Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adventure of the Week: Simon the Sorcerer (1993)

This week I'm finally getting around to playing a well-regarded if not terribly familiar British point-and-click adventure game -- Simon the Sorcerer, published in 1993 by AdventureSoft for the PC and Amiga.  This is a contemporary effort in the Lucasarts style, with lots of incidental animation and full voice-acting, designed by Simon Woodroffe with a bit of Enchanter and Monkey Island influence.

I'm surprised this game isn't better known in the States -- it's well-written and often quite funny, with deeply nested puzzles, colorful characters and decent performances including Chris Barrie as young Simon.  The background artwork is really beautiful, calling to mind the best of the Amiga era but in 256-color VGA, with Paul Drummond and his team using limited colors and more shades to produce some very nice effects.  The style permits plenty of detail and puts most of the Sierra adventures' painted-and-scanned art to shame, and Kevin Preston's animation of Simon is full of personality.  The puzzle design is a little rough around the edges -- too many potential solutions aren't really acknowledged as such, and object hunting is often the primary requirement -- but the story is fun and well plotted.

I always encourage interested readers to play these games before reading my comments -- Simon the Sorcerer is fun to play, and more importantly it's not at all hard to come by.  It's still available commercially directly from AdventureSoft and also from www.gog.com, and it can be run on many modern platforms using the ScummVM interpreter.  Beyond this point, be advised that I will be documenting my experience from beginning to end, and there are certain to be...

**** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

After an opening and amusing credits sequence in which our 14-year-old hero Simon tries and fails to pull off an impressive array of hat-based magic tricks, his dog Chippy lures him into opening an old spell book, creating a warp that takes us into a magical land where Simon finds himself on the verge of becoming dinner for some goblins.

After a timely rescue by Chippy, Simon finds himself in a magician's home where a note has been left -- he is asked to rescue the good sorcerer Calypso from the evil Sordid, but must first become a wizard by consulting the wizards in a nearby tavern.  Simon acquires a magic postcard for saving and restoring, and a map permitting convenient fast-travel around the game's world as major landmarks are discovered.  We also learn that the dog actually belongs to Calypso, which explains a few things about the plot to this point.

There's a visible and audible Monkey Island influence here -- the music and the general style of the game and character animation call that classic to mind, but that isn't a bad thing and this one has a distinctly British character.  Unlike Guybrush Threepwood, Simon is a reluctant hero, none too happy to be stuck here in this magical land and forced to run errands hither and yon; some of the most memorable humor comes from his breaking the fourth wall to comment on the absurdities of the genre.

Calypso's fridge is stuck shut, but we can obtain a pair of scissors from the drawer in his desk.  A tapestry on the wall features strange symbols that we can't apparently make any sense of yet, so it's time to go out and explore the world.

A muscular blacksmith to the east is beating a red-hot implement on his anvil; he's too engrossed in his work for conversation, and the forge door behind him is locked.

Near a pond with geese swimming in it, a dodgy geezer is peddling his wares -- "priceless" figurines, one gold piece per.  He also has a supposed strength potion and an illusory invisibility amulet, neither of which really seem to work or can actually be purchased; we can also try to sell him any of Simon's possessions, though he doesn't seem interested in any of them.

A general store run by a two-headed punk shopkeeper suffers at the hands of its argumentative proprietor(s), from whom Simon can try to get information about Sordid, Carmen Miranda (apparently a Carmen Sandiego joke), and the square root of 1369.  The shop has cake, cosmetics, beans, corn, flour, and many other items for sale.  It should be a good source for ingredients later, but we have no reason or ability to buy anything just now.

The Drunken Druid is reputedly the local wizard hangout, populated by the standard fantasy world characters.  We can talk to a pair of nubile Valkyries to gain some information about Sordid -- they are here to battle him too -- and the Tower -- someone called the Druid may be able to help.  We can also try Simon's worst pickup lines, to no positive effect aside from learning there's an armorer in Northgate.  The barman is enjoying the business boost provided by all the Sordid-hunting heroes coming to town, and apparently disappearing without a trace; Simon can order a Wet Wizard, but the bar is short on sparrow juice; similar ingredient issues afflict the Warlock Surprise and the Cool Red Witch.  While he's distracted looking for ingredients, we can try to access his taps, but at the moment we have nothing to put any ill-gotten Guinness into.

