Simon the Sorcerer 5: Who'd Even Want Contact?!
First posted on 11 June 2010. Last updated on 10 January 2011.
The game is available at GamersGate.
Simon the Sorcerer 5: Who'd Even Want Contact?! (also known as Simon the Sorcerer: Who'd Even Want Contact?!) is Silver Style Entertainment's second game in the Simon the Sorcerer series, picking up the torch from the earlier 2D & later 3D games by AdventureSoft which culminate in the previous game by the developer—Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens.
The game begins with Simon enjoying an irresponsible carefree life soon to be marred by the arrival of rampaging aliens, hostage taking moles, and flamboyant pirates. With his life in shambles and no girlfriend left to clean up after him, Simon is forced to chase after those responsible for his misfortune, enlisting and exploiting a set of unlikely allies along the way.
The game was originally released in German and then translated to English. Unfortunately, the localization loses out in a few important details in the translation. There are a handful of typos in the script and grammatical mistakes in the voice acting. Further, an early puzzle depends upon the knowledge of a particular German idiom related to the wolf eating chalk to disguise its voice in the original Little Red Riding Hood story, and on an occasion the script has to awkwardly work in a joke based around the gender tenses of German nouns. Although the bulk of the game's script and puzzles are free from these kinds of language oversights, their presence in the game is difficult to miss.
The 2D backgrounds in the game work well with the 3D characters, and the music in the game serves well to complement the action. Yet, the game's overall production values is diminished by the quality of the voice acting that is simply not on par with the quality of the writing: several of the characters' voices are exaggerated, to the extent that the subtitles often communicate the jokes better than the voice actors.
The game's interface is similar to that used in past games in the series, which pays homage to the LucasArts' style of adventure games of yesteryear. All objects with which you can interact are displayed with a name when the mouse is hovered over the accompanying hotspots, although some objects are easy to miss since they may only be a few pixels in size. Simon can interact with objects either by right clicking on them to examine them or left clicking on them to interact with them, either directly or by combining them with another object in the inventory or in the game's world. The puzzles are mostly inventory based, with a few relying on Simon's ability to say the right words to the right characters (though a few standout puzzles allow for more complex interactions). The game also builds in a very generous hint system which allows Simon to review the quests he has left to do and gives 3 levels of progressive hints on any particular puzzle that range from a nudge in the right direction to fully spelling out what you need to do if you are truly stuck.
The game has a fairly eclectic pace and goes through several shifts in tone before settling into its style at the end. The game's setting shifts between the worlds of fantasy, piracy, and science fiction. Despite such themes, this game is no children's adventure: the script often has Simon tossing out various censored and uncensored profanities. Moreover, Simon typically resolves conflicts in a very selfish and almost sadistic manner, and he has no qualms about messing over his allies. It is clear that the game's humor is meant to be appreciated at an adult rather than a juvenile level. Earlier sections of the game suffer from locations with little to accomplish and few characters with whom you can interact, but later sections of the game manage to pick up the pace in presenting you with more challenges and entertaining interactions. For example, a particularly clever sequence has Simon losing the most valuable superpower of any adventure game hero: the ability to haul around unlimited numbers of inventory objects. For a brief period, Simon is forced to make do with only as many objects as he can physically carry around, until he finds a more convenient way to transport his usual haul of junk.
Overall, I have found Simon the Sorcerer 5: Who'd Even Want Contact?! to be a mixed bag. The finale manages to turn the premise of the whole game on its head in a series of scenes reminiscent of best parts of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and offers an ending that is honestly amongst the funniest sequences I have ever played in an adventure game. The humor works excellently on several occasions but falls flat on others. There are parts of the game that are superb exemplars of what adventure games can be, but there are also parts of the game which seem to need a lot more polish to do justice to the venerable series.