Simon the Sorcerer logo Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

Chant "Ala-Kazam!" and other magical-type sayings and we find out whether Simon the Sorcerer waves a spell or gets stuck in his magic circle.

It's not often that a piece of software wings its way by carrier pigeon to the Gamer solitary confinement cell. In fact come to think of it it's quite a rarity for anything at all to come into the office by that means. That aside, it's not often that something arrives and you find some strange mystical connection. Somehow, you feel intrinsically drawn towards it. In the case of Adventure Soft's new title Simon the Sorcerer there were two uncanny connections that sent an icy chill down to my spine.

For one, the main character and I both share the same namesake, and secondly, well I'm not a sorcerer, but when I was in Greece on holiday this girl said I was magic...
No, seriously, not only do we share the same namesake, but we also have the misfortune of coming from the same region of the world.

So knowing that Adventure Soft draw their experience and rich sense of humour from that halcyon heartland of Birmingham, I decided to jump I and give them a fair whip of the proverbial crack (am I meant to say that the other way around?). It's not that this reviewer is particularly sentimental about the area he grew up in, but he knows the prejudice that Midlanders have to endure from the rest of the mocking public.

Due to the nature of the accent everyone things that Brummies have the IQ of a toothbrush, and it doesn't matter if you're the Dean of Aston (not Saunders you understand) University, people still believe you to be socially retarded. Anyway, it's very pleasing to see that the mocking and humiliation haven't held Adventure Soft back from turning out a quality product.

Simon the Sorcerer is a point-and-click graphical adventure. It will no doubt be compared to that Amiga benchmark adventure, Monkey Island 2, whether the two are at all comparable is an avenue we'll stroll along later.

But they both feature a strong element of humour and inane stupidity that render them impossible to take too seriously. This isn't to say that they haven't any depth to them or that your mind drifts while playing, it's just they never attempt to be anything more than fun.

The plot begins and the metaphorical cornflour thickens the gravy, when Simon, the central character, is thrust into a world of spells, magic and confusion.

Simon's frolics begin when he receives a letter from his mate, Calypso. Calypso is the Grand High Wizard of Fleur Deli, and has selected Simon from hundreds of other punters to rescue him from the hands of the evil wizard Sordid.
That's all the plot that you're given, and if I reveal any more of the story that unfolds around you it might give away some secrets and kill the atmosphere.

Being a point-and-click style romp, Simon the Sorcerer's gameplay is fairly simple to master. The screen comprises of a graphic window, itinerary list and a command list. The graphic window allows you to see Simon (It's quite good being able to refer to the game as Simon, because I could be beaming subliminal messages about myself to you), control his movements, communicate and interact with other characters and look for other objects.

Moving your apprentice wizard is just a simple case of clicking on the display area with your mouse. Everything else you require Simon to do is controlled from the command list. For example, if you wish to use Simon to communicate with someone, you simply click on the "talk to" option and then point your mouse over the person with which you wish to speak. Most of the other commands that you can carry out operate in this manner and in the majority of cases you are only having to click on the action and the character or object you wish to interact with.

During play if you've chosen to talk to one of the characters and their answer requires a reply, then you are given a list of replies or questions to click onto. One of the handiest features in Simon the Sorcerer is the way the game handles mapping. Like many of the more modern titles STS features an auto-mapper, so you don't have to waste valuable time, pencil lead and elbow grease on drawing on graph paper.

Apart from its time-saving element, the map in Simon has another quite unique facility. If you click on any location that the auto-mapper has mapped, then you're automatically sent there. This not only saves time, but also stops any element of boredom that might creep in from travelling through the same locations.

The locations are some of the most visually attractive I've seen on an Amiga. While they don't pretend to recreate any type of reality, they're stylised in such a way as to give the feel of a fairy tale book. In fact, some of the characters are pulled straight out of the realms of the Brothers Grimm. So, don't be astonished if you run into wicked witches with houses made of confectionery (there must be licence tie-in there fellas) or trolls, or goats who are fairly gruff to say the least.

The attention to detail throughout the whole of the adventure is quite stunning. For example, as you are wandering through the forest you'll see squirrels run up trees in fright of you, as butterflies flit and settle around your head (man, it's a hippie/New Age dreamer's haven).

While we're on the topic of graphics, it's worth mentioning that there are two versions to be released. There's the standard A500 version, and an A1200 version which has the obvious advantage of having the extra colours. Apart from this, there aren't that many other noticeable differences.

Simon the Sorcerer is cram-packed with puzzles, funny quips and silly asides. While it's a title that you're not meant to take too seriously, it will give you plenty to think about if you're complete it.

The main reason for this is that some of the puzzles are really quite abstract in their formulation and will take a considerable amount of time to deduce. This shouldn't be thought of as a criticism, but as a way of making a thoroughly enjoyable sarcastic romp last that little longer.

On the sound front, Simon has a recurrent theme that runs through the whole game. As computer soundtracks go it's not too bad; it varies depending upon your encounters and is, at the end of the day, best described as catchy. But like most songs that drop into that groove, you end up hating it intensely.

At the end of a very magical extravaganza of a day, it has to be said that Simon the Sorcerer is a really enjoyable, highly playable piece of software (well folks, how could you slag your own namesake off?).
I think that even the programmers expected comparisons with Monkey Island 2 to be made. However, while Simon the Sorcerer uses the same type of technique to control all of your actions, you could never accuse Adventure Soft of copying Monkey' 2.

So readers, if you're concerned that you're going to be buying a clone - forget it. The only real similarity between the two is the fact that they are both easy to pick up and get into, and are both endowed with a tad more wit than your normal offerings.