The Wizards are hanging out in a back room, though they are pretending to be farmers when Simon asks until he tells them that his mouse pointer indicates they are "Wizards."  They won't give him any information because he's not a wizard, yet; he can become one by bringing the wizards a magical staff with a crystal sphere on the end, hidden somewhere in the area.
A lovely garden path outside the village leads into a dark forest with paths that lead to quite a few new locations and characters.  Some termites (it sounds like) are looking for spare wood... ah, they are woodworms, living in an old stump.  A wolf is lurking in another part of the woods, though he proves to be just another harmless animation of the local fauna, and to the southwest Simon finds a thatched hut with a deep well.  Inside Simon finds a locked trunk, a spinning wheel, a Jack-o'-lantern, a cauldron full of smelly green stuff, and a broom, amid other witchy paraphernalia.

A bridge is guarded by a troll, where billy goats read an obviously scripted scenario that we gather has played out many times previously.  The troll is tired of the gig and wants to eat one of his employers for spite, but he doesn't dislike them personally, so he's just going on strike.  He wants satisfaction but isn't very clear about what that means -- apparently he wants stewed goat to eat.

A tough-looking barbarian is distressed and momentarily disabled by a thorn stuck in his foot -- removing it earns Simon a whistle he can use to summon him if needed.  This is one of those areas where the game's design falters a little bit -- there seem to be many situations where it might be applicable, but only one really matters, and when we get to that point we will find that the whistle's role is handled automatically in a cutscene.

Other characters set up some other puzzles which we won't be able to deal with just yet.  A Sousaphone player doesn't sound very musical, blocking Simon's progress with his infernal noise.  A paleontological dig in progress is cordoned off, though Simon can talk to the paleontologist from above the hole he is digging.  He's looking for the missing link between man and vegetable -- allowing a quick Dan Quayle joke -- so if we find a fossil he will be interested.

Only dwarves are allowed into the Dwarf Mine.  A foreboding cave leads to the tree-trunk home of a talking salamander-like creature, the Swampling, who is very happy to have company at his unattended birthday party.  There is disgusting swamp stew on the fire, which Simon is forced to eat by the hospitable creature, though he can't quite keep it down. 

A snowy landscape past the Swampling's place features a large, ugly barbarian statue, a wizard statue, and a sleeping giant near a large tree that we could probably use his help knocking down to make a bridge.  A woodcutter is frustrated by the local trees who seem to be resisting his efforts to harvest them; he needs a Milrith axe (which he freely admits is an anagram of Mithril) and gives Simon a metal detector to use in seeking out this rare ore.

Large daunting doors adorn a dungeon-like cave; we can't open them, but a piece of paper tucked under a rock appears to be a shopping list for the shop in town.  A sacrificial table is apparently for shaved lions?  I never found out what this was for, and in fact only found my way there once; it's used as the setting for Simon's prologue encounter with the hungry goblins and appears to serve no purpose in-game, though it would be odd if we never saw it again during Simon's travels.

A wise owl isn't very, or at least he can't remember what it is he might want Simon to do.  But some conversation gets him to remember he is an astrologer, and he can give Simon some vague but genuinely useful hints -- for example, that dwarves love drinking beer.

Taking the shopping list to the shop produces a bundle of supplies, eventually; we won't see them for quite a while.  Exploring parts of town we didn't see before, we find a ladder that Simon can magically tuck away into the inventory stored in his amazingly capacious wizard's hat, and a wagon wheel that is too large to carry around for some reason.
Inside a building with some manner of alchemy in progress, we can pick up a specimen jar "for invertebrates," so we will have to see if we can use it to do something with the woodworms.  There's also an inanimate and non-portable papier-mache moose head mounted on the wall, another red herring in a game chock-full of them.

