With the release of Simon the Sorcerer 3D in 2002, Mike and Simon Woodroofe didn't do themselves or the series any favours. The game included way too much running around, and the terrible 3D graphics discouraged many players from even trying the third adventure game about the charismatic sorcerer's apprentice. So the decision to design a new title more closely resembling the first two games using different developers is not very surprising. The publisher, RTL enterprises, together with art director Oliver Specht and producer Stefan Hoffmann of Silver Style, showed the first playable scenes of the upcoming fourth installment at this year's Games Convention in Leipzig.
In Simon the Sorcerer 4, Simon has spent the last few years as an ordinary teenager in the real world, and has almost forgotten about the events of the first games. At the beginning of the game, he meets Alix in a vision, who tells him that the magic world is in danger and needs his help. So Simon quickly reactivates his wardrobe and teleports to the magic world, where he discovers that it seems like he's been there all along. Alix ends her relationship with him (which he didn't even know about) and unknown characters greet him as if they had met him only a few minutes before. After the initial puzzles, it is clear that there is a doppelgänger around, and suddenly Simon finds himself in the midst of his new, big adventure.
According to the developers, the player doesn't have to be familiar with the previous games to understand Simon the Sorcerer 4. Nevertheless, the story is consistent with the earlier titles, and many inside jokes and other references are there for longtime fans. Right at the beginning, there are some souvenirs from the other games. The humour in the demo already seemed to be worthy of parts one to three, as we laughed several times during the presentation. One amusing scene occurred when Simon tries to take pepper spray away from Little Red Riding Hood so that the wolf is able to eat her. Elsewhere, the bridge troll is not very experienced, as you'll quickly realize. Once again, Simon can be mean from time to time, but the designers don't want to portray him as nasty as he was in the third game.
The rights for Simon the Sorcerer surprisingly went to the German company Silver Style at the end of 2005. Although they hadn't released any adventure games before, there is some genre experience in the team. Stefan Hoffmann, for example, worked on many of the classic advertisement adventure games that were popular in Germany in the '90s, like Victor Loomes. Also, the inventors of the license, Mike and Simon Woodroffe, are still involved in the development process. While one of them works on the puzzles, the other refines the English text, and new ideas are edited into the original German version.
Oliver Specht and Stefan Hoffmann at GC
The gameplay will be classic point-and-click. Although early reports suggested the game was in 3D, only the characters are in real-time 3D, while the backgrounds are prerendered. The game is controlled similarly to the Sierra adventures from the '90s. The left mouse button interacts with the environment, while the right mouse button scrolls through the actions.
Along with Simon, the player will also be able to control the green-clothed doppelgänger, whose role in the story is not yet revealed. Besides some logic puzzles, the game will consist mainly of inventory puzzles. These are intended to be relatively challenging, but Silver Style will offer an in-game help system in the form three magic wands. The player will be able to get increasingly helpful hints from this system, with no punishment other than losing points that factor into your ranking at the end, like the "Indy Quotient" from Fate of Atlantis. One feature that should cut down on the need to use hints is a button that shows all interactive objects on the screen, so there will be no frustrating pixelhunting. Another helpful aspect of the game is a diary, where one can easily look to see what tasks remain to be done.
The beautiful prerendered backgrounds certainly make a good first impression, but hopefully they will be supported by more animations and particle effects. The GC demo lacked much animation, and the characters appeared a bit stiff, but the developers have promised to add or improve these features as the game progresses. We'll see how much will change in the final version of the game.
Simon the Sorcerer 4 is currently in alpha stage, and the German release is planned for February 9th, 2007. A console port is possible for later release, but not yet confirmed at this time.
This article first appeared in German on Adventure-Treff, and has been translated and reprinted with permission.
|United Kingdom||October 1 2008||Playlogic|