|Simon the Sorcerer is back again - and this
time in 3D! This is announced on Headfirst's homepage for 3 years or longer. First the
developers had planned a sequel to the first two parts in 2D and already partially done,
but couldn't find a publisher to accepet a 2D-game! However, what is presented here to us
in 3D-graphics seems to be the revenge of the developers at all which say that you can't
do without 3D.
They finally decided to
cooperate with Hasbro, an old family run company, mainly known through board games like
Monopoly, Scrabble and Cluedo. When then in January 2001 Hasbro was bought by French
Infogrames, Simon went downhill. I can't comprehend what happened behind the window blinds
in the license business, but the ones who had to suffer were the fans. In any case,
approximately 1 1/2 year after the planned date we get the possibility of experiencing the
sequel to the Simon Story.
In the first two parts Simon, at that time still a
"normal" 12 year old, was transported by a magic portal into the world of
Calypso and Sordid. Calypso is the good sorcerer - so the part of the villain remains to
Sordid. Of course Simon helped Calypso fighting against Sordid and saving the world. At
the end of part 2 Simon however lost his body to the really bad Sordid and stays bodyless.
Here the third part hooks up seamlessly.
In the starting sequence we can watch Runt, Sordids
assistant. He has created a new enormous monster body for his master, which the mage - who
is still in Simons body - mantles gladly, to take over the world domination or so through
the Nexus - I never undestood this with StarTrek either.
Calypso, Melissa Leg and some priests carry Simons body and
soul to a pyramid's chamber of rebirth. They know that only he could help them against
Sordid. Though they can accomplish the revival spell, but finally Simon must prove himself
worthy to return from the in-between world to the realm of the living. He is on his own.
Simon awakes inside the pyramid. The game begins.
Two CDs and an illustrated manual of 20 pages are in the DVD
box. The cover design is, as to turn out, one of the graphic highlights of the game! The
installation of the necessary 430 MB on the hard disk under WinME runs smoothly and we
reach the starting menu. The option "settings" allows changes of graphics and
sound options. One can also change the key assignment, start, quit or deinstall the game.
The following intro with a wild travelling camera, which can be stopped by the ESC-key,
gives us a small view of Simon's new line of action. Later on it was a bit nerving that
this intro simply always appears, both when starting and leaving the game. It's really
enough to see it a few times.
If you press the ESC-key, you arrive in the main menu after
some time - here you can load or start a game. When starting a new game we learn about the
prehistory in Star Wars style with moving music and a text disappearing in infinity. After
Simon awoke, we can begin to test the keyboard controls.
Our hero is controlled with the arrow keys. SHIFT lets him
run more slowly or faster, CapsLock lets him sprint. He can also creep with the X-key,
examine objects with the Z-key and accomplish actions with STRG or ENTER. The basic
controls are explained also in the scarce manual. If we however come to special points in
the game, where we for example must play Dart or learn how to use a spell book, an
"enchanting" winged fairy godmother pipes up with short skirt and sneakers, but
however rather mommy-like.
One should not only consider the dialogues between her and
her protégé Simon because of the verbal exchange. She introduces us in each case to new
or straight here needed control elements. And she only does it once! Thus listen and note
down if necessary, because you won't find much in the manual about it.
Once her instructions seemed confusing to me, maybe due to
the translation, anyway I pressed the wrong keys during the fireworks for a long time,
until I was absolutely sure that I made no mistake. Only the walkthrough could help me
here. The fireworks is one of the "mini games", where you should show good
reactivity apart from prestidigitation. I believe, it resembles to the tests used for air
traffic controller candidates. Unfortunately this mini game throws you back again and
again on one of the life fields, from which you first have to come near the mini-game
again and then repeatedly must listen to a lot of dialogue lines, before you can start
again. I would have wished myself additional information in the manual particularly
concerning the mini games.
If Simon can interact, then we see the object in the eye-icon
right above. If he takes an object from screen or inventory, then it can be seen in the
hand-icon beside it. A good feature is, that you can quickly jump with the C-key from
object to object through the inventory without opening the menu itself. For this one must
press the space bar and a spell book opens. Here you can also use the mouse apart from
keyboard control. Through the spell book you can likewise reach save, load, quit and
options beside the inventory. The combination of inventory items is quite laborious by
keyboard. There are places, where you must combine and use objects quite fast!
We see our hero (in this 3rd-person-game) usually from a
perspective directly behind him, depending upon environment also from the front sometimes
or from some distance.
