Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens
First posted on 01 November 2008. Last updated on 03 June 2010.
If you are a fan of classic click-and-point adventure games, you will love Silver Style Entertainment's Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens. This game is among the best adventure games I have played, on par with a LucasArts classic of yesteryear, but with modern graphics and effects. Indeed, the only legitimate complaint I can make about this game is the English subtitles, which are rife with spelling and punctuation mistakes. This is only a minor criticism given the great voice acting, and you will probably want to listen to the dialog rather than read it anyway.
Longtime adventure gamers will probably be familiar with the Simon the Sorcerer series, dating back to 1993 with the original game developed by Adventuresoft for DOS and Amiga. Subsequent games from the series have generally been well received, except the wretched Simon the Sorcerer 3D (2002) that has been panned by most critics (and mercilessly ridiculed in this game!). The series is best described to be in the style of LucasArts' Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle; there is plenty of wit, and neither the game nor the characters take themselves very seriously. However, although I have enjoyed the earlier games in the Simon the Sorcerer series, they are not particularly great when compared to other classics. I am therefore pleased to see that this sequel at last manages to, if not surpass, at least live up to the high expectation for this almost forgotten series.
The action begins with Simon fighting with his bratty brother over what to watch on television. Fortunately, for Simon (and the player), he is summoned once again to the Magic Kingdom to face a grave new threat. When he arrives (via his magic wardrobe), Simon learns from his former girlfriend that he has a doppelganger. What makes matters worse is that everyone Simon encounters seems to prefer his doppelganger to him! Unlike the slovenly, wisecracking Simon, his doppelganger is a super polite, overachieving, neat freak. Naturally, Simon cannot stand for this. Eventually, though, Simon and his doppelganger must work together to rescue the king and depose a usurper.
What makes Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens really stand out is the superb interface, witty dialog and voice acting, and fun puzzles. Unlike so many mediocre adventure games, the designers have really taken pains to make getting around easy in this game. Simon can instantly zip to any point on the map once he has discovered it, and double clicking on an exit makes him instantly leave the area rather than race across it. I really appreciate this setup, since it saves lots of time and prevents boredom from tedious backtracking. The audiovisuals are spectacular, particularly the music. The music, composed by Thomas Herrmann, is on par (if not superior) to almost any music I have heard before in an adventure game (try not to get his tunes stuck in your head for days!). The graphics are for the most part bright and cheerful, reminiscent of a trip to fantasy themed amusement park, and the characters are animated well. The game features an in-game hint system to help nudge players in the right direction whey they are stuck. I have found the hints to be just enough to prevent any undue frustration.
Of course, even the best interface cannot make a dull game fun, but have no fears—Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens also has fun characters and great dialog. The Simon character in past games tends to be a bit snobbish and cynical; this time around, he is still sarcastic but a great deal more likable. His funny descriptions of objects and characters have made me laugh out loud on several occasions. The other characters are equally fun, including the washed-up Wolf, who has become a drunkard. Simon has to help restore the Wolf to a rewarding career devouring grandmothers and bratty girls in red riding hoods. Simon's girlfriend Alix is also a great character; many male gamers can relate to Simon's quest to woo this charming and self-assured young woman. However, the funniest interactions are between Simon and his double. Their personalities are so opposite that almost every encounter is hilarious. Of course, Swampy makes a return appearance to serve up his disgusting swamp stew, but there are many new characters as well. Most are based on fairy tales, much like Sierra On-Line's classic King's Quest series.
The puzzles are logical but not necessarily easy. For example, Simon has to find some way to endure the agony of eating some of Swamp's stew. Though the answer to this dilemma is not immediately apparent, observant players may have noticed a yoga expert standing on a bed of nails in town. Perhaps this master of pain will be able to help Simon learn to cope with the wretched stew? Of course, he will not do it for free; Simon has to introduce him to a new form of pain. I do not want to spoil too much of this puzzle, but suffice it to say the answer will have you laughing out of your chair.
Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens is a game that has renewed my interest and enthusiasm for my favorite genre. It is a real winner, and it has the potential to bring in other gamers to the adventure genre who may prefer more action based games.