Sunday, February 25, 2007

Something about Simon

This post - while touching the subject of "Killerspiele" lightly - is none of my rants. It's a post about one of my favourite hobbies: computer games. In this case about an adventure - or rather a series of adventures: "Simon the Sorcerer".

The first "Simon the Sorcerer"-adventure was one of the first adventures I played. I got the English version and it was extremely funny - very much like the books by Terry Pratchett I discovered a few years later.

Hero - if this he could be called - of the game was an 11-year-old boy named Simon who, after touching a magical book hidden in the attic of his home, found himself in a strange fantasy world. The interesting thing about Simon was that he was an obnoxious, foul-mouthed little brat. By the looks of it, this hasn't changed over the years.

The adventure itself was both funny and challenging and I loved it - especially after I got the English "Talkie"-version (as this, you see, was in a time when games did not have voice-overs by default).

There were a few scenes I was especially fond of - like the "spying mirror" (answering to the old fairy-tale question about "who's the fairest of them all" "well, it ain't you, that much is for sure"). Or the scene with the four wizards trying to act like normal country lads ("Oi bain't be seeing any wizards"). The answer one needed to give in order to get them to help actually was "When I move my mouse-pointer over you, it says 'wizards'.".

The story ended with Simon returning to our world - after defeating the evil sorcerer Sordid, as he was supposed to. On the road from the beginning to this end lay a lot of interesting and logical puzzles and a lot of strange people like the Swampling with his swamp stew, a two-headed ogre always arguing with himself, a were-frog druid and two rather stupid demons.

A few years later the second game came out. This was during a time when most games were produced in two versions: one on floppy disk and one on CD, because not everyone had a CD-drive then (today hardly anyone has a CD-drive, because DVD is the average). First I owned the floppy disc version of the game, later on I bought a bundle of "Simon the Sorcerer 1" and "Simon the Sorcerer 2" on CD. The second game was just as funny as the first one, even though things had changed in that fantasy world (in which Simon this time arrived with a dimension-travelling wardrobe [which he still owns in part 4]). The nice little village had grown into a large city, Calypso (the good wizard Simon was supposed to save in the first game) had opened a magical shop and the Swampling (who tortured Simon with his swamp-stew in the first game) had become the owner of a renown chain of fast food restaurants (resembling surely not by accident a certain chain of fast food restaurants with the trademark golden arcs).

Calypso had sent the wardrobe to fetch Simon, because his (Calypso's, that is) granddaughter had disappeared - probably kidnapped by Sordid. Someone (a wizard in training named "Runt") had brought Sordid back - but into a mechanical body, as Sordid was originally shoved into the lava by Simon in the first game. Now Sordid wanted both revenge and Simon's body.

Just like the first game which had a lot of jokes about fairy tales and fantasy stories, the second one featured strangely deformed, but recognizable characters (like Goldilocks who is a burglar and hunted by Papa Bear who's head of the police). The subtitle of the second game alone - The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe - was an allusion to "The Chronicles of Narnia", even though all three things (the dimension-travelling wardrobe, the wizard Calypso and the pet-lion of his granddaughter Alix) turn up in the game.

In the end Simon rescued Alix, but got caught by Sordid and Runt. Sordid returned into his body and Simon ended up in the mechanical body Sordid had inhabited.

The third part of "Simon the Sorcerer" is something fans rather tend to stay silent about. It was all in 3D (which was the rage then), but horrible. While Adventuresoft (the company behind part 1 and 2) showed with the Sci-Fi adventure "Floyd" that they were able to produce a good 3D point-and-click adventure, "Simon the Sorcerer 3D" - not produced by Adventuresoft - was abysmal. Apart from the simple fact that first-person perspective and an adventure only rarely fit together well (even though I've got fond memories of the adventure "Normality" which was completely from first-person perspective and felt a lot like an ego-shooter - even though there wasn't a weapon around), the game was bug-ridden and simply not up to the first two parts. Simon was brought back into his body and (as I've never finished the game due to the bugs, I'm checking an old magazine full of walkthroughs here) fought Sordid (who, it seems, had discovered modern technology by then) again. It's quite probable that character from the first two parts turned up there again (especially the Swampling has too much of a fan-base to be neglected).

Now, finally, a new part has been produced. "Simon the Sorcerer 4" does still have 3D - but three-dimensional characters in adventures instead of the old 2D bitmaps are standard these days. Luckily they have returned to the old ways as far as the controls are concerned. Simon may still be in 3D, but he's controlled with mouse-clicks, just as the hero (if such the by now about 16 years old boy can be called) of an adventure should be.

I've just bought the game this Saturday - and it came out on Friday -, but what I've seen (not much, admittedly, currently I'm trying to outsmart a bridge-troll, but I spent most of the evening working on a new version of one of my websites) is good. I've already met Little Red Riding Hood who turns out to be a feminist brat with a skate board and - after I'd solved the puzzle - black base-cap instead of the red one.

There seems to be a second version of Simon around (and could this be a new trick Sordid is trying out?) who is everything the 'real' Simon isn’t: polite, friendly, helpful, reliable ... or - in the words of Alix who seems to have had a relationship with him - boring.

I just can't wait to learn more about the story of this new part of one of my favourite adventures (as the other are more or less dead, it seems). I'll return to saving the world in "Oblivion" later on.

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