2 in 1 special: NOW WITH ENGLISH DUB.


2018 SEP 12

(PC, 1997)

Quick question. Are you a Simpsons fan? No? Yeah, then avoid this title, this game is just like 190% Simpsons content. Here's the quick summary: it's a 4/10 for you.

This was a game I'm ashamed to admit that I spent a long time on. Not because this is a bad game, mind you. It's the best I've reviewed to date, actually, which is kind of sad. The reason as to why I'm ashamed to admit that I spent a long on it was because I was a little kid, and I was enthralled by all the Simpsons references, since it was a show I used to watch a fair bit of. I even have the first five seasons in the Russian dub as DVDs, as a present. Do I still watch them? Ha, no, but I still have them. They're pirate DVDs too, and so is my copy of this game. As in, my copy of the game is this cover printed poorly on a piece of scrap paper, and the disc inside is just a blank CD-R with the word "SIMPSONS" written on it with a normal marker. I kept the pirate tradition of this game by taking a picture of the cover with my phone instead of scanning it. This is kinda notable for being one of the first of many pirate games I used to own as a Russian child. I still own most of them, in fact, so that fact might come up again. There's some really neat and weird games on my rack of discs, some of which I never managed to beat. Maybe I'll beat them and complain about them here? Hit me up if you want me to do that or just go back to real console games you've probably never heard of.

Anyway, before I knew how to understand English, I played this game through in Russian. I decided to pop it in and install the original English dub, to see how the game holds up to this day. This is probably nitpicky, depending on who you ask, but some lines were completely replaced with the Russian dub, likely by accident, and I'll never hear the original unless I spend money to play a game I've already 100% completed years ago and lost the resulting save file to. Which is probably something I don't want in my collection, since this falls under the label of "technically a game", and I only need one of these, but even then, maybe I should get a recording, just to hear that line. Like poems about digging, this game is surprisingly deep if you're looking for Simpsons lore, but don't expect anything after 1997. Lisa is a vegetarian and Flaming Moes do exist, but Principal Skinner hasn't ruined the fans' trust in the show by exposing himself as some alleged Armin Tamzarian and there's no pop culture icons stealing the show like Lady Gaga. No bad Simpsons episodes here, except for the babysitter one with the gummi bear. You know the one I'm talking about. I hate that one.

The big upside that a lot of people don't really know about this game is that it's actually written by the Simpsons writers, which leads to a lot of great lore that you would otherwise have missed out on, as well as a bunch of lines recorded by the real voice actors. This game went full out for the time, and 20 years later, I feel like it could receive a remake treatment, but sadly, the current writers aren't as good as the originals, and I worry about what they could do. Also, we'd be missing characters like Troy McClure, Edna Krabbapel, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon... I've had more laughs playing this game than I did watching new episodes of the Simpsons, and that's after me expecting every single joke, and having sunk hours into a game you could probably 100% in a spare afternoon.


Now with a flat +100% to plagiarism!

Now for those who are really well-versed in the Simpsons right about now have been screaming at the monitor for about a solid minute. The cover art, as it turns out, is a mix between the actual Simpsons: Virtual Springfield cover art (specifically, a cropped copy of the big box release) and the cover art from either an early boxart or the title screen of The Simpsons Wrestling from 2001 for PS1 with some surprisingly decent editing work to make the covers... kind of work? We have a history with really bootleg cover artworks on pirate games going all the way back to our Dendy days (the equivalent of the Famicom). Basically, this game came out in Russia long after 1997, or at least my copy did.

As for the game itself, it's nothing special. Barely a game, even. The best way to describe it is that it's a bunch of 2D locations (17, in fact) on top of a 3D map of the Simpsons, except it's not really canon because the only things that stays the same is that Homer and Ned are neighbours. 742 Evergreen Terrance was used to be Snake's address, so even that's not consistent. Anyway, the 3D map looks all right for the time, as close as it can reasonably get to the unaliased Simpsons style the game has, and the locations seem to be a good adaptation of the ones in the show.

You pass by King Toot's Music Store, several Krusty Burgers, the escalator that leads nowhere, the hospital, the comic book store (which is oddly right by the synagogue), basically every building is there, or should be, in some way. The way you move is very simple, you use the mouse or arrow keys to go where you want and enjoy the unshaded aliased trip down the block in short glorious 10FPS video clips. Which doesn't look TOO out of place, considering most of the show is drawn for 12FPS, but it's a lot chuggier than I'd like. When you're in a location, you can point and click on an item to inspect it, which can either lead to a reference or just something remotely funny. At times, when you enter a location, like the Retirement Castle shown below, a small event might play out. They get old after a while, but the first time you'll see them, you'll have a bit of a laugh.


Interrupting a moment between Jasper and a typewriter.

