Simon 3D - (or why on earth
should I play this game?!?)
Alright - I know that this game has gotten some rough press. And I'll be
the first to admit - there is much truth to it.
The history of this game is a bit of a sad tale in gaming history and one
that makes one wonder why anyone in their right mind would ever develop
adventure games for a living.
Simon 1 and 2 from Adventure Soft are well regarded and have a highly
devoted following among any number of fans of our beloved genre. I
personally rate Simon 2 as one of the pure delights of classic games.
Rendered in old style 2D graphics, starring a 12 year old who's share of
sassy attitude and SA quips runs rampant.
To say that Simon 3 was eagerly anticipated is an understatement. When the
announcement was made - many a gamers heart was in a flutter of delight.
The first screens and story board sketches that were bandied about were
spectacular 2D rendered beauties. Yep, that's right, initially this game
was planned in full color, high end 2D. Now mind you we are talking quite
a while back.
An old interview with Quandary in 2000 shows the transition and conflict
clearly: Andrew Brazier, who was the assistant Designer on Simon 3D, spoke
in the interview about the development history of Simon the Sorcerer 3D,
"I was pretty gutted, especially as Simon Woodroffe (the lead designer)
and I had finished the entire design for the 2D version, and had begun
writing the script. When I think of the hours we toiled thinking up
puzzles, it seems a real shame to see it go metaphorically in the bin. In
retrospect though, it was probably the best thing for us, as we have now
made the transition to 3D which means we have more chance of getting
future games released. Unfortunately, 2D is pretty much dead now. The only
way we could make a 2D adventure nowadays is to fund it ourselves, which
is unlikely, especially as adventures are probably the most demanding
(resources-wise) games you can make." (source: Quandary)
So there you go - the birth of Simon Three 3D.
2 years later, several publishers, and ( according to web gossip) after a
great deal of strife between the developing team and the final
publisher...we have the game at issue.
Gee this sounds terrible you might say - why on earth would I want to even
think about playing this game? Because it's fun, because of Simon and well
Saying that - I will also add that this game will not appeal to everyone.
Not by a long shot. But lets get to that in a minute.
First ....... the story
In Simon 2 - we last saw our hero's body stolen by Sordid and his soul and
body severed. In Simon 3D we find a band of wizards and weird priests
endeavoring to re-unite Simon with his spirit. Sordid had returned and
quickly ditched Simon's mortal remains in favor of a robotic blue demonic
model more favored by evil Lord's of Darkness intent on seizing power over
the known universe.
In this game - Simon will be faced with new challenges, meet old allies
(most of whom he'd rather forget) and try to defeat Sordid or if not that
at least save the universe and perhaps find his way back home at last.
The characters in the Simon games, as with the Monkey Island series, are a
large part of their attractiveness to me as a gamer. No one was left out
in this latest Simon game and some very cool new ones were added. The
erstwhile vacuum salesman bereft of love and drowning his sorrows in the
hotel bar, the female member of the harem within a fanatic cult of wig
worshippers are but a few of the new endearing characters introduced. All
the old familiar faces are here as well; the demons, Calypso and others.
The ever present wood worms were manic and hysterical. Their segments in
the game were some of the funniest bits I have experienced. I haven't
loved such insanity as much since my last encounter with Murray the
talking skull. Woodworms of the world -unite!!
I will say that the strong devotion to character development was not
slighted in this game one bit. Another compelling reason to try this game.
Now the rub
Here is where many will just say forget it. The game has action arcade
bits, it has timed puzzles that make you want to burn your keyboard, it
has blocky polygon figured characters and keyboard controls. Yep you heard
the dreaded word here - keyboard controls.
Now you must be saying - OK now I really don't want to play this game. And
I have to say - if even the thought of keyboard controls makes your mouth
twitch - you shouldn't. If the idea of a timed puzzle makes you scream and
shout - nope - don't go near this game.
HOWEVER, if you can handle the interface, it really isn't that hard. If
you can accept that there are 3 or 4 puzzles that you just might have to
throw in the towel and grab a 12 year old to do them (I did ) or holler
for a saved game for that small part (I have them) and if you love SA
dialogue, snotty comebacks, hysterical gags and pithy rants - then this is
a game for you.
If you want to enjoy some truly innovative puzzles and gaming situations -
then you have to give this game a whirl. If you think you have seen every
ending possible and want to learn that you are wrong - then play this
game. It has hands down the most clever - think so far outside the box
you'll be stunned, ending puzzles I have ever encountered. I was truly
charmed and thrilled with it. In fact I had to go through it several times
and have all my kids try it - just to catch the WOW look on their faces.
The game loaded well enough on my system which is a now outdated PIII500,
WN8SE, SB128, Nvidea 3D card with 32MB of video memory.
I did encounter loading errors when I stopped and started the game
frequently (which was quite a bit) Thank you Mr. Bill's message board as I
wouldn't have made it through the game without the hints plastered all
over the place. No one here at Boomers was playing it really when I first
got the game. All I had to do when those cropped up was to exit and reload
my save. Worked fine after that. There are also some glitches that crop up
in a couple of places when you go there way too early in the game. Notably
the church tower. Being practical I would just restart and not go to a
place where I had a problem and it worked fine later in the game. Actually
the clock tower was the only place this happened to me. Other than those
problems the game ran relatively well.
Graphics, sound and other such stuff
Well what can I say. Simon three 2D would have been wondrous. But it's
3D. One you get to roam anywhere and everywhere, two it's good that the
phone booths are present for instant teleportation cause you can run
around a whole whole lot without them. There is also later in the game a
rainbird that you can ride around on during the day that is a lot of fun.
The figures as to be expected with older 3D imaging are polygon looking
and blocky. The facial expressions though are quite good and Simon has a
wide range of expressions that work well with the various dialogues.
This brings me to another of the games true strong points. The voice
talent. They were all quite good. Since one of the key charms of this game
was the dialogue and rants - it was a real pleasure to listen to the
characters. Be it Swampling, Simon, Calypso or the woodworms. Great voice
The music was not overbearing or badly done. Just a pleasant back drop for
the game play. Ambient sounds and such were also nicely done.
There are a lot of reasons for gamers to skip this game or put it on a
back burner for leaner times. However if the keyboard controls, actiony
bits and such doesn't scare you - I think overall you will be glad you
didn't miss this game. There's a lot of wonder in it and genuine fun for
those intrepid gamers who dare the challenge of Simon 3D.
Review Grade: C
copyright © 2004