Simon the Sorcerer
First posted on 12 September 1999. Last updated on 03 June 2010.
Among mankind's oldest fantasies is a dream to live in a place where magic really does exist. It is a place where witches can fly with their brooms, where giants can live in peace with the people, and where wizards are as common as next door neighbors. It is a place where the battle between good and evil always ends triumphantly for the good side. Unfortunately, there is no way to experience this place in our lives, but thanks to Adventure Soft, at least we can experience it in our games.
Simon is just your average 14 year old boy. One day while he is lazily laying on his bed doing his homework, his dog Chippy sneaks up to the attic and starts barking madly. After a while Simon decides to finally go and check out what is bothering Chippy. To his surprise he finds a suspicious looking old chest. Having decided that dancing around in the attic is not a socially accepted normal behavior for a chest made of wood, Simon gathers enough courage to open it and finds that there is nothing strange about the chest at all. He finds, however, a long forgotten spellbook, aptly called "Ye Old Speelbook" inside the chest. Not exactly the curious type, he simply throws the book away. As the book falls to the ground, it opens to a very special page. Suddenly, a magic portal opens up and before our hero can react, Chippy casually strolls through it. With not much of a chance left, Simon follows his hairy friend into the portal and quickly finds himself in quite a predicament.
Apparently, far away in a magical land, a couple of goblins are just preparing for a magic spell that may finally bring some food for them. It is only natural that when Simon shows up on the globlins' sacrificial table that they mistakenly think the spell has worked and they can all go home satisfied. An honest mistake, indeed! Soon Simon finds himself spending his spare time in a rather big cauldron in the company of some herbs and spices stewing away as the goblins have intended. Luckily, the fearsome Chippy scares the goblins enough to allow Simon to escape, and Simon is not about to let go of a chance like this. Making his way to the nearest village, Simon finds an open cottage with the biggest surprise of the evening—a letter addressed to him. From the letter, he learns of an evil wizard named Sordid who plans to take over the world. All of the heroes, warriors, and wizards of this world have tried to stop him but everybody has failed, including the village druid Calypso who has written the letter. Unknowingly, Simon has just been summoned to try to do what the others cannot so far—foil Sordid's plans of world domination, rescue the other wizards and warriors, and save this land. Phew, what a nightmare. Or is it all just a dream?
Akin to other adventure games released at that time, Simon the Sorcerer features standard 256 color VGA graphics. The graphic artists really put their imaginations and talents to the test, producing probably the most fabulous and colorful graphics ever seen in an adventure game. This is a big compliment for a game of this age. The game also features beautiful MIDI music, but unfortunately supports only a few sound cards (Adlib, Sound Blaster, MT-32). There is no support for the more advanced Sound Blaster 16 compatible sound cards and the Sound Blaster AWE32 MT-32 emulation system. Naturally, a game that is released in 1993 cannot be blamed for not support these advanced sound cards, though a patch has never been released to extend such support. The game is released in both Floppy Disk and CD-ROM versions. The CD-ROM version features complete digitized speech and sound effects not available in the original Floppy Disk version. It has also been updated so the game is compatible with both Windows 95 and DOS.
The game controls are based on a system akin to that used in many LucasArts games. A few icons sit at the bottom of the screen with the most important action verbs written on them such as Open, Pick Up, and Move. Naturally, this system assumes that the user has a mouse installed. In my opinion, it is the best way to control a character even for today. It leaves much freedom for the imagination and does not degrade the game to a simple point and click exercise.
The designers have clearly put a lot of thought into the gameplay and have come up with a very clever and intuitive way to control Simon and implement the basic save/load functions. At the start, in Calypso's cottage Simon finds a map and a postcard that helps him (and the player) to carry out every important function needed in the game. Using the postcard, the player can save, load, or quit the game. As Simon discovers more and more of the land, the map automatically marks all the significant places that he goes through. Later, by the use of this map he can easily backtrack to these places if he wants. This mapping feature makes traveling throughout the game very simple and speeds up the gameplay considerably. The way the player can control Simon is pretty standard. The character is displayed on top of a 2D scene and can be moved on screen by clicking the left mouse button. If the player moves the mouse cursor over a hotspot, a name or label appears above the action icons making the painful task of pixel hunting a bit easier.
There are so many reasons why I consider this game to be among the best adventure games ever made. The absolutely amazing graphics, the large number of songs (all of them beautifully written), the unbelievable humor, the incredibly long and crazy story, and the clever puzzles are among the highlights. There is just not enough space to describe all these highlights in details. The greatest feature of this game, in my opinion, is the combination of the story and the puzzles. Although the initial idea of getting Simon into this magical world may not be too original, the writers have really built a great story on top of this premise. All the puzzles are very original and can be solved in any order. In fact, the designers have taken special care in preventing the player from ever getting stuck in a place because the player may have forgotten to pick up an object somewhere before. The designers also have not forgotten about the main character development. The long story and dialogs in the game give the player plenty of opportunities to get to know Simon in great detail. It is refreshing to find that Simon has an original personality and a great sense of humor. It is hilarious to see him giving explanations to the village folks with his "modern" mind at work. For example, the wizards in the tavern are supposed to be disguised as farmers, but even a blind man can see they are wizards. How does Simon convince the others about this? "When I move my mouse pointer over you, it says 'Wizards'," he says. Who can argue with that?
Over 600,000 copies sold of this game have sold worldwide and testify to the success of this title. In fact, its popularity has led the birth of "Simonology"—a term used to describe the humorous appeal of the underdog who is also the protagonist of the story in the game. Simply stated, Simon the Sorcerer is a fantastic experience and is definitely amongst the 10 best adventure games of all time.