Loom, n. an apparatus used for weaving yarn into textile. vb (intr) 1. to come into view indistinctly, with an enlarged and often threatening aspect 2. to seem ominously close.
Definitions which all set the scene for Lucasfilm's latest offering, an adventure about weavers in a land where the final apocalypse threatens doom.
The world has become split into Guild factions, a system by which each and every trade has closeted itself away and is busy refining its art. The mightiest of these Guilds are the Weavers. They've discovered that as well as cloth they can weave reality, with songs replacing the shuttle. Their power centres on a huge loom, where they've attempted to stay Armageddon by reworking the great pattern of life itself.
You take the role of Bobbin, a young weaver who was conjured from the Great Loom and who therefore has massive magical potential. The loom has been attacked and all the Weavers except Bobbin have fled from the Weavers' island, so you must guide Bobbin in his bid to find the lost Guild, learn their art and save the world into the bargain. Not bad for a beginner!
Weavers use an eight-note scale to weave magic. Using a special 'distaff' they simply sing notes in a certain order and - shazzam! - the spell takes effect. The Weavers train their vocal abilities to control and to sing higher, more powerful notes.
Learning to sing, then, is Bobbin's first task: he must find some songs, called drafts, to employ.
Getting a staff is no problem: the fleeing elders have conveniently left a magic distaff behind. Then, by observing and listening to various creatures, people and objects, Bobbin can hear the music of the universe, which are effectively songs he can copy to weave magic himself.
While exploring the Isle of Loom and beyond, Bobbin is continually faced with situations that can only be resolved with use of a draft. The game is designed so the correct magic is always either a lateral thought away, or available for learning on site. Bobbin's never unavoidably stuck; he may have the right spell but be casting it the wrong way around - singing a spell backwards often has the opposite effect - or the object he wants to affect may 'sing' the right song itself, if he listens carefully enough.
Loom has an innocent charm, dealing with sorcery in an original and amusing fashion, and it is very funny in pats. Bizarre problems can have bizarre solutions, so it pays to learn even the most stupid drafts. Dyeing wool green seems pretty useless, but it could save your lamb - sorry, bacon - later. The use of 'twee' sound magic should be naff, but with flexible graphics, challenging puzzles and witty comments, Loom soon weaves into an adventure that demands to be finished.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Loom is head and shoulders above most graphic adventures. The screens often scroll (albeit slowly) and the characters have perspective, disappearing up hillsides or down into valleys. Bobbin's well drawn and is intelligent enough to move around objects to reach locations; the point-an-click mouse movement system is very easy to implement. The examined item box' helps by showing a detailed picture of any item which can be manipulated. Spells are cast by simply clicking the notes or the distaff itself to conjure music.
Any game which features the work of Tchaikovsky and has a 30-minute audio tape in the box should be impressive. The tape is excellent, with some 'in game music' on the back of the story. The noise that the Amiga's asked to chuck out ain't up to the same standard, however. It's good, but is one of those annoying tunes that you find yourself humming even though you hate it. Sound, however, also plays an unnaturally large part in the 'expert' mode of play. In either 'training' or 'normal' mode you've a bar of music that lights up when you hear a spell, a massive help for the non-musical amongst us who can then jot down the right notes. On expert level only the distaff glows as music plays and you must recreate the spell by ear!
Staying power, aye, there lies the rub, as a certain Danish prince never said. Loom is highly finishable, a fact that cuts both ways. Most adventures seem more like a life sentence than a game, but any committed player will be watching Loom's end sequence the week they buy it. To give Loom a longer life there are three difficulty settings, yet after completing it on an easy level it's debatable whether the same game in a harder mode merits another crack. The notes that comprise each draft do change and singing a spell is harder when woven directly on the distaff. This makes life hard, but not impossible, as by now you'll know which spells are needed and where to get them.
Loom is a highly enjoyable package with its visually theme spell book, 30-minute audio tape and great gameplay. As an adventure it's ideal for beginners because of its friendliness: Bobbin cannot die for example. The mix of finishability, excellent graphics and good sound, spiced with an innocent wit, appears to make Loom a brilliant package. The overall length of playing time, however, calls its staying power into question: a factor that eventually just manages to spoil one of the most enjoyable treatments of the wizards and magic theme ever to hit the screen.