Simon the Sorcerer is a very large (nine disks in all) well thought-out graphical adventure that'll keep you happy and out of harm's way in the land of giants, fairies and dwarves.



Simon the Sorcerer logo

Could Simon the Sorcerer really be Britain's answer to the magnificent Monkey Island? Join our Magic Circle to find out...

Simon's a bit of a brat. Instead of being sent down McDonalds with a fiver on his 12th birthday, his mum makes him a lovely slap-up tea and hires a conjuror to stop the assembled guests flicking greenies at each other. It all goes amazingly well, until a sudden knock on the door changes the course of Simon's life.

Simon the Sorcerer is a point-and-click graphic adventure set in a mythical land filled with strange creatures and even stranger goings-on. The knock on the door heralds the arrival of a scruffy mutt called Chippy whose magician master Calypso has mysteriously disappeared.

As yu set off in search of Calypso you also discover a dastardly plot by an evil wizard called Sordid who plans to envelop the world ina shroud of darkness.

Like most graphic adventures, Simon drops you into a massive game world and invites you to explore a series of exquisitely-drawn locations in search of the clues which can help solve the mystery. Your first set of clues arrive in a note from Calypso at the beginning of the game and you get more hints from a goggle of wizards in the Drunken Druid tavern and an Owl in the forest.

As you wander around each screen you get tot meet all kinds of characters - from suicidal woodcutters to talking woodworm - and collect all kinds of weird and wonderful objects which Simon stores in his magician's hat. Naturally, the game is full of complex puzzles, red herrings and jokey one-liners, but the plot is pretty non-linear so you can roam around the landscape and do things in virutally any order you like.


Simon drops you into a massive game world of quite fantastic locations.

There's a handy auto-mapping facility too which enables you to leap from one major location to another without getting involved in the tedious legwork which can turn some graphic adventures into gameplaying nightmares. One thing you immediately notice about this game is that it borrows extensively from traditional British fairytales - for example, bot the Three Billy Goats Gruff and flaxen-haired Rapunzel make guest appearances as do Gollum from Lord of the Rings and an adventuring paleontologist called Dr Jones.

Although such shameless plagiarism sometimes appears heavy-handed, the characters are dressed up in such a humorous way you don't really mind them being there.

What's less forgivable, though, is the pace at which the action takes place. With such a massive game you expect periods of aimless wandering, but you soon discover that even simple conversations with characters involves sitting through a toilet-busting diarrhea of words you can't escape from. This wouldn't be so bad if they had something interesting to say or supplied you with tangible snippets of information, but all too often their ramblings are just another excuse for some laboured puns and bad jokes.

Worse, you have to examine each location in minute detail if you're to find all the objects you need to collect to complete the puzzles. Some of the objects have such a small detection area you have to literally place the mouse pointer over every item on screen before you can find what you're looking for. Until you get used to this way of playing, you can find yourself wandering around the same old locations again and again without making any progress and the long-winded replies from the in-game characters can turn Simon into an intensely frustrating experience.

Despite these shortcomings, there are plenty of things to like about Simon the Sorcerer. Graphically, the game looks stunning. Animals run through the forests, birds whistle through the air and water shoots down waterfalls. Simon himself is particularly cutely animated with his flowing purple robe, lolloping gait and a penchant for taking out his Walkman if you leave hims standing for too long.

The vast number of complex puzzles and sheer physical size of the game also means it's going to take you weeks if not months, to complete. For AGA owners, things are a little less clear-cut. The differences between the standard and the enhanced versions are minimal and at £34.99 for the standard game, Simon the Sorcerer is already an expensive proposition.



Simon the Sorcerer logo Amiga Joker Hit

Mike Woodroffes Spezialität waren bislang abenteuerlichen Blutorgien wie "Elvira" oder "Waxworks" - doch auch witzig-spritzige Sprites im Stil von "Monkey Island" sind für den Mann kein Problem!

DOSen-Abenteurer wissen es schon seit drei Monaten: Auf den ersten und zweiten Blick könnte man Mikes humorige Marchen-Persiflage ohne weiteres für ein Game von Lucas Arts halten.

Doch mag die Präsentation auch bei den Kollegen und der Inhalt bei den Gebrüdern Grimm abgespickt sein, gut geklaut ist nun mal immer noch viel besser als schlecht erdacht...

Die Vorgeschichte erzählt vom 12jährigen Simon (benannt nach dem Sohn des Maestros), dem am Geburtstag ein merkwürdiger Hund samt Zauberbuch zuläuft. Unnötig zu sagen, dass der Knabe am nächsten Morgen im Märchenlände aufwacht, wo er in der Hütte des Zauberers Calypso über einen Brief stolpert. Darin steht, dass er, Simon, dazu ausersehen sei, ihn, Calypso, aus den Klauen des bösen Sordid zu retten.

Die Aufgabe verlangt es von unserm jungen Weltenwanderer, dass er erst mal selbst ein Magier wird, weshalb es sich gut trifft, dass in der Kneipe um die Ecke ein paar gelangweilte Spellcaster herumlungern - gegen das Anschleppen von ein paar zauberhaften Items wären sie nämlich nicht abgeneigt, ihn ihre Zunft aufzunehmen.

Und schon ist das Abenteuer in vollem Gange, wobei wirklich kaum ein Märchen-Klischee von Mr. Woodroffes ätzendem Humor verschont bleibt. Zu den zwerchfellerschütterndsten Szenen gehört dabei sicher die Begegnung mit der "weisen" Eule, welche in Wahrheit schier überhaupt nix mehr auf die Reihe kriegt. Stark auch die Sequenz, in der sich ein Brückentroll exquisite Wortgefechte mit zwei Ziegen liefert, um schließlich alte Gewerkschaftslieder absingend, seine Brücke zu sperren und in den Generalstreik zu treten...

