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-
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-
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/
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-
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.