It is not so easy to let him run simply straightforward - it
often becomes a zigzag run. This is fatal at some critical points.
Good and helpful features, which are actually using the
3D-evironment, are the look-around, which one can call with the TAB-key and also the
X-key, with which Simon can crouch. Here the perspective changes to 1st-person and one
sees exactly what Simon sees - which is more, than one could see from
3rd-person-perpective. One can turn Simon around then with the arrow keys, so that he can
sound out his environment. All in all the control is average - I experienced already
substantially better and substantially worse. Particularly the application of objects is
laborious and controlling our hero requires a pertinent concentration, particularly if one
is under time pressure.
Simon's world is very large. Therefore he must walk and walk and run
and run .... After the first site investigations for my taste there is too much running
around what only serves as game prolongation. Fortunately there are telephone boxes in
some places, with which Simon can be teleported to other areas. If he enters a phone box,
an area map appears and the pilotable points are marked. At a later time Simon can travel
by rain bird, however these birds land only at certain points and work e.g. only during
For storing a savegame we must open the spell book via space bar and
select "disk" there. You have only 42 slots to save a game assigning a name.
This number first seems sufficient, restricts however when continuing in the game. An
unlimited number would have been appropriate here. Positive: Only once during the game
process you must change from CD1 to CD2.
Now we come to a very weak point: Simon the Sorcerer 3 discovered
the third dimension. 2 years ago, when the game was nearly finished, one would have
overlooked the absolutely rough and angular characters, objects and scenes. Was this
necessary? Why 3D, if one is not able to design a hand like hand? Simon makes jokes about
it: "My hands look like cubes!" Apparently the minimum possible number of
polygons was used - no beautiful sight! I personally do not put the emphasis in an
adventure game on graphics, but if one gets problems to recognize things on the screen
then it's even too much for me.
Only glim of hope of the character graphics: Particularly our
leading actor shows various mimic and gesturing, always suitable to the text and of very
strong expression. All faces look as if created in 2D and then attached like a bottle
label to the head.
The magic world is enormous and offers a lot of locations, which
Simon can explore completely free. Unfortunately one misses here likewise gradations or
finer textures - everything rough and sharp-edged. Our hero runs into walls and objects,
as so often already remarked with other 3D-games.
While it does not preponderate in the forest area that everything is
quite dead, also quite little life shows in town. Whole 2 characters, with which the hero
cannot interact, populate the roads! Related to the large area, where you can roam across,
you only meet relatively few other beings. Some of them are well-known from the earlier
games, like Swampy or the two demons, others are new like the Lara Croft competitor
We come to the more enjoyable part. The puzzles are not always
logical, nevertheless imaginative and twisted like the game itself. For example it's
illogical, if one shoots a darts arrow through the window, goes outside and finds nothing
there however after completion of a very different task again returns and the arrow is
The pure puzzle parts are of great pleasure most of the time. They
are various and very different. In each of the 6 chapters a major task is to be solved. In
addition one must master a multiplicity of subtasks. First it's a matter of finding
objects and partners in this very large area. Inventory objects must be combined
resourcefully and could be used in different kinds and several times. Simon also receives
a "Chakara" sometime - a kind of yo-yo which he can use in the most diverse
ways, e.g. in order to reach far away objects.
The puzzles are interwoven into the 3D-world and it often depends on
looking at problems from another "perspective". In Simon the Sorcerer 3D our
hero has also for the first time the possibility of experiencing the world at night
because some things can only be done in the dark. There is also a set of colour puzzles,
text puzzle, rhythm puzzle... and other surprises.
The Plot does progress non-linear up to certain points. You can
solve the nested puzzles in different order.
In some places Simon needs a certain quantity of the here accepted
currency: "toads". He can get it in many ways and his toad account is indicated
right above beside the eye- and the hand-icon.
Apart from pure puzzles our 3D-hero must also cope with a quantity
of tasks, which belong into the section action, jump&run and skilfulness. Just at the
start of the game, I'll call it warming up phase, Simon must escape a rolling stone ball
á la Indiana Jones under time limit. Here the little fingers are trained for the first
time, because time is running short and death (he is revived each time on a life spot)
To mention is that the same scene already caused me some
difficulties some time ago in the adventure "Spud", at that time however I was
still pleased by the good gag, with Simon it's now only a shelve warmer. However this
"training" is really important at the beginning, because we will later have to
face far more difficult obstacles, so it's good to learn the key allocation.