A cottage has a chocolate truffle door, locked, and an occupied beehive Simon won't go near.  We can pick up a metal bell clapper from the Blacksmith's shop, I didn't notice that before.

Wandering around and trying to use the metal detector in various places produces no immediate result.  But in the snowy area, we can use it, to find some buried milrith beneath the snow.  Unfortunately Simon doesn't seem to have any way to dig it up at the moment, but the metal detector is left behind as a useful marker.

We can try to steal the witch's broom, causing her to appear and threaten the thieving Simon.  She throws him out, but if he returns, she will challenge him to a wizards' duel -- the stakes being her broom versus his life -- but she won't really engage him until he becomes a proper wizard.

Simon can use the specimen jar to "pocket" some of the swampling's stew, exhausting the supply so that it has to go out looking for more ingredients, taking its net and bucket with it, unfortunately.  But we can move the heavy wooden crate in the corner to discover a trapdoor.  Below is a wooden walkway through the swamp, but it has a loose plank so Simon can't just stroll across it.  At least we now have a jar full of revolting swamp gunk, should we need such a thing.

We can pull a bucket of water up from the witch's well by turning the handle.  We can visit the troll bridge again -- the striking troll is intrigued by the whistle around Simon's neck, and if we let him have a go, the barbarian shows up and throws him into the stream.  Simon can take the troll's strike placard, reading Equal Rites [sic] for Trolls, though I never found a use for it.

We can also access some new locations now -- an oaf is frustrated with his non-growing magic beans, and Simon can water them with the bucket from the witch's place, but nothing seems to happen.  A strong tower with a wooden door features a clapperless bell, easy enough to fix with the Blacksmith's clapper -- a female voice replies, "What the hell do you want?" and nearly knocks Simon out with her ropelike tresses flung down from above.


Climbing the hair allows Simon to introduce himself; the princess, half-hidden behind a dressing screen, was kidnapped as a young piglet (?) and held captive in this tower, and she can only be cured by a kiss from someone from another dimension.  Simon's kiss transforms her back into a proper pig ("Repulser," get it?) and he stuffs her in his hat.  We can pick up some leftover beans if we go back to where the oaf was; nothing appears to have grown in the meanwhile.

It feels like time to see what we might have missed.  The Sousaphone player still sounds awful; he's not really blocking the way, as we can go around him the long way once the bridge troll is cleared, but we can't go past him from either direction.  We have nothing the peddler is interested in yet; we can pick up some rope at the blacksmith's, and there's a magnet stuck to the fridge door in Calypso's cottage.  There's a pile of magical compost behind the cottage, and some apparently removable floorboards in Repulser's tower.

There's a gorge where Simon can see "someone fishing down there."  We can combine the rope and magnet, but can't do anything with it here.  We can pick up a feather near the Wise Owl, and... nope, we can't use it to make the sleeping Giant sneeze.  We can, however, use the pig to devour the chocolate truffle door on the strange cottage.  There's a smokebox inside -- the equivalent of a giant joint for bees -- and a beekeeper's protective gear.  We need some means of lighting the smokebox, though.

The game tends toward a lot of "That doesn't work" where it seems like a possibility exists -- putting the ladder down the well, or giving it to the woodworms, or trying to light the smokebox using various stoves and candles in the game -- which makes the design seem a little threadbare or under-playtested at times.  At least the magical map saves on shoe leather, making it relatively quick to get around and experiment.

We can use the scissors on the dwarf in the tavern to steal his beard, then wear it to get into the Dwarves' mine... except we also need a password.  We can grow the magic beans in the magical compost in back of Calypso's cottage to get hold of a magical watermelon, which we can stuff into the musician's Sousaphone to shut him up.  Simon promises to get it repaired in an hour, and adds it to his inventory.  And now we can blow the Sousaphone to wake the sleeping giant -- only briefly, but long enough for him to stir and casually knock a nearby tree down, creating a bridge over the ravine.

