“Maniac Manison, Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Full Throttle, your boys took one hell of a beating.”
Or rather they didn’t. But there is at least a pretender to the throne isn’t there? Simon for it is he who is a Sorcerer has returned for a second game. this one with added wardrobes. [Cue Long intro]
Elf/Ogre.. playing with magic, yadda yadda yadda,'Enchanted Wardrobe', yadda yadda yadda, Simon steps into it and gets transported to a different world, rescued by Wizard and his Granddaughter yadda yadda yadda and there you have the introduction to this adventure game.
So here we are a stranger in a strange land, wearing some natty clothes and a pointy hat shaped like a cone, and the game begins, in a redbrick port town. You have to your left a shop where the wizard and granddaughter live the middle has a road to the Castle and to the right a map of the rest of the town, including a Town Square, Docks, Muc Swampy’s and a Tattoo Parlour, you know, the usual everyday type of thing?
Your game world is presented to you with a series of colourful and well defined icons that allow you to investigate, talk, use, pick up and so on. The rest of the screen is a cartoon diorama depiction of the world you are in with the eponymous Simon being able to be moved by click of the mouse button and interact with the realm he has found himself in.The game is very large, or at least appears to be and there is much to do on the quest to do er, something ( I should have paid more attention to the start but was making a bacon sandwich and as a result wasn’t really 100% focused Hey I was hungry and yes, the sandwich was nice, thanks for asking) including interacting with other characters using a number of preset responses and solving some puzzles in order to get to the end of the game.
The game should be a great addition to the adventure genre, it has an easy interface plays well and has interesting graphics. So far so good you may think? Well so did I until I started playing it properly. Transpires that the game makes one of the most heinous crimes known to man as a way of saying thanks for playing, just what you need to endear it to you
The lead character is a complete and utter cretin. He has a much likable charm as dead cat left by the side of the road for a few weeks and then some. This is the main protagonist of the game and within the first few minutes of play has managed to annoy the Granddaughter with some awfully written flirting and belittled the Wizard who helped him from the wardrobe. It doesn’t get any better from there on in and a mere few minutes later Simon is slagging of some Morris Dancer’s for some well timed ‘hilarity’. Basically, Simon is horrible choice of character to carry a game and it spoils the experience.
From there on in you have a game which seems to be hell bent on using ‘humour and puzzles' to sort out what ever disaster has befallen the poor lil’ mite. An example of the ‘humour’ would be going to Muc Swampy’s and talking to a guy in an anorak who happens to look and act like Dwayne Dibbly out of Red Dwarf. All that was missing was the 'Polymorph Thermos' and you have got in made, because adventure games parodies are so (un)funny when they miss the subtleties? You then have the option of ‘gross’ food and the sound of people being sick in the toilets, it’s hilarious ‘Rolls Eyes’
By the time that Simon has reached The Docks and insulted a racially stereotyped African (because they are funny right??? Must have missed that memo?) who makes it so his Rain-Dance causes a lightening strike and rain to appear above Simon, in a well worn gag from the days of Looney Tunes or Merry Melodies, I’d near as damn it given up.
It’s hard to underestimate how hating your main character completely detracts from the game you want to play. I don’t care for him nor his quest, conversely, nor do I want to punch his lights out. He has the kind of stale heat that X-Pac would have been proud of during the Invasion angle in 2001 ( Wrestling reference, X-Pac was hated because of who he was, despite being a 'good guy' by default at the time, No one liked anything he did). This is not a good thing, and makes caring about the rest of the game difficult because you are loathed to carry on with Simon being the way he is no matter how good the rest of the game.
To be fair the rest of the game is good, well the graphics are good as are ‘some’ of the gags. The music is akin to having nails screeched down a chalkboard for the duration and luckily on the version of ScummVM I was playing this on there appeared to be no actual voices, something of a blessing if the other reviews are to be believed. Apparently It is like a Siren’s Wail but in reverse. Nice.
There are better examples out there, for example on interactions alone The Ur Quan Masters/ Star Control II has better exposition and silly humour, the Lucas Arts adventures have a much better experience as the lead characters are usually not insufferable like Simon, nor do they have as much head scratching: the puzzles are genuinely solvable without resorting to tearing your hair out in most of the other games, unlike this one.
Overall, Simon The Sorcerer II: The Lion, The Wizard and the Wardrobe to give it its full name, could have been something excellent. The creators have obviously put a lot of time and effort into it and it could have been so much better. A likable protagonist may well have saved it. It’s not as even as if Simon is showing teenage angst which would be okay given his age. Its non-stop from the get go and never seems to relent, something that will put many gamers off. Shame.