Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe

Posted by Zoltán Ormándi.
First posted on 22 September 1999. Last updated on 03 June 2010.
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Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe
What a charming entrance! Sordid may kill people, but he does his deed with style.
Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe
MucSwampy's is the leading fast-swampfood restaurant in this world.
Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe
It seems that Sordid's taste in residence has not changed too much.
Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe
This is the natives' torturing device. No comment!
Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe
Here is the new limbo world record holder!

After a couple of years of silence, Simon the Sorcerer is back with an attitude more sarcastic than ever. Adolescence seems to suit Simon all too well. His humor is almost the same, but his jokes are more edgy now. After a rather stupid accident involving himself and a strange wardrobe (without Simon's dog Chippy), Simon finds himself trying to accomplish the exact same task he has been put to the last time—get home from a very bizarre but incredibly funny dimension. Well, you know what they say, practice makes perfect!

It all starts out as a young boy's dream, but it slowly turns into a teenager's worst nightmare. After his last fantastic adventure, Simon is now living his life back in the real world happily as an adolescent. He is pretty clear about the fact that in no way, shape, or form does he want to star in a sequel, so he hopes the designers may just leave him alone. His hopes are crudely shattered when he finds a mysterious wardrobe in the middle of his room.

Unbeknownst to him, in a world far away (and a world that he likes to forget about), a young boy is just trying his first wings in the hidden art of sorcery. What makes him dangerous is not the fact that he has somehow acquired Sordid's magic book but the fact that he has accidentally resurrected the book's evil master. Since a ghost is not much of a threat to the living, Sordid realizes that he desperately needs an ally, and the little boy seems to be the perfect partner. In return for helping the malicious wizard rid of his greatest enemy, Sordid promises to teach the boy everything he knows about magic. The youngster seems only too eager to be Sordid's apprentice. Realizing now that hardly anything is impossible for him with a master like Sorbid, the boy helps Sordid to send back a magical vessel that brings Simon back to their dimension. What is that vessel, you ask? You guess it! A wardrobe!

Unsuspecting at first, Simon is just a little angry about other people dumping stuff in his room. Still, he is a bit curious about the contents of the mysterious wardrobe and finally decides to open it. He is surprised find that not only there are no clothes in it but there is no apparent ending to it. It just seems to go on forever. Naive as he is, Simon steps into the stretching darkness when the door suddenly shuts firmly behind him. The wardrobe slowly lifts off from the ground and in a split second dematerializes into, what it first appears out of, thin air.

Fortunately for our hero, Sordid has lost his magical touch during the years when is dead and Simon ends up in Calypso's shop instead of the dungeons of Sordid's Fortress of Doom. The two "old friends" are equally happy to see each other. Simon's excitement only grows when Calypso tells him the good news that he can send Simon back to the real world. The catch is that there is only a single substance called Mucusade in this dimension that can generate enough energy to power that spell. Naturally, it is ery rare. The only one Calypso knows of in existence is in the treasury of the Royal Castle which is, of course, heavily guarded. The task is now clear for Simon, though he has no idea of the obstacles that stand in his way of getting home.

Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe (also known as Simon the Sorcerer 2) shares many similarities with the original Simon the Sorcerer. There is very little change in its technical production. The game still features the standard 256 color VGA graphics. Listening to fan feedbacks, the artists have avoided the monotony that has plagued some scenes in the first game and have made the graphics in this sequel even more diverse and colorful than the original. The in-game music still uses the MIDI format, but the list of supported soundcards has been extended. The game now supports Adlib cards, all of Creative Labs' Sound Blaster cards (including the AWE32), and other cards that are Adlib and Creative Labs compatible. Akin to the first title, the controls conform to the classic LucasArts standard. There are 8 action icons that symbolize the most important actions the character may perform in the game. A mouse is mandatory for playing this game. The game is released in both Floppy Disk and CD-ROM versions. The CD-ROM version includes speech not available in the Floppy Disk version.