Crossing the bridge, we find a third statue, a smaller one of a pygmy warrior woman.  There's also a cave with a sign: "Warning: Spontaneously Combustible Substance."  Inside is a dragon with a cold, who warns Simon that his breath is not completely under control before blowing him out of the cave, covered in ash but not fatally burned (Simon never dies in the game, though he is often knocked around a bit.)  We can't seem to get close enough to the dragon to use the feather or light the smokebox, or try to take the nearby fire extinguisher, or talk to the creature.  We can't get another bucket of water to throw on him from the witch's well, for some reason.  There's a boulder above the entrance to the dragon's cave, but Simon can't seem to use the ladder with it; it's "too dangerous" without further elaboration.

The owl's hints tell us that there's a magic ring in the river, but we can't seem to use the magnet and string with the gorge to go fishing.  Walkthrough time?  ACK -- there's a book of matches on top the fruit machine in the tavern, my casual pixel-hunting missed those entirely.  With the matches, we can light the smokebox, smoke out the bees and obtain some beeswax from the hive.

Being more observant now, we see some suspicious herbs in the cottage where Simon found the specimen jar earlier.  He can't reach them, from the landing at the top of the stairs or with the ladder, so this seems to be here to facilitate a subtle marijuana joke. 

There's also a cold remedy on a table here, so perhaps we should go see the dragon.  We can toss the cold remedy in, and he goes to sleep so we can acquire the fire extinguisher.  There are gold coins strewn around too, but Simon is unwilling to risk taking any with the dragon sleeping in the midst of the hoard.

A rock near the Dwarf Mine has writing on it -- it reads "beer," which does indeed turn out to be the password.  Inside the mine is a busy dwarf at a desk who doesn't want to talk, and a sleeping dwarf "guard" who nevertheless will not let Simon pass.  He seems amenable to a bribe, and there's a bottle on the desk, but we can't take it with us to try to fill it somewhere.  There are a bunch of empty bottles in the keg room downstairs, but Simon doesn't want empty ones -- another possible solution that is the wrong tree up which to be barking.

I missed a whole path behind the dragon's cave for the longest time -- here we find an "interesting rock" with a fossil in the middle of it.  We can't give the dwarf rock to the paleontologist laboring in his hole, but we can give the fossil to him -- except now he wants Simon to take the fossil out of the rock.  We can put it on the blacksmith's anvil to extract the fossil of a shelled creature -- now excited, the paleontologist plans to head to the Craggy Peaks to investigate further.  Hopefully we'll be able to get him to help us dig up some mithril there... and yes, we find him already deep in a new hole, and some milrith ore has been tossed aside.

Giving the ore to the woodcutter directly doesn't work; we can get the blacksmith to fashion an axe out of it, if we let him keep the leftover metal.  Giving the woodcutter the mithril axe-head sends him off to try his luck with the resistant trees, and Simon is now free to explore his tree-trunk home.  A mountain-climbing pin here looks potentially useful.

Exploring some more in the dragon's cave area finds a series of climbing pins inserted in a Gigeresque cliff face, with one obvious gap Simon can close.  On the other side we find an evil-looking snowman, whom we can talk to to learn that "You shall not pass."  We'll have to find some way to dispose of this obstacle.  We can go a different route in this area to find a tree with a splodge of pink spray paint on it -- a talking tree, as matters develop.  The tree knows some magic words, but is unsure what they do; Simon is interested, but the tree wants the paint removed so the woodcutter won't chop him down.  The tree suggests some white spirit from the shop in the village would do the job; it looks like Simon will need one of the dragon's gold coins to buy it.

We can extinguish the woodcutter's fireplace fire with the extinguisher, revealing a hook over the fireplace, to no immediate purpose.  I needed a hint to learn that if we move the hook, an elevator takes us downstairs to the woodcutter's cellar, where we can pick up some fine mahogany (Simon is allergic to oak, teak, Boeotian cherrywood, and all the other available options, so this is our only choice if we've forgotten that the woodworms settled on mahogany in an earlier conversation.)

