Simon the Sorcerer
|Simon the Sorcerer|
The box art for the Amiga 1200 release.
|Producer(s)||Mike Woodroffe, Alan Bridgman|
|Series||Simon the Sorcerer|
|Platform(s)||Amiga, Amiga CD32, MS-DOS, RISC OS, iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows|
Simon the Sorcerer is a point-and-click adventure game developed and published by Adventure Soft in 1993 for Amiga and MS-DOS formats. The first instalment in the Simon the Sorcerer series, the game follows a boy named Simon, who is transported to a parallel universe to embark on a mission to rescue a wizard called Calypso from an evil sorcerer named Sordid. The story includes parodies of works such as The Lord of the Rings and Jack and the Beanstalk.
The game was inspired by works such as the Discworld series, and the character of Simon was created to compete with the characters of such works. The character was modelled on characters including Blackadder. Simon the Sorcerer was well received, with reviewers praising the humour and graphics. The game was re-released on CD, featuring voice-overs, with Simon being voiced by Chris Barrie. Ports for iOS and Android were released in 2009 and 2013 respectively, and the game was released on GOG.com in 2008. The second instalment in the series, Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe, was released in 1995.
A boy called Simon was celebrating his 12th birthday, and was impressed by a magician who pulled rabbits out of hats and conjuring infinite amounts of gaily coloured handkerchiefs. A dog wrapped in paper turned up at the door, who had a book that nobody was able to read. Although Simon's parents were unaware of who had sent the dog, they adopted him and Simon called him Chippy. The book was stored in the loft. One day, Simon hears Chippy in the loft. Investigating, Simon finds that the book is titled "Ye Olde Spellbooke". Simon throws the book onto the floor in contempt, only for a portal to open above it. Chippy quickly goes through the portal and Simon follows, ending up in another world. After escaping from some goblins who intended to eat Simon, he quickly discovers a house in a village belonging to a wizard called Calypso, along with a note from him. Through it, Simon learns he was brought to this world to save Calypso from the evil sorcerer, Sordid.
Instructed to become a wizard, Simon is told to seek out wizards in the local tavern,. He performs tasks for various people, recovering the spell book he lost, as well as locating Sordid's tower. After, gaining entry, he ends up in the tower's garden. Searching the tower, Simon helps to send some demons back to hell, and uses a teleporter to take him to the Fiery Pits of Rondor, so as to destroy Sordid's wand. Simon defeats him, and is sent back to his world. Although he assumes he had a dream, a portal opens in his bedroom, and a large gloved hand appears, taking him back through it.
As a point-and-click adventure game, the player controls Simon using the mouse. The iOS and Android versions feature touch-screen controls. Gameplay involves moving Simon around and interacting with objects and other characters. The player can make Simon perform actions such as giving an item to another character, talk to another character, and pick up (add to inventory), examine, use, move, consume, wear, or open or close an item. Some actions are binary: they involve two objects and the player sometimes, after telling Simon to use an item, needs to specify what to use it with. A map that enables Simon to instantly transport to a major landmark (if it has been discovered) is provided. The postcard is used to load, save, or quit the game.
The game includes parodies of various popular books and fairy tales, including Rapunzel, The Lord of the Rings, Discworld, The Chronicles of Narnia, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Development and release
Mike Woodroffe, Simon the Sorcerer's director and producer, wanted to create the game to exploit a market for comic adventure games, which he realised existed due to the success of The Secret of Monkey Island II. His son, Simon, penned the script. He was inspired by Terry Pratchett (AdventureSoft originally intended to make a Discworld game, but were unable to obtain a licence), and he and his father hoped that he would become involved with the game. Although he chose not to become involved, the script still contained much original humour. Many scenes are based on fairy tales, and the Wise Owl was modelled on Patrick Moore. Woodroffe said that AdventureSoft (then known as HorrorSoft) had done enough horror games and wanted to try a comedy game. The change in genre prompted the name change.
Simon Woodroffe explained that the character of Simon was a mixture of Blackadder, Rincewind, and Guybrush, and that he was originally intended to be a trainee wizard, similar to Harry Potter. He also explained that he was invented because they needed a character to compete with characters such as Rincewind, and that the game was inspired by the Discworld books and Monkey Island. Mike Woodroffe said that the game was inspired by Dungeons & Dragons' magic stories. The character was invented during a journey on the M5 motorway, and was not named after Woodroffe. The name "Simon the Sorcerer" had that format because of the magical nature of the character, and because other names, such as "Willy The Wizard", were rejected because they were disliked. Simon the Sorcerer was developed by a team of 15 people. There was an effort to be British so as to distinguish themselves from the humour of Monkey Island. Simon Woodroffe stated that his greatest challenges were the script creation and puzzle design, and he tuned the scripts continuously. The world was created for the characters rather than the puzzles, and the story was wrapped around characters the team liked. Woodroffe believed that AdventureSoft were able to rival more experienced studios due to their small team, all of whom ad the same goals and passion for the game.
Alan Brigman was the technical director and co-producer. He and Mike Woodroffe developed a game creation system, Adventure Graphic Operating System (AGOS) II, which facilitated the development of Simon the Sorcerer and enabled the team to focus on the gameplay and story without worrying about the technical aspects. The system allowed the developers to input text commands on a separate monitor, and the engine could be ported to other platforms. Other features of the engine included translating actions performed by the mouse into text commands (a sentence parser carries them out), the loading of data as-needed, and functions could be implemented by the simple addition of commands. The game was built as a database, which contained tables for rooms and objects. These tables contained animation code and information about what is supposed to happen. Alan Cox was also involved in the development of the AGOS engine, which is based on AberMUD.