Still, there are subtle improvements in this sequel compared to the original. The first major difference is that every location now has scrolling backdrops. In fact, the game manual warns the player to check the edges of every screen in order not to miss locations that may otherwise appear hidden. Animations also exist in almost all of game scenes. These enhancements are explained by Director Mike Woodruff, "The style will remain much the same, but the actual graphics will be completely new. Also, the game will be much bigger than the first Simon adventure, so we've had to increase our workforce considerably. We have seven full-time artists working in Simon 2 compared to the four that were working on the first version and these guys will be producing approximately seven man years worth of graphics in the finished version. That's an awful lot of pictures!"

The unwritten law of marketing states that every decent sequel must have some obligatory changes, no matter how well the original game has worked. An example of change is the control system. The beautifully written verbs in the first game have been replaced by action icons which, at first sight, are pretty confusing. While each represents a specific and well recognizable action, it takes quite a while to get used to using and finding the correct one when it is needed. An important action is the hammer icon ("Use" action) which Simon can use on the only object he carries at the start of the game—a postcard, since this is how you can save, load, or quit the game. Another change is the F5 key that is now used to skip long animation sequences. The right mouse button, which is used in the previous game for this function, is now reassigned to interrupt dialogs during a conversation.

Among the highlights in the original game are the beautifully drawn background scenes and colorful character animations. For the sequel, the artists have tried to outdo the original. Unfortunately, as a result the scenes often appear overly crowded and impossible to focus on. While there are only a couple of hotspots in each scene, the sheer large numbers of objects and characters, many of which exist only for decorative purposes, make the task of finding these hotspots tricky. The designers, realizing this potential problem, introduces a very unusual feature in this game. By pressing F10, all of the hotspots in the current scene are automatically highlighted by a flashing "*" sign making them impossible to miss. This lets the gamer to focus on the puzzles instead of the frustrating task of pixel-hunting.

These gradual but notable changes to the player interface are explained by Woodruff, "We've changed the player interface to a certain extent. The mouse cursor now takes on the form of an icon, so that you can see what you're doing. The bottom section of the screen has been changed as well, and instead of the verbs, we're now using icons for all of the actions available in the game. The map has been expanded to a full-screen scrolling item which is complete at the start of the game. This is a version of the magic map that was found in the first game, but you don't have to discover locations before they appear on the map. This should cut down the wandering around that you find in most adventure games. There isn't a single dead location in the game. Every screen in the game has something to do with the story."

Simon's personality has also evolved since the original. In the first title, his witty personality is the main charm of the game. In the sequel, Simon is more cynical than ever. His sarcastic attitude and dry humor make him a character that is impossible not to love. Adding the great character voice acting, Simon's personality truly jumps out and adds a lot to the atmosphere of this game (even though it makes you feel that you are glad he is not your friend in real life). While the story itself may have lost some of its cohesiveness because of this change, it is easily made up by the hilarious jokes and gags in the game along with the incredibly clever puzzles. There is always something funny going on in the background, such as overhearing an idle conversation between housewives who are washing their husbands' white underpants (in green water), meeting Mr T on a pirate ship, destroying the 3 bears' cottage, or setting up a new limbo world record (10 centimeters).

Unfortunately, there are a couple of annoyances that take away some of the enjoyment of playing this otherwise great adventure. The first annoyance is the forced toggle between speech and captioning. Even though the voice acting in this game is great, a player may want to both hear and read about the information presented in the game. While the game supports captioning (it can be turned on or off by pressing the "T" key), it does not support simultaneous speech and captioning. You can either listen to the characters speak and possibly risk not understanding some important details, or read the dialogs in silence and miss the hilarious puns voiced by Simon and the other characters. The second annoyance is the lack of volume control. If you choose the speech option, the volume levels for both speech and music cannot be controlled within the game. Rather, you must use the internal mixer control of your soundcard to adjust the loudness. Clearly, this is not user friendly since the music can easily drown out the speech and you can often end up missing pieces of important converastions.

Both the original and this sequel have sold over 600,000 copies worldwide. Despite being a great game all around, the second title in the Simon the Sorcerer series still falls prey to the golden rule of sequels—every sequel, no matter how good, is still just a sequel. It may be a little bit different from the original, but it is mostly the same. Fortunately, the original Simon the Sorcerer is among the best adventure games ever made, so this sequel is not far off the mark. In other words, Simon the Sorcerer II - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe is a solid adventure that is well worth of your time and money.

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