the game. Dear, oh dear! The Hit and Run element is basically running over too many people and destroying too many road signs and phone boxes which incriminates you into a chase from the fuzz, a chase they usually win and fine you 50 coins everytime. Although, crash into something in full view of a cozza and you'll remain as free as the lawabiding.

The Simpsons Hit and Run is a fun game, but the novelty wears off too quickly - which is a shame because the stories and the well-acted dialogue are classic Simpsons stuff. The occasional need to buy clothing or a new vehicle to progress with coins - collected by destroying boxes and these 'hidden' camera wasps in a 3D Mario style - is just another boring element to make the game last that little bit longer. No weapons, no combos - you haven't even got a life bar! It's all too simple and you, the paying customer, want more for your hard-earned coinage than unchanging tasks mission after mission. I love The Simpsons and so very much wanted this game to be as enjoyable as the episodes all the way through but the fun is too short-lived. A big improvement on the other Simpsons titles but it just does not live up to expectations.

Close, but no cigar.