The art was developed by Paul Drummond, Kevin Preston, Maria Drummond, Jeff Wall, and Karen Pinchin. This team were based at a studio in Manchester, rather than Birmingham, the central studio. Their work included character animations, developed in Autodesk Animator using its language POCO, which the graphics tools were built in. The artwork (including the sprites) was made as a selection of clips, and a final image was formed by pasting them together. The ability to use clips in multiple locations, and the colour information being stored separately and used on an as--needed basis meant that the art took much less space than was usual. The background artwork was sketched in black and white, and then scanned into a computer and colourised. The music is credited to Media Sorcery.
Simon the Sorcerer, was released on floppy disk in 1993 for the Amiga and IBM PC compatibles. It was re-released in 1994 for the Amiga CD32, featuring an enhanced soundtrack. It was also released on PC CD-ROM, featuring Chris Barrie as the voice of Simon. Simon Woodroffe stated that he had Barrie in mind when writing the scripts, and that it was easier for him to do so when thinking of an actor he knew speaking the lines. It cost around £3000 per day to hire Barrie. Woodroffe said that there was "no hesitation" in doing a talkie version, and that it was "the next big thing". Simon the Sorcerer used the visual and interface designs from LucasArts' games, and Woodroffe stated that this was because they had set a standard, and that Adventure Soft's focus was humour and story-telling.
The PC version was later ported to Microsoft Windows. The game was published in the United States by Activision. A patch was released, fixing compatibility issues with Windows ME, 2000, and XP. Simon the Sorcerer was released on GOG.com in December 2008. In 2009, the game was re-released for the iPhone by iPhSoft. A new version titled '20th Anniversary Edition' developed by MojoTouch and released for Android in August 2013. This version featured new animations and icons, remastered music, high-definition graphics, and new game menus. A sequel, Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe, was released in 1995.
Simon the Sorcerer received critical acclaim: across all platforms, the humour and visuals in particular were commended, although criticisms included the controls and the game's linear nature.
The Amiga version received generally high ratings. CU Amiga praised the high quality graphics and how much fun the game was to play. Amiga Computing's Simon Clays also praised the graphics and the locations, saying the locations' stylisation made the game resemble a fairy tale. He also enjoyed the puzzles and detail in the game. The One's reviewer said the graphics are "excellent", but believed the music did not take full advantage of the Amiga's sound hardware. A reviewer of Génération 4 thought the Amiga version's graphics are "magnificent".
The CD32 version was noted for its speech. CU Amiga's Dean Evans was impressed with "sumptuous" backgrounds and the animation, and believed the main selling point was the digitised speech, especially Chris Barrie as Simon. Jonathan Nash of Amiga Power liked the "gorgeous" graphics, but thought the dialogue was annoying, and he also criticised the puzzles as "spread thinly over the pointlessly large playing area". The reviewer of Amiga CD32 Gamer was impressed with the soundtrack, describing it as "top notch", and thought the story had plenty of wit. The main criticism was the scenes downplaying interaction, making the comedy linear. The One's reviewer corroborated others' views on the graphics, believing them to be "stunning", and also believed the atmosphere was augmented by the speech. Chris Barrie as Simon was believed by Amiga Computing to "greatly enhance" the game by giving the speech a new appeal. Amiga Format's reviewer criticised the controls, believing the controller's limitations would make players "an insane hysterical gibbering wreck", but complimented the addition of speech, and echoed others' opinions on the graphics by calling them "beautiful". In a later review, Andy Smith believed that Barrie's voice acting livened the humour, and concurred with Evans' evaluation of the graphics as "sumptuous", but said that it was difficult to get the game working on an Amiga 1200.
Reviewers of the DOS and Windows versions praised the humour and dialogue. The reviewers of Génération 4 described the adventure as "excellent", and believed Simon the Sorcerer might be the most amusing and idiosyncratic adventure game. Computer Gaming World stated that the "wacky, tongue-in-cheek interactiv fantasy ... features a rich world of tasty puzzles designed to test the wits of the most astute adventurer while keeping the humor dial turned up to the max". Jeuxvideo.com described the characters' dialogue as "crazy" and praised the abundance of humour, but they believed the adventure is over too quickly. Their review of the Amiga version was identical. Tawny Ditmer of Gamezebo lauded the story as "hilarious" and the scenery and music as "colorful and cheery", but criticised the graphics for being outdated, as well as the lack of side-quests. The script and dialogue were praised as "fantastic" by Rob Franklin of Adventure Gamers, and complimented Chris Barrie's "brilliant" voice acting, but criticised the plot for being vague. He recommended the game for fans of adventure games and British humour. Zoltán Ormándi of Adventure Classic Gaming thought highly or the puzzles' originality and Simon's humour. He claimed that the game's popularity caused a term, "Simonology" to be coined describing the humour of an adventure's protagonist. GameRankings states the PC version has a rating of 86 per cent. The reviewer of Joystick liked the decoration, animation, and characters.
Paul Marchant of Pocket Gamer reviewed the iPhone version, and said that it was the game he liked, rather than the iPhone implementation, but thought the game a "classic" and described the dialogue as "original". Damian Chiappara of AppSpy believed the iOS version's graphics are improved over the original, and liked the "quirky" humour, but thought that it can take time for players to familiarise themselves with its controls. The iPad and Android versions appeared on Pocket Gamer's Top 10 point-and-click adventure games for their respective platforms.
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It's an essential buy.
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