Mmmmmm...A Virtual Travel Guide: Virtual Springfield

If you remember Truckzilla, Apu's Secret Garden, or The Sandwich, then it's time for you to move to Virtual Springfield. Joe Toledo reviews this much anticipated new game from Fox Interactive.

If you remember Truckzilla, Apu's Secret Garden, or The Sandwich, then it's time for you to move to Virtual Springfield.

Fox Interactive'sVirtual Springfield doesn't just put you into The Simpsons cartoon, it puts you smack-dab in the middle of their world. You start in the heart of Town Square under the shadow of the great Jebediah Springfield. There you meet Troy McClure (you might remember him from such driver's ed films as Alice's Adventures Through the Windshield Glass and The Decapitation of Larry Leadfoot) who tells you a little bit about the "pea-sized town with lima bean-sized dreams." After that, you are on your own to explore Springfield, USA.

© Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Out on the Town

Using the mouse, you can walk through the streets of Springfield, admiring the sights and meeting all your favorite characters from The Simpsons. Featuring tons of original animation and all the original voices from the show, you truly feel like you are there. Using the map to get around, you can visit 17 different spots in Springfield. Stop by Moe's for a beer with Barney, visit the Old Simpson Place for a visit with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Grandpa, or just wander the streets of Springfield looking over all the sites you've come to know from the television show. The 3D rendered version of Springfield looks fantastic as you move real time from location to location. Fun for the Whole Family If you aren't the Simpsons freak I am, there are other things to do in town. Scattered around at different locations are small arcade style games to play. My two favorites are found at the Noiseland Arcade near the Kwik-E-Mart. In "Larry the Looter," you are Larry, running through town, hurling trash cans through windows and collecting points for everything you can get your hands on. But watch out for the store owner. He's got a 12-gauge and a bad attitude.

Homer explores Apu's Kwik-E-Mart in Virtual Springfield. © Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Of course, Larry doesn't hold a candle to "Smite of the Bumblebee." Starring my personal favorite Simpsons character, the Bumblebee Man, "Smite of the Bumblebee" is a recreation of the worst day of his life. His wife has left him, he's been pelted by an arsenal of oranges, and it's your job to build on his misery by knocking him unconscious with tomatoes in the face. Okay, so it probably isn't the nicest game in the world, but, hey, it is supposed to be the worst day in the Bumblebee Man's life, right? While the games provide a brief diversion from wandering around, they won't hold your attention for long. The gameplay is pretty limited to a minute or two. If games aren't your cup of tea, Virtual Springfield features a complete set of Springfield Community Collector's Cards. Each digital card features a different citizen of Springfield, USA, and the 74 cards are scattered all over town. The cards aren't only fun to collect, but if you aren't familiar with all the characters in town, it's a great way to learn their names and faces.

Inside the home of America's favorite cartoon family. © Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

D'oh!

No town is perfect, though, and Virtual Springfield is no exception. While the software has game-like elements, it is lacking the depth of a true game. The individual objectives to get into each location are very easy to achieve.

Once you've been around town a few times, traveling in real time between locations starts to get a bit long. If we could quickly jump from spot to spot without having to walk the streets every time, gameplay would be enhanced as there wouldn't be as much down time between locations. Plus, even though there are 17 great locations to visit, once you've been to them several times, the novelty starts to wear off. The 17 locations become familiar, and you feel as though you have seen everything. Virtual Springfield would have benefited from having a better gaming element incorporated into it, slowly revealing more locations around town and introducing the characters one by one to extend playing time and add an extra layer of depth.

Virtual Springfield offers Simpsons fans a chance to explore the uncharted depths of Bart's room. © Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

A Final Thought

All in all, if you are a die-hard Simpsons fanatic, Virtual Springfield is a must. You'll enjoy every frame of new animation and finding props from all of your favorite episodes. For the occasional Simpsons viewer or younger fans looking for an interactive Simpsons experience, Virtual Springfield may not be what they are looking for. I recommend they try Fox Interactive's title The Simpson's Cartoon Studio where they can direct the Simpsons in a custom cartoon. The action is a little more fast-paced, and it doesn't require as much knowledge of the show to understand the humor. The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield is available now on CD-ROM for Windows 95 and Power Macintosh at a retail price of $29.98. Joe Toledo is executive producer at North Communications, an Internet kiosk developer based in Marina del Rey, California. Also in this issue: A virtual tour of the life size replica of the Simpsons' home in Nevada which includes Quicktime movies of the house!

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