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Virtual Springfield

Homer Goes to the Academy

Simpsons, Star Trek: from boob tube to CD-ROM

By Steven Bilodeau

"Virtual Springfield" from Fox Interactive for Windows 95 and Power Mac

"Star Trek: Captain’s Chair" from Simon & Schuster Interactive for Windows 95 and Power Mac

The Simpsons and the various Star Trek shows are some of the most popular shows on television. They each have millions of fans who tune in every week, and now your computer can let you enter those shows to explore their worlds.

In Fox Interactive’s Virtual Springfield, you can walk through the Simpsons’ home town. All of the sites from the show have been recreated in detail and placed appropriately in a 3D version of the city. You don’t just click on a static map to get where you’re going; you actually walk there in a first person point-of-view.

You start your journey at Town Square, welcomed by your host, Troy McClure. From there, you’re on your own. You can check out Krusty as he tapes his latest show at Krustylu Studios, poke around the Library with Lisa, visit Mo’s Bar or go shopping at the Kwik-E-Mart. Your map will help you navigate to the 16 different places you can visit. Once you enter a location there’s lots to do. For instance, go to the Simpsons’ home and you can wander around the whole house. Every room is accurately drawn with all of the show’s characters making appearances. You can go watch the latest McBain movie at the Aztec Theatre and throw candy at the audience.

There are an incredible number of "hot spots" for you to interact with, that is, objects which will respond to you. Bart’s room is full of toys that move when you activate them. All desk drawers open, and you can check out the magazines he has hidden there and in his closet.

Jokes are everywhere, both in the objects themselves as well as the characters’ dialogue. You’ll see references throughout the game to different episodes plus new material, including two original "Itchy and Scratchy" cartoons.

The software’s designers have avoided the fault which is common to these "virtual tours." Many such titles have so few things to do or see that the player ends up playing "hunt the pixel" where you just scrub the screen with your mouse looking for something to do. That is not the case with Virtual Springfield. Even if you just stop and do nothing, characters will walk by with funny comments or activity will occur around you. For instance, you can simply listen to Grandpa Simpson as he dictates his letter complaining to the New England Journal of Medicine about their "nudie pictures and potty talk."

There are a number of mini-games throughout town, like "Super Slugfest" at the Arcade, or a carnival watergun shooter using Seltzer bottles in Ned Flanders’ basement bar. Collector’s cards are well hidden throughout the town for you to find. Once you do, extra portions of the game become available.

The animation is nicely done and the characters’ voices are provided by the show’s actors. Both of these factors are important because it makes the experience so enjoyable. They’ve even managed to capture the show’s humour for you. Star Trek Captain's Chair

More Trek Stuff...

Simon & Schuster’s Star Trek Captain’s Chair is set in the Starfleet Virtual Fleet Museum. You can tour and interact with the bridges of five of Star Trek’s most famous ships. There’s the original Enterprise NCC-1701, the Enterprise-D from Next Generation, Deep Space Nine’s USS Defiant, the USS Voyager and the brand new Enterprise-E from the latest movie, First Contact.

Each bridge is presented in complete detail with working panels and full descriptions. You can walk anywhere you want and zoom in and out on the different sets. Each bridge comes with a guided tour from one of the ship’s officers.

Like any museum, the first thing you’ll want to do is start pressing buttons. When you do, you’ll hear them make the sounds you’ve heard on the shows. But unlike a regular museum, these buttons actually work. Arm your phasers and hit the fire button – you’ll see an original movie of that ship firing its weapon. You can land the Voyager, separate the Enterprise-D, even look inside Spock’s viewer to see what he’s been staring at for thirty years.

There are hidden nuggets throughout the game, like buttons which will play a personal message from the actor associated with the particular show.

It’s interesting to put yourself behind the consoles that you see the characters using each week and to actually use their controls and displays. Michael Okuda, the artist who is responsible for the distinctive Star Trek look, is a co-producer of Captain’s Chair. This means that the controls are authentic to the show with details that correspond properly.

Virtual Springfield and Captain’s Chair are two titles that I would highly recommend to any fan of The Simpsons or Star Trek. They’re easy to set up, fun to play and ran without a hitch. If you like the show, you’ll love these games.

Steven Bilodeau is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns at

Steven Bilodeau can be reached via e-mail at And for more computer news, visit JournalExtra, the World Wide Web site of The Edmonton Journal, at


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January 31, 2006