When people think of fairy tales, they tend to envision beautiful princesses, charming princes, and happily-ever-afters. Simon the Sorcerer, a classic PC adventure originally released in 1993 and now offered as a download at GoG.com, crushes these stereotypes with all the wit and cynicism of true comedic genius as our poor hero tries to rescue a wizard and find his way back home while dealing with split-personality trolls, Rapunzel turned Repulser, and various suspected copyright infringements.
Our story begins with a young, teenaged boy named Simon. It’s his birthday, and a scruffy canine friend has mysteriously arrived at his home with a book in his mouth filled with magic. Discarding the book carelessly, a portal opens. Simon enters, only to find himself smack in the middle of a food-summoning ceremony by a horde of trolls and goblins! Thanks to his new furry companion, Simon escapes without injury, and the two find themselves in a cozy medieval cottage. Simon discovers a note left to him by the grand wizard, Calypso, pleading with Simon to save him from the evil sorcerer, Sordid. Simon’s free to use Calypso’s Spellbooke, but he’ll have to become a wizard first! And so the arduous adventure begins.
Being an older game, Simon the Sorcerer uses an older style of contros. However, it does not take long to get used to it. On the main screen are a series of commands Simon can use on his adventure, such as Walk in, Talk to, Give, Use, Pick up, etc. To use a command, one must click one of the above options, and then the corresponding object they’d like to interact with. For example: Walk to, and Behind Cottage, to get Simon to walk behind the cottage. Or Consume, and then Stew, to make Simon eat a bowl of stew.
The point and click nature of the game and the inability to get a "Game Over" makes the game very relaxing to interact with. Furthermore, a time-saving map warp system is implemented into the game to minimize backtracking: one of the greatest fears of any adventure gamer. Simon can also pick up and store items in his inventory for later use. The inventory has no size limit.
Another notable feature is the fact that Simon the Sorcerer doesn’t use a linear story system. In other words, the quests and tasks in the game can oftentimes be played in any order, leaving the gamers options open and the personal experience of each very unique. The game also features a variety of optional answers for Simon to reply with when in a dialogue with another character, leaving the option open to either be very linear and cooperative with responses, or exceptionally comical and sometimes even rude.
By far, the most enjoyable aspect of Simon the Sorcerer is its humor. The game references many classic fairy tales, such as The Three Billygoats Gruff and Rapunzel, concepts, and fantasy stories, such as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. But above all, Simon the Sorcerer boasts an unparalleled amount of wit and clever responses, combined with a comedic timing that often caught us laughing off guard and chuckling to ourselves that we’ve yet to see done so cleverly in another game.
The backgrounds and environments are masterfully matched with their music, all of the above being wonderfully colorful and cheery. Yet Simon does have some flaws. Being originally released in 1993, the game isn’t terribly innovative compared to the titles of today, and graphics are 2D, outdated and pixelly. Objects meant for inventory can be difficult to find due to this visual setback.
If you download the game from GoG.com, two versions are available: one has full audio with spoken dialogue, and the other has subtitles.
With occasional mild language and mature themes, the game might not be suitable for very young players.
However, Simon the Sorcerer is a title that could easily be replayed and revisited with all the fun and enjoyment as playing it the first time through. The non-linear form of gameplay and the wide variety of responses provide a strong replay value, despite the fact the game has no additional mini-games or bonus material once completed. For a much older title, Simon does an incredible job of standing strong and holding it’s own with a very good difficulty level and a very good length of gameplay, paralleling core-games of its time, if not exceeding them.
Without a doubt, anyone who enjoys a bit of cynical humor and a good adventure game, despite the rusticness, will have a blast with Simon. While it might not be terribly appealing to people who have grown accustomed to the new innovative nature of casual gaming and their crystal-clear graphics and smoothness, anyone who’s played an "old school" game will appreciate this one. Simon the Sorcerer is certainly a game that returns back to the true roots of the adventure genre.