Springfield springs to life in virtual world

Sometimes the best way to escape the drudgeries of modern life is to roam the virtual landscapes of a favorite cartoon. “Virtual Springfield,” a Fox Interactive CD-ROM (Windows95 and PowerMac compatible, $29.95), allows players to snoop around the fluorescent yellow streets of Springfield, U.S.A., home of long-running toon family “The Simpsons.”

“Virtual Springfield” is hard to describe, as Gary Sheinwald, producer of the CD-ROM, admits. “It’s an interactive comedy and quite hard to classify,” he says. “Our intent was to make something which ‘The Simpsons’ fans would appreciate and has never been done before.”

Arriving in the town square, players are greeted by tour guide Troy McClure (voiced by series regular Phil Hartman), who informs visitors they have come to the place “Calvin Coolidge once described as a pea-sized town with lima bean-sized dreams.”

Players can stop in at Moe’s Tavern, play some darts or test their sex drive on a love meter. Kwik-E-mart patrons are greeted by store owner Apu, who advises shoppers to keep their hands where he can see them or he’ll have “to dance on your bullet-riddled carcass!”

At the Simpsons’ residence, you can join the family for dinner, watch TV with Bart and Lisa or simply go through the house and see what’s in their closets. Throughout the journey, visitors will be rewarded with hidden cards, keys and collectibles, as well as discovering trap doors and secret passageways to forbidden zones.

“The point is you can actually look around in the Simpsons’ world,” Sheinwald says, “which you can’t do on the show, because it’s cut for gags.”

Having spent two years developing the game, Sheinwald points out that modeling Springfield in 3-D was the most difficult part of the project, because “in the cartoon series, Homer lives next to the power plant one week, and the next, he lives 10 miles away!”

The CD-ROM is rated “Teen 13+,” but according to the creators, the game is suitable for younger fans of the show.

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