Finding the woodworms again took me a little doing as it's not immediately adjacent to any of the magic map's landmarks; we can't give the mahogany to the tree stump, or use it with it, but talking to it causes all the woodworms to move happily into the mahogany stored in Simon's inventory hat ("Damn sight better than that bloody stump!")

Simon the Sorcerer often gives us unusual items with no apparent purpose; it's a nested series of puzzles, though often the solution or key elements of it turns up before the related puzzle becomes apparent.  Can we use the woodworms on the floorboards in Repulser's tower? Yep -- Simon drops down to ground level, where the woodworms drill another hole in the wooden floor as Simon wisely steps away.  There's nothing to do here, and we can't get the tower door open from this side either.  (This seems like a potential sticking point in a game that seems fairly forgiving otherwise, as if we don't have the ladder it appears Simon can't get out of this area.)  Simon is left with a wedge of mahogany after this event, another red herring as nothing ever needs to be wedged that I could discover.

The bottom level of Repulser's tower features an engraved stone sarcophagus, which Simon can open to find some bandages... a mummy, actually, who scares Simon right out the door he couldn't open earlier.  Apparently Simon needs to be a full-fledged wizard to deal with this situation as well?  We can't use matches to ignite the mummy, but the bandaged walking corpse appears to be carrying the staff Simon needs to deliver to the wizards.  Ah -- there's a Loose Bandage on the back side of the mummy that we can Pick up to unravel him, Scooby Doo style.

So at last Simon is off to see the wizards!  And now, Simon is a wizard... as soon as he pays the subscription fee, 30 gold pieces.

It's walkthrough time again for me -- ah, we can get down into the gorge where we earlier saw a fisherperson, by clicking on some vines in the very lower left-hand corner of the screen.  (I think I might have had an easier time if I'd played this adventure in full-screen 320x240 resolution, but it's easier to make notes for these posts if I run it in a smaller window.) The fisherman turns out to be Golum, a non-copyright-infringing man in a costume, here for the annual Tolkien Appreciation Society meeting.  He's fishing in a fruitless attempt to come up with lunch for the gathering; Simon can give him the Swamp Stew, via a dialogue option, to provide lunch for the group, earning use of the fishing rod in return. Simon spends quite some time fishing, pulling up lots of junk before finding The Ring and verifying its invisibility-conferring power.  Oddly, we can't Use Vines to climb back up, but we can just walk to them and climb up.

With The Ring, we... can't get the Dragon's gold coins, or sneak past the guard in the Dwarf Mine, or get past the Snowman in the mountains; Simon refuses to use it in these situations which seem perfectly suited to a little invisibility.  Hmmmm.  What else?  Can we steal some beer from the tavern while the bartender is distracted?  I never found out, because on the way there we see that the supplies we ordered earlier from the shop in town have been packaged.  If we Open the box, Simon climbs into it and then puts the ring on for invisibility after it gets delivered to a storeroom in the Goblins' enclave.  Somehow Simon's spell book has ended up here, and a paper with scribbled notes suggest someone has been trying to use it.  The door to the storeroom is locked, but it's the traditional old key-in-lock-on-other-side-of-door routine -- a rat bone on the floor is used to push the key out, slipping the paper under the door before doing so catches it.

We can pick up a metal slops bucket with a hole in the side, and go downstairs to a torture chamber, where the village Druid is manacled to a rack.  He believes Simon is in league with the forces of evil and threatens him with unnamed (and apparently unrealizable) consequences.  We can pick up some mints on the floor, which apparently have warming-up properties if we try to Consume them.  We also see an Iron Maiden and red-hot Sharp Things there, as well as a large sealed door and some metal bars.  Simon can pick up a flaming brand; removing The Ring gets the Druid to recognize that Simon is a young boy, but he still thinks he's being deceived.  Simon has to pass a trial -- after talking the Druid out of the more severe silver-dagger-in-the-heart test -- by putting the Druid's silver cross against his forehead.  Simon reacts with a shriek, but only because the metal is cold, and the Druid is convinced.

