Simpsons: Virtual Springfield, The Download (1997 Arcade action Game)

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As a huge fan of the television show, The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield is a great thing to own. I found tons of minutiae that only a true fan of the show would understand. Little inside jokes about Flaming Moe's and the Slugfest video-boxing game are just a few of the things that you are likely to encounter while on your visit to Springfield.

After you get past seeing these things once, however, there is trouble. Sure, walking around the town is fun at times, but it is also very tedious. Reading the map can be a problem, especially for younger kids. If you do not utilize the map to its full extent, you will most likely find yourself lost in the town and unsure of where to go next. Although it is a full town, you do at times feel very constricted, as you can only change directions at certain corners. The rest of the time you are just moving where the computer is telling you to.

At certain intersections, you will meet various characters from the show, including the likes of Mr. Burns and Smithers, Principal Skinner and Ned Flanders. These characters have little monologues that they dish out to you, and they include jokes. This is fun to do the first time around, but there is not much variety here, so it gets annoying if you run into the characters multiple times.

Visiting the places starred off on the map allows you to explore. Go into Moe's Tavern, for example, and you can talk to Moe, make a Flaming Moe, check out his drawers, and so forth. Again, once you have been through it, chances are going back is not going to uncover anything new.

The exception to that statement is when there is something hidden. At certain locations (in Mrs. Hoover's classroom for example) there are things that you are locked off from doing. There is even one place (the Stonecutters headquarters) where you cannot even visit until you get a ring. At other locations you must find these secret items by taking part in different activities or just by finding the items in question. While a good idea in theory, these searches are tedious in nature.

A personal favorite of mine was the Noiseland Arcade. Here, you can take part in a variety of mini video games that have been a part of the long-running television series. There is Bart's Slugfest video-boxing game that he beat Homer at repeatedly. Other games include a Krusty game where you must shoot a coin into his mouth, a game called Smite of the Bumblebee in which you must shoot tomatoes at the Spanish Bumblebee's face, and a game that was originally in the Kwik-E-Mart in which you control a looter and try to steal as many goods from an electronic store as you can before angering the owner.

Fans of The Simpsons television show will certainly be pleased to see their favorite town replicated in all of it's glory. The inside jokes and story-lines alone make the game worth it for those that are fans. For casual viewers and non-viewers, however, there is not enough here to warrant purchase of The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield.

Graphics: Not very technologically advanced, but that is by design. The graphics look like they did on the earlier years of the television show.

Sound: Theme music from the show, in addition to lots of dialogue from the same voices who do the show.

Enjoyment: Raise this rating by at least a full point if you are a fanatic like me. Average fans will not get a lot of the jokes, but for those that do, this is bliss.

Replay Value: After going through this one once, there is not all that much to do. The dialogue repeats itself a lot of the time, and the games are not all that highly replayable.

Virtual Springfield is a disappointing 'game' from FOX Interactive. Set in the Simpsons universe, this CD-ROM takes you on a virtual-reality tour of Springfield - more specifically, about 50 famous locations ranging from Moe's Tavern to Krustylu Studios. Naturally, you can also visit the Simpsons' home, where you browse the family album, snicker at Homer's mail, explore Bart's room, and more. Most of these locations feature Simpsons characters, voiced by the original cast members.

Although it is billed as a "game," Virtual Springfield is really more like an interactive 3D atmosphere. There are a few small (and I DO mean small - as in, finishable in 10 minute or less) mini-games scattered around the town, but all of them are boring. One of the bigger games is a treasure-hunt of sorts: if you can find all the hidden baseball cards in the game, you will be treated to extra animations and URL of a website (that no longer exists). This is merely a ploy to trick you into clicking as many objects as possible to reveal animated sequences, and you even have to exploit some bugs to find all the cards.

Even as a non-game interactive title, Virtual Springfield is not very appealing. Most locations are drawn with wonderful details that Simpsons fans will love, but very few objects in each screen can be interacted with. In all, anyone can finish this title in about 1-2 hours, and that includes finishing all the games and watching every animation clip (these clips alone total about 25 minutes). Although the humor is just as much fun as the TV show, the whole thing is all over too soon, and none of the games warrants a replay. Faithful but very low "bang for the buck" value, this disappointing title is fun only for younger kids and die-hard (and I mean very die-hard) Simpsons fans. Too bad FOX did not take lessons from Starwave's superb Muppets Inside (reviewed on this site) on how to do justice to a blockbuster license. Konami's Simpsons games (which you can find on this site) are far better than this marginal game that offers far less gameplay on a CD-ROM than many 5.25" classics under 100KB.


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