So weit, so schrill, aber wie hat man nun die technische Transplantation vom PC auf die "Freundin" hingekommen? Nun, insgesamt wirklich sehr ordentlich. Zwar braucht man hier anderthalb Megabyte unter der Haube, um das Game von der Festplatte zu spielen, doch verschont auch die Disk-Version den Besitzer eines Zweitlaufwerks weitgehend vor Wechseleien.

Die bunte 3D-Optik, in der Simon lustig, sauber und annehmbar schnell animiert herumläuft, läßt auf den ersten Blick kaum einen Unterschied zum Original erkennen, und die Point & Click Steuerung ist sowieso nahezu identisch mit der von "Monkey Island", funktioniert also bestens. Last but not least wären noch die verschiedenen angenehm vor sich hindudelnden Musikstücke erwähnenswert, denen man auch nach geraumer Spieldauer noch nicht den Saft abdreht.

Simon the Sorcerer ist also ein Game, wie wir es am Amiga schon viel zu lange nicht mehr hatten - ein rundum gelungenes, herrlich schräges Grafik-Adventure mit nicht immer ganz leichten Rätseln. Fazit: Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann lachen und knobeln sie heute noch... (jn)



Simon the Sorcerer logo

Ho hum. Another point-and-click adventure game. Another Tolkien fantasy setting. Another quest. Another collection of puzzles to solve. Right. Today's Friday. Simon the Sorcerer's got till Monday to make an impression, or it gets 69%.

'Where?' first of all. And 'Why?' After all, the storyline is everything in a game like this. You're Simon, an ordinary 12-year-old boy. When Simon the Sorcerer opens you find yourself in a wizard's cottage. How did you get here? How are you going to get back to the real world? Who knows? But look - here's a note Calypso the wizard has been kidnapped by a baddy, it says, and you have to rescue him. Then he'll send you home. Well that's certainly kindled my enthusiasm.

'How?' now. At the bottom of the screen are some words like Pick Up, Wear and Look At. Click on them, and then click on parts of the picture above, and Simon will wander about following your instructions. For the most part this seems to work okay, although most of the familiar point-and-click pitfalls are dutifully fallen into.

For example, much of your time will be spent painstakingly moving the cursor over the background, watching to see if anything registers as interactable-with. (Some objects are barely a pixel long, and you've no way of knowing just by looking whether they're anything useful or just a slip of the artist's brush). Exits from each screen aren't generally marked, even when you move the cursor over them, so you've got to rely on paths looking paths, and doors looking like doors, which they often don't.


Calypso the wizard has been kidnapped by a baddy

GUESSWORK
If you try to do anything that the programmers haven't anticipated (which in this case seems to be practically anything that isn't directly connected to the storyline) you get a 'That doesn't work' or a 'I can't see the point', just like the very first text adventures back in the 1970s.
There's no excuse for any of this nonsense in the late 20th Century.

Okay: 'What?' What do you have to do? Well, needless to say, rescuing Calypso turns out to involve lots of sidetracking and sub-plots. You've got to talk to other characters to get information out of them, and use objects to solve puzzles.

Many of the characters and puzzles seem to have been adapted from fairytales, so as well as the usual dwarves, dragons and barbarians you'll meet the Three Billy Goats Gruff, the witch out of Sleeping Beauty and - bizarrely - what appears to be escapees from CS Lewis's Narnia stories. Variety aplenty? Of merely an uncomfortable mish-mash? But hang on. This is a 'humorous' game.


None of the jokes actually seemed very funny

MAKE ME LAUGH
Having done precisely nothing to impress me so far, can Simon the Sorcerer redeem itself by making me laugh? Erm, sorry. It threw 'jokes' at me thick and fast, but none of them actually seemed to be very funny. (And I like a chuckle as much as the next man). I ought to give you an example and let you make your own mind up, but I can't actually remember one.

Okay: point-and-click, puzzles, jokes - there's no avoiding it. This isn't as good as Monkey Island. Every screen of Monkey Island is packed with amusing asides, irrelevant things to click on, little distractions to give the game substance. Simon the Sorcerer hasn't got anything like that, or when it tries it, it seems very clumsy and self-conscious.

Monkey Island unfolds gradually, a chapter at a time, only letting you see as much of the map as is necessary. You'll feel you've explored most of Simon the Sorcerer's playing area within the first hour, then it's just a case of wrapping up all the puzzles you've discovered.

Above all else, Monkey Island is funny - it's got genuinely funny jokes in it that are impossible to anticipate. With Simon the Sorcerer it's all 'Oh, ha ha. I didn't expect that to happen' (sarcasm) or 'Wouldn't it have been funnier if...?' or just plain 'Get on with it'.

SAY WHAT?
Actually, that's not strictly true. Simon the Sorcerer did make me laugh once. Slightly. You see, much of its humour relies on constantly reminding you're playing a game - asides to the camera and so on. This quickly gets tiresome, as well as destroying whatever fragile atmosphere the game might otherwise have had, but the first time it happened I did actually laugh.

I was in the pub right near the beginning, talking to some people I knew to be wizards, but who were trying to pretend they were farmers by putting on crap Somerset accents: "No no, but you're wizards," I kept saying. "No we bain't," they replied. "But you are.", "Are not," etc. Until eventually I selected the option that said "But whenever I move the cursor over you it says "Wizards", and they had to concede defeat.

Some extra marks for that then? Almost. But unfortunately, Simon the Sorcerer spontaneously crashed and reset itself a good ten times during my weekend wit it. Utterly inexcusable. 69% it is, then.