The escape plan takes shape -- the Druid can change into a frog, under the light of the full moon, which seems a tall order.  We will probably have to solve this with items available here, just for the sake of design.  I tried a lot of items before finding out that we can put the bucket with a hole int he side on the Druid's head, and then shine the flaming brand through the hole.  This seems to be close enough for the purpose -- the Druid transforms and hops off through the bars to get help, while Simon finds the ring has expired and must hide in the Iron Maiden.  Some goblin guards burst in, and eventually leave; days pass, and Simon emerges as the Druid frog returns with a hacksaw.  This was quite a little side quest to retrieve the spell book and some breath mints!

The mints can't be used to warm up the Snowman, apparently.  But the feather that was no good against the sleeping giant works on the sleeping dwarf in the mine's beer cavern, causing him to flip over and reveal an ornate key, though no obvious lock suggests itself.  Back at the tavern, we can plug the beer barrel's tap with the beeswax.  The barman takes the apparently empty barrel outside and gives Simon a leaflet promoting the Happy Hour special, ale for 1 GP per mug, with a free beer voucher attached.  Underage Simon can't just wear the beard to get a beer, though.

He can, however, pick up the stopped-up beer barrel outside the tavern, and give it to the dwarf guard, who invites Simon to participate in a drinking competition.  Simon is free to ignore this and go down into the now unguarded mine, where one annoyingly cheerful dwarf sings an unlicensed fragment of Disney's "Hi-Ho" while another heavyset dwarf yells at him to "Shut up!"

The treasure chamber guard -- after we unlock the door with the ornate key -- isn't due to be relieved for another hour.  We can talk to a dwarf in the busy chamber even if we're not sure why Simon would want to do so -- one dialogue choice is, "I dunno.  I hoped a relevant question would appear." -- and we don't learn much except a hint about how to get the key which we already have in this case.  We can snag a hook on a rope hanging near the treasure chamber door, and we can bribe the treasure chamber guard with the free beer coupon from the tavern, so that he willingly gives Simon a single gem.

The peddler has no interest in The One Ring, or the Gem in conversation, apparently.  But if we Give the gem to him, he offers 20 gold pieces (with a little haggling) and then vanishes.  Now Simon can go to the shop and buy the white spirit -- and a hammer hanging nearby, which comes with a single free nail, eliminating one possible complication.  Wiping the pink splodge off the talking tree earns Simon some magic words, though most are fairly ordinary -- Alakazam!, Hocus Pocus!, Abracadbra! and Sausages!  Repairing the bridge below the Swampling's home leads to a giant skull in the middle of a lake, a.k.a. Skull Island, where Simon can pick some Frogsbane.

What next?  Let's go back to the Dragon's cave, as we are running out of things to do it seems.  Simon can use the hook on the boulder outside the Dragon's cave (where the ladder was not useful) to climb up and fish for gold coins through the skylight, using the magnet (even though, as Simon acknowledges, gold is not magnetic.)  We can get up to 41 gold pieces before the hoard is exhausted, at least to the extent that Simon can manage this way.

30 GP to the mahjong-playing Wizards makes Simon a wizard, in rather perfunctory fashion.  At least Simon gets a Young Wizards starter pack full of useless junk, and can get a little information about the main quest and third act of the game.

We can't cast any spells on the Snowman yet.  How about the Witch?  The duel is apparently based on magic words, as Simon and the Witch transform into various animals -- mongoose, snake, cat and mouse, rock-paper-scissors style -- and Simon tends to get his butt kicked 3-nil.

Ah -- something else has changed, the Druid is back at his home where we picked up the specimen jar earlier.  He gives Simon a last-resort potion, but needs some frogsbane in exchange -- we already have it, so that's an easy one.  This potion, as it turns out, is no use against the witch -- she is beatable, but it took me several tries. I got close with a 3-2 near win, turning into the snake and the mongoose alternately to play the odds, and finally won on my Nth try.

Simon takes the broom, and the witch turns into a dragon despite her official prohibition in the original rules; Simon has to turn into a mouse and exit through a mousehole in the wall.

