A graphical adventure by GamesWare. Reviewed by Rob Gibson.
Note: This review was originally written for the Illusions disc magazine well before Acorn Arcade was born, so we make no guarantees that this game will work on more recent machines. Many thanks to Richard Goodwin, Phil Coleman and Rob Gibson for allowing us to reproduce this review on the site.
Yes! It's finally here! After a year of waiting, vicious rumours and general disappointment Simon the Sorcerer was ready in time for the Autumn show. Weighing in at NINE low-density disks it had to be the heaviest, as well as the biggest, game of the show.
Unanimously tipped for game of the year before it was even out, Simon is a point-and-click adventure of the type that abounds on the PC but is unique on the Acorn range. You move the mouse pointer round and click where you want Simon to walk, and he goes there; chose the Look At icon and point at an object and he will saunter over to it and give you some speil. Leave him alone for a while and he'll whip out his walkman and start tapping his foot. Simon is packed with tons of graphics, a fair amount of decidedly British humour and some headscratchingly difficult puzzles.
Track down the nearest Acorn-stocking computer shop to find this game
What's it all about?
The plot is that, to cut a long story short, a young lad called Simon accidentally finds himself in a magical land wearing a purple wizard outfit lumbered with the task of freeing another wizard from the clutches of an evil megalomaniac who wants to (da da DAA) take over the world. Unfortunately our hero, despite the title, doesn't actually know any magic, and can't use his spell book until (a) he finds it and (b) he becomes a proper wizard. So, it's down to the usual kleptomaniac school of adventuring, picking up everything that you come across and hoping that it might actually come in handy at some point (and everything does have at least one use).
The puzzles are good, sometimes requiring the use of lots of different objects, some of which must themselves be gained by solving a puzzle, and everything goes together well; if you use some common sense and when that fails just try everything with everything else, then you shouldn't do too badly - I only got hopelessly stuck four times. Some people re-read reviews after playing the game a while to see if there are any clues left lying around (I know I do) so one thing I will tell you is that when you've got the wax, go to the pub and ask the barman for a drink. When he's bending down stick the wax in the tap on the barrel to get yourself some beer. I would never have figured that one out! And the magic tree's quite hard to find, but you're on your own with that one. There are basically two halves to the game, the first is trying to get into the evil one's fortress, and the second getting out again and confronting him.
Some of the characters you might meet along the way.
What's it look like?
As to the graphics - excellent! each location is packed with interest, and the views change quite a lot as you move around town, woods, swamp, mountains etc. There are also little pieces of incidental animation, like squirrels running up trees, birds or butterflies flitting around, stags running away at your approach which give it a touch of class. It's great when you finally solve some problem and see that rusty tap flowing with water, or see Simon smacked to the ground by a 100 foot long pigtail falling out of a window, it gives you a sense of achievement. This game was always destined for a 100% mark for visuals.
A slight dispute between a rulebook-bashing goat and a striking troll. As you do.
The sound consists of some rather cheesy music which you'll rush to turn off (luckily you just have to press the M key) and all the 'speech' is written on the screen; the CD-Rom version will have all the speech done by Chris Barrie. Although adventure games don't usually have any noise going on at all, it would have been nice to have a couple of samples here and there to liven it up, preferably at the cost of losing the music!
The game has taken so long to come out due to problems with stability. I only managed to crash it twice, early on in the game when I was in a 'press anything and see what happens' frame of mind. Once I actually started playing the game for real I didn't have any problems, although I did notice a few groovy bugettes here and there - like Simon standing behind a table, but his legs appearing in front of it, although behind a chap who was sitting to the side of the table (free Mensa membership to everyone who followed that first time), or when Simon actually split in two so there was two of him on screen at the same time! The moral of the story is there's a save game facility, use it. There's also a great way of saving time with a map facility - once you move into a major area, this will magically appear on the map, so if you have to walk through the forest to the village and back, instead of slogging through all those locations you can use the map to go get you to the centre of the village, then use it again to go to the centre of the woods, or the wise owl's tree, whatever. You can't go to every location this way, only a pre-determined point within an area, and only if you've been there before, but it does save a lot of wandering around. Someone told me that there's a bug that crashes the game when playing straight from the disks at about disk four or five, but I couldn't be bothered with all that swapping just to chase up rumours - use a hard disk if possible.
Didn't you use to serve school dinners at my Junior school?
Simon the Sorcerer isn't huge by the standards of some adventures, but it should keep you happy for quite a few long winter nights.