Simon the Sorcerer logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Tony Gill likes a joke (he must do, or else he wouldn't wear his hair like that!) so we gave him Adventure Soft's latest rib-tickling adventure to review.

Any fool can be funny, but you've got to be clever to be witty. A joke attempts to make you laugh, but a witty remark invites you to understand it and, if you do, then you'll feel both amused and pleased with yourself.

Simon the Sorcerer is very, very witty. It's also easy to tell it's English, because they've spelt the swear words correctly!

Simon is a graphic adventure game in the same mouth as such blockbusters as Monkey Island and Indiana Jones. Unlike those megagames that come from America, this game is a homegrown product from a small British company called Adventure Soft.

Okay, I know that at this point the wiser heads among you will be pursing their lips and switching into sceptic mode; but that's all right, I like a fight.

Right then, just let me slip into my John Bull waistcoat and lace up my Yank-Kicking boots, and we'll begin, (Cue 'Land of Hope and Glory.)

Let's face it, is it likely that a game from a small, English software house van produce something which can really compare to the games from huge American companies employing legions of art directors, squads of software designers and zillions of dollars?

No, it's not likely. Nevertheless, they've only gone and done it.

The plot of this crazy story involves a modern teenager being sucked into a world of wizards and magic. And you'll be surprised to know that he must save this sad kingdom from the bad guy with an unpronouncable name.

Nothing new there then. You could say that what we have here is the plot for 'Adrian Mole Goes To Hobbitland'. In short it's English hunour at its best.

It's sharp, wicked and at times a little rude. Simon is a teenager with a dog, an attitude problem and a walkman. The dog is left behind in the early stages of the adventure, but the boy's attitude stays with him to the bitter end.

Simon also keeps his walkman available just in case should you pause for thought. If he gets bored waiting for your next great idea, he will remover his wizard's hat, put on the earphones and listen to music until you make your next move.

PICTURES WORTH A THOUSAND PIXELS
The game's scenario takes place against a background of enchanted forests, snow-covered mountains, picturesque villages and dingy dungeons.

The characters and incidents in this magical adventure are culled from a variety of folktales which you'll have no difficulty recognising.

You'll meet Billy Goats Gruff, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

All of the graphics are brilliant, with some of the animated forest scenes reminiscent of Disney's Bambi.

As you wander in the forest you'll be accompanied by flitting butterflies, cutesy birds and the occasional wolf.

Admittedly, if you happen to have been stuck with a problem for the last two days, the cutest of floppy bunnies will get on your wick, but on the whole I thought it looked really good.

The guy who turned out to be my favourite character, and I'm sure you are going to love him too, is the Swampling. Imagine that you held a party and nobody came - that's the fate of the poor Swampling. There he is with a cauldron of mud stew, and nobody to help him eat it. Now surely you won't be as hardhearted as the rest of the forest creatures?

All he wants is someone to drop in for a little while, play a few games, and enjoy a nourishing bowl with him. Euck!

The Swampling's house is beautifully drawn, and the animated sequences which take place inside his hollow tree home are guaranteed to make you chuckle

There is a constant musical background to the game which can be turned off if you like, but in this cae I actually found I liked it - and when did you last hear a reviewer say that?

In the interests of balance it should be mentioned that the neighbours called round to say that they thought it was rotten, but then it was 2am.

TO HINT OR NOT TO HINT?
Adventure games are great fun when you are getting somewhere, but they can drive you nuts when you get stuck. Game producers never know what to do about this problem; should they enclose a hint book with the game, provide a telephone help-line, or just leave you to the tender mercies of Vampyra? In this case Adventure Soft has decided to provide two lines of attack.

Firstly there is a built-in mentor in the form of a wise old owl. In the centre of the forest an old owl sits snoozing in a tree.

If you speak to the owl he will provide random nuggets of information which will give you clues concerning the sneakier puzzles, but just to keep things fair his information is also mixed in with other homilies such as: 'Always brush your teeth after meals'. As Simon is the original smart-Alec teenager, you can guess what he makes of these remarks.

If the owl's cryptic hints still don't provide enhough information to get you out of the mire then you can ring Adventure Soft directly.

Each evening between six and seven you can ring 021 352 0847 and put your questions directly to one of the game designers. This service is available because Adventure Soft also want to takE to you, find out what you like and what you would like to see in future games.

GAME CONTROLS
The game uses those controls that now appear to have become the standard for graphic adventures. No typing is required, so there is no need to guess some unlikely word of phrase to solve a problem.

Any objects that have any importance will be indicated as the mouse pointer passes over them by the appearance of their written description on-screen.

This does mean that these objects are sometimes deliberately drawn a might small and difficult to find, but in the main this isn't a problem.

A full list of possible commands is permanently displayed on the lower half of the screesn, and you simply select the commands you wish to use.

You can also 'click' on the object you have in your list of possessions to examine or to use them. There are a few cases where you must issue a command to combine one object with another, but this is a typical puzzle in these types of games and in most cases is pretty straight forward.

MANUAL
The game comes with a manual, which is almost as funny as the game. This manual is used for the normal anti-piracy protection, which requires you to identify objects on certain pages.

The manual's text takes the mickey out of everything, so it will provide you with a couple of extra smiles while you struggle with the game.

PUZZLES AND CONVERSATION PIECES
The game's puzzles take the usual form of 'find object', 'pick up object', 'use object1 with object2'.

To do this kind of thing you have to spend time searching into the nooks and crannies of the screen with the mouse pointer to find those objects that may be lurking.

There are also lots of humans, monsters and other weird races that you will encounter, and then you can have conversations with them.

