I loved Simon the Sorcerer as a kid. It was funny, challenging and pretty to look at. Going back to it, I see now that I wouldn’t recommend it to most modern gamers.
Simon breaks several commonplace conventions. The most important one is that throughout the game, you have no idea what your actions will result in. Helping people out in exchange for inventory items is an adventure staple, but normally either the reward is spelled out, or can be logically deduced. In Simon, you first help people out, then you see what you got from it. What this means it that it’s impossible to try and figure out what comes before what. This adds challenge to the game, but I think it would be poorly received by many players.
To add to that, the game does away with the “gradual unlocking of the game world” that’s pretty common today. From the get-go, most of the game is available for exploration, which adds to the difficulty of “solving” the game, in exchange for adding an impressive degree of non-linearity. Puzzle-wise, the game is comprised of a series of “chains” - there are very few items that help advance along more than one front, so there are no “choke points” where you’re stuck, right until the very end.
The final convention sacrificed in the name of difficulty is a lack of feedback from the game. Normally when you attempt to achieve something, the game gives you a hint as to why you’ve failed. Not in Simon - what doesn’t work, doesn’t, and it’s up to you to figure out how it can be fixed.
The puzzles themselves are 100% inventory, items are never used more than once and rarely in a creative manner. However, as the items themselves are rather varied, the game isn’t boring. Puzzle solutions usually make sense, and some of the ones that don’t are clued in-game, so very few puzzles are “unfair”. The only puzzle I would consider problematic can be solved by realizing you can’t get to a dead end in this game, which greatly cuts down on the item combinations to try.
Characters are colorful but functional. Simon is annoyingly inhuman in refusing to ask anyone abut things he discovers or hears about. Ignoring that, though, most dialogue is quite amusing, one of the strong points of the game.
One final problem is that the hotspot highlighting in the game doesn’t show exits, so it’s entirely possible to miss entire screens, as some exits are difficult to spot.
Overall, to gamers who don’t mind a lot of legwork, this is a charming game with an abundance of humor and a fair amount of challenge. However, for people who don’t suffer from excessive amounts of leisure, I would suggest investing time in other games first.
Time Played: 2-5 hours