I'm going to be a bit of a graphics snob and talk about the art a bit more. I love it, even though it doesn't look that great for two reasons- it's consistent, and the edges of everything is well defined. When real-time 3D games don't have antialiasing, the entire game starts looking really cheap because the computer just gives up trying to make it look good. The only games I can think of that don't do this are the new Pokemon games (as in X and Y to Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon), where even with no antialiasing on the 3DS handhelds, the game looks good. This is the only other game on that list I can think of off the top of my head, but that's because all the backgrounds and transitions are prerendered. The edges nearby are all rendered properly because the computer just has to load the area from the disc. And when you're in a place, it's just hand-drawn animations with a consistent art style overlaid on the rest of the game. It works perfectly and I cannot overstate my praise for this pain-staking addition to the game.


I learned so much, and all it took was an egg beater and a potato peeler attached to a power drill.

Back to the gameplay, or mostly a lack thereof, Virtual Springfield has a subgame where you... collect trading cards that you can't actually trade with anyone. The game has a total of 74 (+1) cards that you can collect of various characters like Marge Simpson, Willie, and Comic Book Guy. Of course, the game hides them around the 17 locations, but it's not as straight forward as you think. There's not enough locations to hold all the cards, so a number of them get rehidden in areas you've already been. This gets old, even though I do like revisiting areas to see new clips and interactions. After you collect all 74 cards, you get a 75th, which leads you to a secret website on the Internet that only keepers of the secret link know about. Except that it's been taken down years ago and people shared the site too. Plus, it's on the Wayback Machine, so silver lining there, you haven't missed anything. It's a pretty shallow system, but at least it encourages you to wander around.

Additionally, you can also pick up other collectables, such as a key to Mr. Burns' bathroom, a map of the Elementary School (featuring just a grade 2 and 4 class, lounge, and Skinner's office, because the rest don't matter) or a Stonecutter ring. That's right, it's really easy to get to the Stonecutters, and I propose a speedrunning category for this game, from speaking to Troy McClure to running to make Rod and Todd possessed. That is, as far as I'm aware, the closest thing this game has to plot progression. You ready? Here's how to speedrun The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield.


The true ending to this game.

Rules: No instant teleportation cheat. You have to run it legitimately the whole way through. Random events can be skipped.

Step 1) Ignore everything Troy McClure has to say. Sadly, we'll have to disrespect Phil Hartman.
Step 2) Go to the Simpsons' house and enter Bart's room on the second floor. Under his bed is the first item we need, which is a map to the school.
Step 3) Go to the elementary school and inside Bart's locker in the hall, grab the note inside.
Step 4) Run over to the retirement home on the other side of the map, and look in Grampa's bottom drawer. You'll see the ring there.
Step 5) Enter the Stonecutter's domain by city hall, and look at the podium. There should be a book of possession just to the right of it.
Step 6) Enter and quit the Flanders' house until you see the cutscene in question. Congratulations, you've won the game! I guess.


Apu's Fucking Pissed: rated T for Teen.

The game is still not finished, however, as it contains minigames. They vary from being copies of the games you would see in the show, like Larry the Looter and whatever that boxing game that Homer and Bart played in the early seasons is, but most of them are a lot simpler. Hit some arrows, fire an object, see how the game reacts with a custom animation. The game allows you to shoot spitwads at Sideshow Bob, doughnuts at the nuclear terminal, and holy water on all the assorted crap in Flanders' home. It's very barebones, and only the last one's any fun. At least the video game ones like Apoom and Krusty Kash have unique music, although they're really short loops, if not pure silence during the actual game.

Speaking of music, the entire soundtrack is a handful of MIDI tracks, most of which are a variation on the Simpsons theme. The three exceptions are a very simple drum loop in Bart's treehouse, the faux-classical music in Burns' private lavatory, and a very pleasant rendition of 'Baby on Board' from the Be Sharps episode in Apu's store. That's it. They tend to overwhelm the actual voices and sound effects as well, so I'm kind of glad that for the most part, they're limited to the faux-3D overworld. So, it's there. It's welcome. But there's a grand total of 8 minutes of it. It's not really winning me over here.


Maaaarge, my face hurts again.

When I started to write this "review", I honestly thought that I'd have more to say about it. It's very solid and has tons of content (for what it is, an interactive adventure) but there's just nothing that fans wouldn't expect and nothing that nonfans would want to read. It's a good game, but only if you're a fan.


* - out of 5 if you're a Simpsons fan
* - out of 10 if you're not a Simpsons fan

I'm not happy having written all of this, since it feels like I'm parroting the same point over and over again, but it's something.

As a bonus, have a few more images I wanted to use, but couldn't find room for.


The wicked witch of the east,
and the wicked witch also of the east.


Who needs two knives when you can have two dead pandas? Checkmate, Wildlife Preservationists and Knife Fanatics (not mutually exclusive clubs)