You manage these conversations reading what the other person is saying, then selecting your reply from a list of possible options.

This chat normally degenerates into a slanging match as Simon can't seem to resist insulting everyone, and you won't be able to resist the temptation to get into trouble aswell.

For me these conversations are the high spots of the game, and Simon's rye comments are genuinely funny. For example, there is a point when Simon is talking to some gents in a pub, and he refers to them as wizards. One gent asks Simon why he thinks that they are wizards. To this Simon swiftly replies, 'Well when I move the mouse-pointer over you, the computer says "Wizards".

What helps make this joke funny is the fact the game designer has being doing his darndest up to that point to make you forget that you are playing a computer game.

WHERE'S THE COMPUTER GONE?
The fact that the designer has done such a good job of hiding the machinery behind the gameplay is worthy a note. One of the aims of a good game is to create the illusion that you are involved in a real situation and if the computer gets in the way of the action the illusion is spoiled.

Having to change a floppy disk, or wait for something to be loaded, is the kind of thing that constantly reminds you that the box of silicon beneath your fingers is controlling everything.

Simon's floppies have been carefully put together to help alleviate this problem.

Duplicate copies of the same code have been put on each of the nine disks to save you have to swop Monkey Island is almost unplayable from floppy disk as it obviously never occurred to anyone that the game wouldn't be installed on hard disk.

One clever touch that this game has, which others would do well to copy, is the way it handles your interaction with other characters.

If you intrude into a scene where two people having a conversation, and you interrupt them by asking a question, the characters treat you in the same way as real-life characters would.

Instead of the computer obviously stopping their conversation dead and switching into reply mode, they attempt to answer you, then pick up where they left off instead of simply standing motionless waiting for your next input.

The computer characters will also amend their subsequent dialogue if your comment influenced anything. In fact, the script has been specially constructed with loads of these 'jump-points' in it to ensure that it can deal with most situations.This is not something that you see too often in other games and it really gives a different feel to a scene. This is a game where the computer has been hidden as much as possible.

Nothing is perfect, so where is the downside you may ask? If pressed (and I don't really want to say anything which detracts from this super game) my only criticism of the game would be that the gameplay tails off a little towards the end.

During the initial stages there are a million things to do and see and there are many parallel paths for you to wander.

Towards the latter stages things get restricted, the path get straight and narrow, the puzzles become simpler, and more and more you become a spectator to animated sequences.

I began to feel that the game designer had just received the delivery deadline from the publishers, so everything was being wound up swifty to meet a deadline.

The first quarter of the game could take a fortnight to figure out - the last quarter could take an evening. I am willing to be taken to task for that comment, perhaps you won't agree with it, but it's only a small gripe after all.

To get full enjoyment out of this adventure you should forget about trying to solve the puzzles and getting through to the end, for the real fun comes from deliberately doing things that you suspect won't solve the problem. In this way you will discover what fun the game designer put in to teach you a lesson for being rude or silly.

There are no illogical puzzles in the game, and simple persistence will see you through to the end.

Hardened adventurers will solve most of the game without too much difficulty, so if would like a fun adventure, but have never been successful with them in in the past, this is the one for you.


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GRAPHICS

The stunning graphics which Simon contains won much acclaim when the PC version was released. To bring this standard to the Amiga caused them many headaches, but they persevered and appear to have repeated their success.
The specially enhanced A1200 version has all of the 256 colours which the PC has, and it has a cinemascope look to it, owing to the wider and narrower style of the Amiga screen.
Unlike Monkey Island II whose backgrounds were first drawn and then scanned, Simon is created using a series of sixteen colour overlays. This method not only gives a crisper, and clearer picture, but it also means that the code can be more easily compressed to fit onto fewer disks. If the same technique as Monkey Island had been used, this game would come on fifteen disks!

THE DARK SIDE

Adventure Soft has a dark side to its personality which lurks in the shadows - Horrorsoft! Personal Nightmare, Elvira, Elvira II and Waxworks are four games which bear the Horrorsoft label.
These are the type of games that attracts smaller audiences and have sometimes drawn the attention of moral crusaders to them.
Which means everyone is a little embarrassed to admit they have anything to do with them in these politically correct days.
However, love' em or hate 'em, it's unlikely that there will be any more additions to the range. Such has been the popularity of the new Adventure Soft games, and because the team have enjoyed writing the comedy adventures so much, they have decided to drop the old gore games and stick with the fun in future. Australian fans will, however, be sad to see them go, for I do recall that the Horrorsoft games went down a bomb down-under.

THE OLD FIRM

Adventure Soft is a family firm. Mike the father designs and codes the games. His wife manages and deals with the administration. Simon, the eldest son, writes the storyline and text conversations.
Finally, there is the youngest son Jonathan who is used as a playtester. To this core, five top graphic artists have been added to complete a team that is currently kicking all sorts of hell out of the best that the biggest software companies in the world can muster. With two more artist being trained up to join the existing team, Adventure Soft is a company who has proved they can trade blows with the best and win. Mike gets very upset when reviewers say Adventure Soft games are as good as Lucasfilms. What he wants to hear someone say is, 'Lucasfilms games are just as good as Adventure Soft!'


Simon the Sorcerer AGA logo AGA CD32

Da die Spezialversionen für Commos Junior inzwischen oft schon parallel zur Normal-ausführung kommen, wird auch diese Rubrik immer dünner: Drei Nachzügler (Alfred Chicken, D/Generation & Simon the Sorcerer) können wir diesmal noch anbieten!

