Written by: Jo

Date posted: November 11, 2006

The wise owl provides 'hints' for the game - some helpful, some are, er, less helpful.

As far as point and click adventures go the Americans (or more specifically, LucasArts) seem to have the area well covered. For many, Monkey Island is the benchmark to which all point and click adventures are compared. However, in 1993, Birmingham developers Simon and Mike Woodroffe came up with their own solution to the lack of British point and click games with (drum roll please) Simon the Sorcerer.

The story begins with Simon and his dog, Chippie, finding a mysterious spell book belonging to a Wizard named Calypso. A magical portal opens in the attic and rather than doing his homework, Simon decides to travel through the portal to another dimension. It turns out that Calypso has been kidnapped by the evil wizard, Sordid and it’s up to Simon to rescue him. Which is a bit of a bugger when you’re in another dimension, dressed in a ridiculous wizard outfit with only spell book to assist you. Oh, and you have to become an actual wizard before you can use it. And so the adventure begins.

Dun dun dun dundun dudududududu IRON MAN!

The bulk of the game deals with this first part of the quest – i.e. becoming a wizard – which, you guessed it, isn’t easy. There’s always a catch – usually a bunch of people who need help, and you can’t progress without helping the poor buggers. It’s classic adventure goodness, but, er, British (thankfully we’re spared the brummie accents, and get an actual actor – none other than Arnold Rimmer himself, Chris Barrie – playing Simon). And with that classic adventure stuff in mind, inevitably some of the puzzles involve use of “adventure game logic”. Though this will be familiar to those with experience of beavering away at point and clickers for hours on end, sometimes it gets a little infuriating in that there’s a specific way to do things, for example, sometimes you can’t just give an object from your inventory to another character, you have to talk to them and wait until they ask if you’ve found it or something.

Another example is that sometimes you can’t look at objects until they’re in your inventory. Perhaps it’s because early point and click adventures had slightly more cumbersome interfaces back then, or maybe I’m just a little out of practice, but you can end up trying everything to progress and it turns out that you’ve already tried the solution, but in the wrong order. D’oh! Other issues include the usual stuff where puzzles are solved by thinking completely outside the box and going for something quite illogical that you would never expect to work (watermelon in a woodwind instrument you say?). As with most adventures there’s always going to be one tiny little thing you’ve missed, but it pays to be patient (or consult a walkthrough, you dirty cheat).

You can't avoid back-alley dodgy geezers even when you're in another dimension.

I’m not going to start talking too much about graphics, because frankly I don’t have a clue. They’re perfectly inoffensive and not as pixellated as you might expect for an old game. The majority of the game is spent in the village “Fleur De Li” and the forest. There are quite a few places to visit and handily Simon has a magical map in his inventory to speed to these places. However, you need to spend some time at the beginning of the game finding your own way around the forest because initially not all locations appear on the map. There’s a lot of the forest, much of it looks the same, and there are about 5000 different routes to take. If you’re an organised type of peep (unlike me) make a sketchy map of your own to save yourself from getting so infuriated you smash your mouse to bits (*looks at remains of smashed in mouse*).

The game is all very fantasy based which, usually, I despise. If you happen to be a Lord of the Rings hater like myself, though, don’t be too put off. The game is pretty self aware, and even though the writers are obviously fans of the genre they do incorporate some mockery into the game. There’s the odd reference to Narnia but LOTR references are more predominant. At one point, you’ll bump into an unfortunate-looking chap who reveals he’s a member of a Tolkien Dedication Society, on his way to the monthly meeting where fans dress up as their favourite character (in his case, Gollum) and discuss the work of the fantasy writer. Such mickey-taking is hardly original stuff, but it’s enough to tickle the funny bone of humorous types and fantasy lovers alike.

Apparently, trolls like to eat wizards. Which is you in this case.

Elsewhere, Simon usually comes out with fairly witty responses to some of the more desperate characters. Although sometimes the script is a little stilted in trying to convey Simon as a cynical teen – “Great, I’m stuck here in this stupid world in this stupid outfit, and not a pizza bar in sight!” – and is a bit too “American” at times (not that there’s anything wrong with this, it’s just out of step with the very British tone of the rest of the game), you generally feel like you’re in Simon’s shoes.

The game is a little on the short side, but this may be exaggerated by the fact that the bulk of the game is spent becoming a wizard, as oppose to actually embarking on a quest to save Calypso. The end scenes could have done with a bit more bulking out, but in all fairness, who really concentrates on the story of a humorous point and clicker anyway? All in all, it’s an enjoyable, playable game from start to finish. Nostalgia may have had its dirty way with my slightly biased view, but I loved this game as a kid, and I still love it now. A pretty decent entry in the “Great Point and Clickers of our Time” league – if such a thing existed.