Simon the Sorcerer
Simon the Sorcerer was first published in 1993 and has recently been re-released on CD-ROM. As its sequel will soon be available we thought it warranted a special look in this retrospective section of our reviews.
So what is new about this version? Well now it sparkles with the sound of very funny and endearing voices that really bring the game alive. Chris Barrie (Red Dwarf and The Brittas Empire) as Simon does a wonderful job, and all the other voice acting is equally as good. It's not that the original floppy version wasn't thoroughly entertaining, but having full speech makes the humour work much better. It's even more noticeable because the voices rectify the one big problem that plagued the earlier version: that is, it was often very difficult to read the text against the brightly coloured screens. Now you don't need to, although it is disappointing that the text option has been lost in the process, especially for players who may have hearing difficulties.
Anyone who loves magical lands, and cute little people with pointy hats, will find Simon irresistible. He's a twelve year old who made a wish at his birthday party that backfired. Hence he was magically zapped away to a land of fearsome goblins and yokel wizards where he was charged with the task of rescuing the good Wizard Calypso from the evil clutches of Sordid the Sorcerer. In the game your job is to aid Simon in his weighty quest.
The puzzles consist of a jumbled collection of mini-quests that can be solved by patient searching and talking to other characters. It is a game where you will see glimpses of many old fairy tales and some quite recent ones as well. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and positively heaps of things to do, screens to explore and objects to manipulate. The difficulty lies in the convoluted nature of the individual quests, where several intertwining tasks need to be completed before you can move on.
The game has a certain charm. Think too long about a problem and Simon will whip out his walkman and patiently bop along until you are quite ready to start again. His inventory is his all purpose wizard's hat, and it's amusing watching large objects such as a ladder and a pig just disappear inside. The nose picking goblin is another matter, whilst it may appeal to younger players it may not have the same affect on more mature ones.
It is a surprisingly long game and the game world is quite large even by today's standards. Unfortunately the character movement is a little sluggish and there is no facility to speed it up. But, thankfully, a map is provided so that once an area has been explored you can return to it with a simple click.
That apart, Simon the Sorcerer is beautifully drawn giving the story a magical, fairy tale quality. The point and click interface will be familiar to anyone who has played the LucasArts' classics such as Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, and Simon was inevitably compared with these games when it was first released. In the main it passed the test but, to be honest, this game stands on its own. It has its own brand of humour, and deserves praise in its own right.
If you haven't yet had a look at Simon then do so now, it's well worth it, and especially as the sequel is almost upon us. Also, don't be put off by the fact that the main protagonist is a 12 year old. Simon may have a bit of growing up to do -- he has yet to learn that asking personal questions of heavily armed warrior women is impolite, not to mention downright dangerous -- but, rest assured, he doesn't do anything too drastic. Deep down he's a friendly and obliging little fellow. This is one of those games that has universal appeal. Adults will love it just as much as children, if not more so.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1995.
All rights reserved.
386, 1MB RAM, CD-ROM, VGA/MCGA, mouse. ( Floppy version also published)