Die Fahrkarte ins märchenhafte Abenteuerreich des kleinen Zauberlehrlings Simon kostet in der Spezialversion für A1200-Magier zwar 109 Taler, dafür erstrahlt die Fantasylandschaft hier auch in voller 256-Farben-Schönheit. Da macht es gleich doppelt soviel Spaß, schlafenden Zwergen den Rauschebart abzuschnippeln, eine Riesen kräftig blasend im Schlaf zu stören und was hier sonst noch so alles an obskuren Aufgaben anfällt.

Die Grafik ist nicht nur farbenfroher, sondern auch ein wenig detailreicher als gehabt, am Spielablauf hat sich natürlich nichts geändert, am Spielablauf hat sich natürlich nichts geändert.

Aber das war bei diesem rundum geglückten Abenteuer-Hit von Adventuresoft ja weder zu erwarten noch nötig - aus malerischen Gründen setzen wir jetzt ebenfalls den Pinsel an und erhöhen auf kunterbunte 86 Prozent.



Simon the Sorcerer AGA logo AGA

The boy in the hat is back and it's as stupid a pointy, purple thing as it ever was. Simon the Sorcerer is enhanced, so the rumour goes.

Use melon on sousaphone. Obvious really, don't know why I didn't think of it before. Simon the Sorcerer has appeared in A1200 enhanced guise sporting more colours. Everything else is pretty much the same. It's a classic point and click adventure game from the Monkey Island mould. Off to a good start for me then, I love all the mucking about in a fantasy world, talking to strange new friends and trying to figure out what object goes where.

The interface is as simple as it can get, the manual takes all of four pages to explain how to get going. You click on a verb at the bottom of the screen and then on the screen to do it, easy-peasy.

EAT ME
The game has stupendous, rich graphics. There's plenty of animation as well, characters jiggle about, birds flying by, streams bubble and the like. If you stripped all the visuals away you'd be left with a fairly standard not a million miles away from Colossal Cave, the great text adventure from the mists of time.

The puzzles range from the pretty damn obvious-if-you-don't-get-them-you're-a-thickie type to it's-the-last-option-so-I-may-as-well-try-it type. Some objects are very small or used in obscure ways. It's funny, it made me laugh out loud a few times, although a lot of the humour is puerile or forced. There are loads of in-jokes to get and characters and situations swiped straight from fairy tales.


You can't die, you just get stuck

The plot? Who cares, some stuff about rescuing a kidnapped wizard. Games like this are a series of puzzles that make you feel clever when you solve them, play it all the way through once and that's it. You can't die, you just get stuck. It's a fairly non-linear in places, you can work on more than one puzzle at once. You can also find yourself wandering over a large area totally at a loss as to what to do next. The puzzles tend to be of the use the object in the right place in the right way sort. It soon turns into a collect everything and use everything in every location job.

DRINK ME
The text appears at a speed, you can't step through it so you have to keep your eyes on the screen in case you miss something. The longer sections of chat and animation can be skipped, but it gets tedious at times. Simon plods about everywhere, a little faster than if the game were running on an A500 but not much. Played from the multitude of floppy disks the disk accessing soon gets to be a bore. It needs a hard drive.

Simon the Sorcerer adds nothing new. A lot of work has gone into making sure it looks pretty, and it does. It's the kind of game that makes an ideal counterpoint to manic platformers and shoot-'em-ups. You can play it at any speed you like. As graphic adventures go this one is nearer the top of the pile than the bottom.



Simon the Sorcerer CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Computing Silver Award

Back in our May issue, Simon the Sorcerer gained acclaim marking it out as one of the best adventure titles available on the Amiga. Now it's available for the CD32 with the addition of a "full talkie soundtrack". The background story is very simple. Receiving a note from a wizard named Calypso, Simon becomes involved in a quest to deliver the land of Fleur Deli from the evil sorcerer Sordid.

Original, no? Well perhaps not, but from this unpromising start things become more engrossing as your travels through the land unfold increasingly tricky twists and turns.

The appearance hasn't really changed, but Simon remains a visually appealing title. A range of fantastic characters and atmospheric settings are combined with rare attention to detail.

Many adventures try to enliven the proceedings with a touch of humour, but the jokes all too often fall flat. Simon is an exception because, like the classic Monkey Island, it is actually funny. This aspect of the game is greatly enhanced since the character of Simon is played by Chris Barrie of Red Dwarf fame. Speech in games can be a gimmick but hearing the sarcastic banter of characters in this version created a fresh appeal.

Considering that speech has been added, it's a shame they didn't add a greater variety of music, because the tunes you're stuck with really begin to grate after a while. Still, this is more of a gripe than a serious complaint.

Though light-hearted in approach, there's nothing easy about the puzzles in this game. Those strange folk who enjoy the brain-bursting frustration of a tough adventure will not be dissatisfied.

Simon the Sorcerer was a good game before. With the inclusion of speech, the game has been significantly improved and should be considered by any CD32 owner who has missed out on the fun before.

80%


Simon the Sorcerer CD32 logo CD32

The original version of Simon The Sorcerer was reviewed by Rob Mead in issue 56 of Amiga Format. He pointed out that in order to solve many of the puzzles you had to literally sweep over just about every pixel on screen to locate specific crucial objects. This was due to some ridiculously small detection areas set aside for said object.

The problem's still there with the CD32 version, only it's compounded due to the limitations of the CD32 controller at shifting a pointer over a screen. When you've only got eight directions compared to a multi-directional mouse control, be prepared to accelerate from a calm rational being to an insane hysterical glibbering wreck in 7.5 seconds (approximately).

On the sort of good side of things, the CD32 version offers speech. That's right, Simon and all the characters he interacts with speak audibly. Which helps highlight another of the flaws of the original. The characters you interact with seem too fond of their own voices to let you actually get on with the game.