Time to face the Snowman again.  Can we sweep him away with the broom? Nope.  But aha! -- well, walkthrough! -- we can't Use the mints on the frozen guardian, but we can Consume them to get firebreath, melting the Snowman away, and now Simon can reach the Tower of Doom.  (Note Simon's idle animation, he pulled out his walkman while I was making notes prior to taking this screenshot:)

As he tries to enter the Tower, the stone bridge falls away, leaving a gaping lava-filled gorge below.  Simon can use the witch's broom to get across, and the Druid's potion allows Simon to shrink down and enter through a crack at the bottom of the door, leaving most of his inventory behind in the process.  Chippy the dog is here, picking Simon up in his mouth, allowing Simon to grab a bit of hair in transit.  Along a ground-level path, Simon picks up a maple leaf, giant at his current scale.

I actually ran into a bug here -- Simon went into a hole in the side of a bucket, reported a matchstick there, but his sprite appeared in two places at once and then the game froze.  This continued to happen, so I attempted to proceed without it but realized I needed to get the matchstick somehow.  I finally figured out that if we Walk to the bucket, he picks it up and it goes into inventory; if we Look at the bucket, the same thing is supposed to happen but the game locks up.

We can pick up a pebble here also, and further west we can pull a lily leaf into range to use as a raft.  The matchstick makes a mast, and the leaf a sail, so the lily leaf becomes a proper boat of sorts.  Simon can lasso the tap with the hair, but the mechanism is stiff with rust; trying to use it allows Simon to climb up, but then he falls into the water. I thought he could just pull himself across to some seeds hanging nearby using the hair, but couldn't make that happen -- some walkthrough help suggests we can just move over there using the boat, if Simon stands on it while we click on the seeds.

Simon can attempt to cross the puddle on the boat, but it becomes too shallow for passage at one point, which is probably why we need to turn on the tap.  Ah, we can use the stone with the seed -- dumb, random trying on that one for me -- to get some oil for the tap.  Now the tap can be opened and a little water dripped out to raise the level a bit.

On the other side of the puddle is a frog, and a lawn gnome, and some mushrooms.  The frog's tongue pulls Simon into his pouch, and his struggles eventually cause him to be expelled, naked until he can put his robes back on.


Looking at the water at the edge of the puddle reveals a tadpole, which Simon can hold hostage to get past the frog (he humanely puts it back into the water after the frog leaves).  This looks like a dead end, but some magical mushrooms here allow Simon to return to full size and reenter the workshop through which he came in in miniature form.

An animated, animalistic chest now makes Simon's life difficult.  Simon won't stick around very long while the slavering container blusters and growls.  There's a shield on the floor, too close to the beast for comfort.  But there's a branch available on a tree in the garden, which we can use to jam the chest's lid/jaws open, then pick up a shield and a spear.

Walking down the stone staircase leads to a torture chamber -- the second one in this game.  We can get a skull down from above with the spear.  A locked chest here can't be opened with a key, but Simon can pick it up and smash it with a stone-on-a-chain gadget to obtain 8 candles.

Now what?  We can go upstairs to find a rather messy bedroom.  Sordid's magic wand capable of turning people into stone is here, and Simon meets a talking mirror that claims to be a magical scrying mirror, capable of spying on the world through any other reflective surface.  Simon can also obtain a pouch, a sock, and a book on magic wands from Sordid's room. 

The next level up the tower is a workshop occupied by a couple of demons apparently employed by Sordid, but they are playing a game of dice and decide to ignore the intruder.  Here Simon can obtain some chemicals, and Sordid's spell book, which "looks just like mine" in case we need a hint about that (though in truth we don't need to do any swapping or anything.)  This book contains a spell for dispelling demons to Hell, requiring some ingredients -- a skull (check), a mouse (hmmm), eight candles (check) and the demons' true names.  Conversation establishes that the quieter one is Max, and the talkative one is... not mentioning his name, though it seems to be Gerald, and it doesn't matter as these are not their true names.

