Simon the Sorcerer 4
First posted on 03 June 2008. Last updated on 03 June 2010.
About the author
Bruno de Figueiredo is a student in Art History in Coimbra, Portugal. With a longtime interest in the video game medium, he has been combining the analytical methods of art and video game studies in his writings at his Portuguese game site Core Gamers.
For more information, visit Core Gamers.
Simon the Sorcerer has long been a favorite among fans of point-and-click adventure games since its debut back in 1993. The series' unmistakable sense of humor has left an enduring impression among gamers that remains to this day. Originally created by Mike and Simon Woodroffe, the founders of Adventure Soft, the game is widely regarded as a response to the popularity of LucasArts and Sierra On-Line adventures. With Simon the Sorcerer, the English team of developers has managed to create its own legion of fans for a new franchise. The game's success has led to the development of a sequel in 1995, aptly named Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe. Sadly, as the interest for the genre slowly withers away, the young magician who travels between realms in his closet seems doomed to fall into oblivion.
It is not until 2002 that the original creators of the series decide to revive the franchise with a new version of the young sorcerer's tales. While Simon the Sorcerer 3D manages to incorporate several new gameplay elements and update the pixel universe of the original games to the world of 3D, poor controls and overall graphic quality have caused the sequel to be a big disappointment to old fans of the series.
Attempting to recapture the original flavor of the classic series, German studio Silver Style Entertainment and RTL Enterprises have now been put in charge to develop Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens, a new rendering of the series that is scheduled to be published, fully translated into English, by Playlogic Entertainment. Stefan Layer, VP of Marketing and Sales at Playlogic Entertainment, has pointed to the positive reception of the German release of the game and the solid fan base for the series as the main reasons behind the company's decision to secure the license in 2007 to begin localization of the German language version to English for a worldwide release.
Recently, I have been granted an opportunity by Playlogic Entertainment to access a pre-release English language version of the game for a hands-on preview. This pre-release version offers a sampling of what can be expected in the final release for the game.
Years have passed since Simon's last adventure. He has almost forgotten about his exploits as a young kid. Arguing with his younger brother over a television remote control, he accidentally gets knocked in the head and dreams of his old acquaintance Alix, who visits him crying for help. Once again entering the magic closet—a direct reference to C. S. Lewis' Narnia series ensues—he finds himself caught in an intricate situation which will take him much longer to decipher. Besides the fact that Alix does not remember visiting Simon in his dreams, he soon realizes that there is a doppelgänger wandering around the magical world who has stolen his identity. Determined to find his clone and again restore the peace and harmony to the magical kingdom, Simon sets out on an adventure where he will meet some of his old friends as well as a fresh cast of funny characters that will aid or impede his quest.
At first glance, the newest installment of the Simon the Sorcerer series seems to pick up right where the original games have left off. Dialogs and cut scenes retain the same wacky humor from previous games, and the puzzles still require the player to come up with the goofiest solutions. For example, the game's first task is to catch an apparently friendly rabbit that is hiding a young girl's cap in its hole. This bloodthirsty beast—straight out of a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail—can only be caught using a wooden trap and by dyeing some freshly picked dandelions in a dead animal's blood. Such nonsensical situations create, altogether, the world of Simon the Sorcerer that fans have grown so fond of. Nonetheless, a new dynamic hint system has been created for this game to offer assistance to those who may be stumped by the twisted logics of the magic world. The point-and-click control has also become much simpler, devoid of any intimidating menu or complex item merging system. The long list of action verb coins located at the bottom of the screen from past games has been replaced by a user-friendly graphical strip with an easily accessible items menu.
The game is presented with a format similar to the original titles, though it now uses a combination of fully animated 3D characters and pre-rendered backgrounds. Surprisingly, all the interactive elements appear to be well within sight, avoiding the worrisome task of combing the screen for hidden objects or functions. There are some issues in the initial version which are easily rectifiable, such as the protracting loading times and some rude animations in need of final tweaking.
This is no doubt that Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens is aiming to recapture the success and magic of a beloved series. The developer is clearly working on a game which requires no knowledge from the player of Simon's previous exploits, but which will still satisfy both casual gamers and aficionados of the series.
Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens is scheduled for an English language release in mid 2008.