Their jokes are terrible and even the distinctive voice of Chris Barrie of Red Dwarf fame (as Simon) can't save the gamer from this unfortunate situation, which is a shame really. Apart from Darkseed, Simon the Sorcerer is breaking new ground with this idea. It bodes well for the future of adventure games on the CD32.

Unfortunately this isn't the classic game that it could have been. The graphics are beautiful, lush and invigorating but they can't veil your eyes from the numerous annoying niggles of the game mechanics. Simon's for hardened adventure game fanatics only.



Simon the Sorcerer CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Joker Hit

Auf Diskette bezaubert der Nachwuchsmagier die Abenteurer bereitst seit Anfang des Jahres mit unwiderstehlichem Humor - in der neuen CD Version versprüht er seinen Charme nun via Sprachausgabe!

Mike Woodroffes schlaffertiger Held trat ein schweres Erbe an: Er mußte mit ebenso brutalen wie erfolgreichen Vorgängern vom Schlage einer "Elvira" bzw. eines "Waxworks" konkurrieren. Sehr zur Freude der Fans tat er dies nicht nur brüllend komisch, sondern auch mit steuerungs-technischen Anleihen bei Lucas Arts. Und damit dürfte Simon auch und gerade auf Schillerscheibe eine große Karriere sicher sein:

Die hier in vornehmstem Englisch vorgetragene Vorgeschichte weiß von einer Märchenwelt voller Trolle, Sumpflinge und schlafender Wachen zu berichten, in der sich der junge Simon zum vollwertigen Zauberer hochzuarbeiten hat. Denn nur so kann er den Magier Calypso aus den Klauen des Oberfieslings Sordid befreien und wieder ins traute Kinderzimmer zurückkehren.

Alle per Maus oder Pad eingeleiteten Aktionen quittiert das Plappermaul dabei mit kecken Kommentaren. Egal, ob er nun kurzerhand eine Leiter in seiner Mütze (und damit im Inventory) verstaut oder dem Spieler mitteilt, er wünsche, er hätte sich an seiner Stelle am schwer verdaulichen Sumpfeintopf den Magen verdorben - die Sprüche kommen immer voll gut!

Ein besonderer Genuß sind nun die vielen Multiple-choice-Gespräche mit den Einheimischen, denn die Stimmen passen einfach perfekt zu den Akteuren: So ziemlich jede Figur kann mit eigenem Dialekt und Tonfall dienen, und nie hat man einen Riesen tiefer grummeln oder einen Troll drolliger schimpfen gehört.

Als Kehrseite der Medaille hat der des Englischen Unkundige freilich wenig von diesem Sprachwunder, eher im Gegenteil. Weil in teilweise recht schrägem Slang gequasselt wird und die (guten) FX solche Dialoge manchmal überlagern, müssen selbst Fremdsprachentalente immer fein die Ohren spitzen, wenn sie hier nicht vergeblich rätseln wollen. Dummerweise werden die Antworten nämlich nicht zusätzlich in schriftlicher Form am Screen eingeblendet.

Die fein gezeichnete Grafik ist schön wie eh und je, gleiches gilt für die tollen Animation. Ja, es ist schon ein echter Augenschmaus, wie der jugendliche Held da in seinem Magier-Outfit der größe X-Large durch witzige Szenarien stolpert und sich während der Denkpausen (die abgedrehten Rätsel sind nicht ohne!) ein paar Songs am Walkman reinzieht, den er genüßlich aus seiner Mütze zaubert.

Allerdings fällt der Umgang mit verblödeten Eulen oder streikenden Brückentrollen per Maus um einiges leichter als via Pad. Wer so einen Nager und ausreichend Englischkenntnisse besitzt, wird sich mit der sprechenden Version dieser genialen MärchenVeräppelung jedenfalls prächtig amüsieren - allen anderen bleibt nur die Hoffnung auf eine deutsche Version, wie sie vorläufig leider nur für den PC erhältlich ist. (ms)



Simon the Sorcerer CD32 logo CD32

A question, dear readers. What's the point of saving your position in a game? I'm predicting that you'll be saying something like, "Why, so I can turn off the game, play something else, and, perhaps weeks later, load up the original game and carry on from where I left off, you fool," in which case, you'll be crushingly disappointed by Simon the Sorcerer CD32.

The save routine all but fills the CD32's story memory, destroying saves from other games. Equally clumsy, if you then play another game and save your position, it will overwrite the Simon save. So you either have to play Simon exclusively until you finish it, or resign yourself to restarting when you play again. It's more than annoying, it's downright infuriating.

FOMNES
But you don't want to hear about that. You want to hear about the all-talking version of the game. Which this is. Yes, in a shockingly innovatory sort of way, Adventure Soft have rewritten the game so that instead of reading text, you get to hear people 'being' the characters in the game. It's a bit like a radio play, with pictures.

Now, being uncharacteristically appreciative of the aesthetics of a game with no regard to design, this is a terrific idea. No matter how good a script, it's the delivery that counts. Look at, say, The Bilko scripts. They read well, you get the jokes, but it's not until you see Phil Silvers smirk his way through the show, machine-gunning the gags, that the scripts come to life. Yes indeed, I predict that once these 'talkies' get into their stride, we'll all have a lot of fun. Right, critical head back on.

Being at the forefront of 'talkie' games (Darkseed being the only other one), you'd expect Simon to have a few teething problems. What you don't expect are the glaring faults. The speech breaks up, misses words, and, in one memorable scene involving a troll bridge, clashes so badly with the background samples (in this case, a running waterfall), that huge chunks of it simply disappear.

