Simon the Sorcerer whips up a humorous magical spell

Posted: August 7, 2009 in Adventure

Adventure games have always held a special spot in my gaming heart because of the imaginary worlds they create and revolve around. Strange creatures, dangerous journeys, and even the occasional damsel in distress are the typical ingredients for a good adventure. Thus, I was somewhat enthused by the release of Simon the Sorcerer on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. While you would think a port of a game that was originally released almost two decades ago would be stale in today’s world of 3D graphics and stereo sound, Simon the Sorcerer is amazingly fresh because of a strong storyline and a terrifically funny script. Add to that fairy tale characters and a non-linear framework, and you have an entertaining game with the upside of replayability.

The protagonist Simon is similar to Harry Potter, a teenager who one day stumbles into the world of magic spells. Naive and inexperienced, Simon accidentally opens a portal that leads him and his dog Chippy into a journey where he must rescue Calypso the wizard from clutches of the evil sorcerer Sordid. And, the best part is he must first become a certified wizard which isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Presented in 2D, the background and the graphics are vibrantly colored and detailed. While there is some pixilation, the overall quality is more than adequate and rather polished. In fact, when you first enter the game, the world feels immense because the terrains and environments are so vastly different. From snow-covered mountains and the busy towns to fiery pits and mucky swampland, you’re free to explore which is really part of the experience. The animation runs smoothly on my iPod Touch 2g, and the game suffered no lags.

The game is organized into three maps: Village, Woods, Swamp and Mountains. Within these maps are the various locations that include tasks and obstacles and you can travel place to place quickly using the controls. The controls are definitely old school and use the “verb system”. Similar to that found in another game Secrets of Monkey Island, a series of actions are provided at the bottom of the screen such as walk to, consume, pick up, and talk to among others, and you simply tap on the option you want. Once that is done, tap on the area or object with which to interact. For example, to pick up matches, select “Pick up”, and then using either the magnification box or a pointer (you can toggle between the two controls options during the game), direct at the matches. Text at the top of the screen will show when matches have been selected. It takes a little getting used to, but shouldn’t take long. Something that could’ve streamlined the “verb system” is the use of more general words such as “use”. While less descriptive, it could replace words such as “consume” and “pick up” while de-cluttering the screen. The game also has an inventory system where unlimited items can be stored and used later.

Along the way, you will meet and interact with people and creatures. This is one aspect of adventure games that I’ve always enjoyed, and Simon the Sorcerer offers a strong interactive experience which along with the humor adds a bit of personality. When interacting, several options for replies are given at the bottom of the screen, and this helps provide a unique experience each time based on the selected reply. The replies tend to fall into one of these categories: polite, comical or just plain rude. The dialogue is what will have you coming back for more. The British accent adds a lively touch to the dry humor that borders on Monty Pythonesque, and even if you’re not a fan as I am not, the humor is classic. Speaking of interacting, Simon will come across a good and diverse group of characters from trolls, dwarves, wizards, goblins, giants, and even a talking tree within a variety of locales.

Throughout the game are tasks, a.k.a. mini-puzzles, that Simon, or rather, you need to solve. Mostly, they tend to be logic-based, require going a scavenger hunt, or use items that you’ve acquired. But there are overly challenging to the point of frustration unless you can’t find something. An in-game Help option is available should you need it or if Simon’s dialogue starts rubbing you the wrong way.

On that note, I did have an issue with some of the tasks not being tightly integrated with the story. There are a few instances where I really didn’t understand the point of what I was doing, and since that could be a personal preference, I’ll leave that to you to figure out which ones I’m have in mind. The old school control setup may not appeal to everyone, but it’s by no means difficult to use. The old school graphics can make it difficult to spot items to pick up, and the font used can be on the small side.

If you want to experience an adventure game that for the most part has managed to stand the test of time, and offers fun and funny at the same time, Simon the Sorcerer is definitely one for the gaming library. The 2D graphics, lush environments and hours of playability make it worthwhile.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for those want a solid adventure game with a bit of dry humor thrown in; fun storyline and challenging mini-puzzles define the personality of this game)

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