Released in 1997 at the height of Simpsons
mania, Virtual Springfield
is a "virtual reality
" tour of Springfield
for Windows 95
PCs. What we have here is a CD-ROM
game from back in the day when multimedia developers believed that the best use for CD-ROM-based entertainment was not for conventional video games, but for interactive movie
s. You, the player, are cast as a tourist in the Simpsons'
hometown. Your only central task is to wander around town (on a set track, unfortunately) and explore, poking through drawers and leafing through papers and such. As you explore you'll often find favorite characters from the series going about their daily business. As you come to a streetcorner you might find Mr. Burns
riding by on a bicycle or Patty
out for a stroll. The entire cast from the television series lent their voices to this production, so expect the characters to speak to you during your travels.
Springfield is a pretty big place, and thankfully you have instant access to a map that points out the lay of the land and the location of seventeen important landmarks, such as Moe's Tavern and Springfield Elementary School. Unfortunately your travel is restricted to roads and major paths; this is not a free-roaming 3D environment like you'd find in a game such as Super Mario 64. Instead you are restricted to traveling down preset paths to various waypoints. Travel stops at a waypoint and you can choose which of up to four directions to move next. A cursor is your way to interact with the town, and most everything can be clicked on to elicit some kind of reaction. Most of these actions involve, say, turning on a television or opening a folder. The television, for example, will cycle through some brief animated clips of various (fictional) shows. The folder could contain someone's homework. Some items can be collected, such as keys and maps, and these can be used to explore new sections of familiar territory. Aside from aimlessly wandering through town, a secondary goal of the game is to collect the seventy-four collector cards that are scattered around Springfield. For your amusement there are also a series of mini-games located in various places. Completing these serve no ultimate purpose, but they can be entertaining.
As mentioned above, there are seventeen specific places to visit in Springfield. They are listed below. Other famous locations in town that are not on the list are visible as you zip around, but you cannot stop to take a closer look.
Upon first released Virtual Springfield] came in a snazzy 3D box for $30, but nowadays it can be found (if it can be found) for $10 in a standard CD jewel case. It's a little dated when it comes to keeping up with The Simpsons (the most recent reference I noticed in the game was to "Who Shot Mr. Burns?"), but it's still fun to explore the town and interact (however limitedly) with its residents. I think a modern-day update of this title would be a big hit, as Springfield and its residents have changed in the past few years. In the meantime, pick this one up if you come across it. Just don't get lost.