We do, however, learn that the statues visible out in the Craggy Peaks were once great warriors out to stop Sordid, whom the evil wizard turned into stone.  The only way out of the Tower, per the demons, is via the teleporter in this room.  They actually want to be sent back to hell, as they are not particularly happy with their current employer.  But they don't believe Simon is a powerful wizard, as he's not fat, old and befuddled.  We will have to convince them by pulling off the spell without their help.

There's a mouse hole in the bedroom stairwell, and the sock reportedly smells like 100-year-old gorgonzola; it lures a mouse out, but Simon can't catch him this way.  Combining the sock and the pouch does the job, luring the mouse into the pouch and giving Simon time to close it.

Now Simon has the necessary equipment to cast the demon-returning spell.  "Gerald" and "Max" don't want to reveal their true, embarrassing names.  They will lend Simon some chalk so he can draw a double square and set up the skull and candles, but they still won't give out their names. The shield is tarnished, and can be cleaned to a highly reflective sheen with the chemicals, allowing Simon to observe them through the scrying mirror and learn that they are named Belchgrabbit and Snobfondle.

Simon sends them home, and learns that the teleporter can be used -- one time only -- by pressing the self-destruct button.  We can only go to the Fiery Pits of Rondor, a good place to dispose of magical wands according to the book in Sordid's room.


It turns out to be a poorly-attended tourist trap.  Simon can snag a small pebble, again, but he has no cash to pay for admittance to the Pits.  The attendant hands him some brochures, which are bound together with a rubber band on closer inspection.  It seems we can't use it like a slingshot, at least not with just the rubber band and the pebble.  But there's a small forked sapling growing out of the rock. Hitting the fire alarm hard with a pebble sets it off, and the attendant flees.

The bridge to the pits has a bucket of floor wax sitting there for the taking.  We find Sordid in the next room, trying to get the lava pit lit again after it was put out by the sprinkler system.  We want this too, so we can destroy the turn-to-stone wand, but we need to use it to turn Sordid to stone first.  Now what?  Ah, I missed some matches on the visitor's desk -- while Simon is skeptical, it actually does work to throw a match into the pit, and then throw the wand in to destroy it.

The world is saved.. except for the small matter of Sordid's return to flesh after the wand is destroyed.  As Sordid is about to destroy Simon, Calypso phones in to tell Simon he's been revived, and to stall as long as possible while rescue efforts are organized, after claiming to be from a life insurance company to allay Sordid's suspicions.  Using the floor wax causes Sordid to fall into the lava, with a little completely justifiable push from Simon.


Simon is congratulated by an unctious host, refuses to participate in the sequel, and is nevertheless shortly dragged screaming into Simon the Sorcerer 2 by a giant mechanical hand.  Then the demons close things out with a little dance number.

I had a really good experience with Simon the Sorcerer, despite some obtuse puzzles and well-hidden but critical objects, and I look forward to playing AdventureSoft's sequels and other games as time permits.  The heyday of the point-and-click adventure produced a lot of great games, and I'm glad to say this is one of the better ones I never got around to playing back in the day.


  1. Thanks for this flashback -- the work is a classic indeed. I recall the sequel being more advanced on all areas, definitely worth a play.

    Nonetheless, what I consider perhaps the most interesting part of the series is the third installation. It is not a good game, to be clear, but has many interesting features that you don't see in adventure games often. The protagonist is nasty, and it has an exceptional repertoire of puzzles -- the final one being one of the most ingenious in the history of adventure gaming.

    The fourth game, as a whole, improves on the third one, being even more sarcastic with improved gameplay. It also has a unique thematic dimension of split personality. Moreover, it is rather easy, so definitely worth a quick playthrough as well.

    Heard they made a fifth one of these too, but haven't had a chance to try it yet.

  2. I always found Simon the Sorceror immensely frustrating to play. It seemed to lack the easy intuitiveness of Lucasarts games.

    Oh, and I suspect the sacrificial table for shaved lions is a Narnia reference - Aslan is shaved then killed on a stone table in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.