There are also minor but madly strange bugs involving Simon saying something that's just obviously wrong: for example, examine a statue and he'll remark, "I have something else to show you." And there's not even a token attempt at lip-synching. (Yes, I know, but it does affect the atmosphere, as anyone who's seen a dubbed film will attest).

But most unfortunately, the actors employed to play the characters are fairly terrible. Apart from the two headliners (sitcom stalwart Chris Barrie and Bloke Who Does Voices On Spitting Image, Roger Blake), the cast of unknowns performs as if at a school play, swapping timing and characterization for silly voices and flat reading. Everyone plays more than one part, and you can tell instantly who's doing whom because they always sound exactly the same.

DIRECTIONS
But let us not heap blame upon the actors. The script is diabolical. Jonathan's already dismembered the insipid humour in AP34, but I shall add that, unlike, say, oooh, what, The Secret Of Monkey Island, the jokes of Simon the Sorcerer just don't travel.

It's a bizarre experience, listening to the oh-so English Chris Barrie deliver lines about "pizza bars" and "quarters" in his famously arrogant, flared-nostril style. And because you can't bypass single lines, or opt for the text version or anything, you have to endure the whole script, because, obviously, if you skip stuff you'll miss something important. (Remember, because of the stupid save routine, you'll be playing this to the end). So you sit there and fume while an owl mumbles its way through a huge speech riddled with clues, or while some wizards swap inconsequences before coming to the point, or while a depressed green lizard witters on about its non-existent friends before asking the vital question, or any one of a hundred exasperating sequences.

The actual game's unaltered from its Amiga incarnation: teasingly beautiful graphics that disappoint when you realise nearly everything on screen is scenery, tiny objects, blindingly obvious puzzles, a maze right at the beginning of the game, foolishly empty locations and dead ends, and shatteringly poor music. It is, basically, an utterly ordinary point-and-click adventure, and no amount of 'talk' can change that.



Simon the Sorcerer CD32 logo CD32 CU Amiga Screen Star

With talking goats and woodworm and tv star Chris Barrie playing the lead, Simon the Sorcerer breaks new ground on CD32. Dean Evans listens in.

If you haven't come across Adventuresoft's Simon the Sorcerer before, you've been missing out in a big, possible huge way. Not since Monkey Island has there been such a genuinely funny, chuckle-inducing graphic adventure on the Amiga, and Simon the Sorcerer isn't just another point-and-click, 'ooh nice graphics' sort of adventure either but a slick, humorous and superbly drawn fantasy. And it was good on the Amiga, it's downright fantastic on the CD32.

CUTE AND WINSOME
If you haven't come across the game before, the plot goes something like this. After an inter-dimensional gateway opens up in his bedroom, Simon, the game's 14 year-old-hero, stumbles bravely into it (after his dog) and ends up in a bizarre, Tolkien-esque fantasy world. He has absolutely no idea where anybody or anything is and worst of all, he has nothing to help him except a fridge magnet and a pair of hairdressing scissors.

But this is just the beginning of his troubles. Like many an adventure game before it, Simon the Sorcerer's plot unashamedly revolves around that reliable old plot device, the quest.

Not only must he rescue the good wizard Calypso from the evil clutches of Sordid the Sorcerer, but along the way Simon must complete a number of mini quests: finding the staff of Nafflin the Necromancer for example and making a magical axehead for a melancholy woodcutter so he can chop down rubber trees.

Adventuresoft have created a weird and wonderful land, where fairy tale, classic fantasy and comedy mix together in twisted but totally recognisable forms. In fact, it's a bit like the scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? where Bob Hoskins walks through the studio backlot surrounded bya whole host of cartoon characters like Dumbo and the dancing Hippos from Fantasia In Simon you've got Rapunzel, the Three Billy Goats Gruff (complete with troll), a chest with teeth (vaguely reminiscent of Terry Pratchett's Luggage) and even Gollum and his 'precious' magic ring.

WHY IT'S BEAUTIFUL
If there's one thing that really stands out in this game it's the fact that all of the backgrounds have been carefully hand drawn, first onto paper by the artists then scanned into the computer using an ordinary hand scanner. The black and white drawings have then been retouched and coloured in Autodesk Animator Pro to produce the stunning images you see here.

Of course, sumptuous backgrounds alone don't make a good game (though they help enormously), and these images are complimented by some superb and detailed character animation.

Shunning the current trend for using digitised graphics, Adventure Soft have concentrated on developing a quirky, cartoony style. Simon himself, struts purposely around, confidently leaping across icy ledges and scaling tower walls. There's over 1,000 frames of animation in the Swampling scene alone and there's also a sneezing dragon, a walking chest and my personal favourite a brilliantly-animated goblin guard who industriously picks his nose and then secretly eats the contents.

OKEY DOKEY LISTER
Okay, so it has great graphics and first-rate animation but what does the CD32 version have that the Amiga one doesn't? Well, as the game is on a shiny CD it now features a CD quality soundtrack and lots of comical boings, crashes and bangs that were sadly missing from the Amiga disk version.

But the main reason for buying SImon CD is the fact that it's got digitised speech throughout. With Chris Barrie (he of Red Dwarf and The Brittas Empire fame) taking the lead role and assorted actors, friends and passers-by helping out, the game has been transformed. It's so much better. Chris Barrie is suitably nerdish as Simon while the Swampling and the Wood Worm just have to be heard to be believed.

While PC owners have had CD adventures and digitised speech coming out of their ears, it's finally nice to see the CD32 catching up. Okay, I admit some of the voices are a bit dodgy, but on the whole Adventuresoft have done a damned good job. Not only is Simon the Sorcerer a difficult and challenging adventure but this new CD version is an aural treat.