Simon must jump, run, shoot, creep, swing, balance, catch smaller
and bigger creatures and much more besides. There are often time limits, which e.g.
contrary to "Jules Verne - Mystery of the Nautilus" are very, very closely set.
These "mini games" will cause a quantity of problems for untrained gamers, and
they must be mastered nevertheless all by their own - no walkthrough could help. If you've
spent some hours to shoot ducks on the fair in order to win a price, then the frustration
factor can rise substantially. While most of these "mini games" stand in close
relation to the story, there are nevertheless some, which seem to serve rather as game
prolongation. It is also no new idea to line up a set of fair stands and you have to deal
with the attractions one after the other. Last seen in: "Casanova". However
Simon with approx. 30% action portion remains opposite to "Casanova" with
approx. 50% scarcely still under the limit of an action adventure. In some particularly
tricky moments one cannot save - so the fireworks already mentioned. If Simon dies, he is
back-catapulted to one of the life stones and must repeat the walking and talking. I
rarely succeeded the "mini games" after a few attempts and it brought me a lot
of frustration up to quitting the game. One is pulled out of the story and pulled out the
fun, the fun which could really be found in other places. It downright spoiled the game. I
think the developers exaggerated with number and degree of difficulty here; one does not
continuously have to demonstrate to the adventure fan that he/she is a bungler regarding
reaction and skilfulness - he/she already knows.
There are plenty of technical errors and inadequacies in Simon the
Sorcerer 3D. Often you are simply catapulted back to Windows and can resume the game
thereafter. At one particular place for me nothing helps any more: when I handed over some
magic beans to the fool with the cow, the game crashes over and over again. Without
helpful Simon-coplayers, who helped me out with savegames, I couln't have finished the
In some parts of the Simon universe the screen remained white for
me! (Some examples on the right side.) Thus I never really saw the church, met the
peruke-fan only as outline and had to play the chestnut game blind (Here I had some luck:
I pressed here and there a key and won finally without ever seeing what was going on.) I
could leave the bell tower at my first visit only creeping as it didn't work with normal
Some other time I could creep into a cave, but couldn't leave
however. There was a telephone box in the game, which was invisible, especially when using
it for teleportation. There are still more examples. In several places Simon could see
"through the wall". Perhaps it may have been because of Melissa's attractions,
anyhow there was a place in the cellar where suddenly Melissa's icon appeared in Simon's
eye right above. Naturally she was behind a wall, but one could click at her nevertheless
followed by Simon's saying: "She's only accepting me!" Here and there the German
translation was missing. At the beginning of part 3, when meeting with Melissa and Calypso
e.g.. Here and there also English terms or descriptions appeared in the spell book.
Are they now harmless or deadly - with this quantity of bugs one can
ask whether there was really no possibility of tests and improvement in the waiting period
up to the publication?
Simon, a little older now, hasn't lost a bit of his scallywag charm.
When he wants to get something, he neither knows self-doubt nor considerateness. Just a
real "nice little boy"! Simon actually knows a saying for each opportunity,
offenses friends and foes and drops in every brick. Together with Simon the gamer can be
rightfully nasty, break out small boy's teeth, roast favourite hamsters and cheer up
vacuum cleaner representatives with lovesickness: "Probably she is just meeting her
new lover!". (W.C. Fields would be delighted!)
And again Simon's scurrile co-actors, who almost provoke Simon's
sarkasm, make it easy for him: The treasure hunter in the hole, the doated princess, the
obese sorcerer, prince gallant..... and of course Swampy.
The translation of the English text is absolutely felicitous, both
spoken and written word. Here a 1:1-translation would have been fatal, however the German
translation team did a great job and customized the game to German conditions.
Inscriptions on gravestones, memorial plaques (e.g. for Rex Gildo which is a dead German
singer), signs - they thought of everything.
The game is only bristling with allusions to other games, films and
books. Fine also the product placements for Hasbro's games by Simon himself! The humour of
Simon this time again belongs to the best, the adventure world can offer - surprising,
sometimes quietly hidden, never innocent.
Often we feel surprised, if Simon contacts the player directly,
reassuring that it's only a game. The other characters use this classical effect too, when
e.g. the host in the tavern entrusts Simon that the ghostly whining probably comes from
outside of the screen! (Here of course sits the gamer sometimes whining because of
laughing, sometimes whining because of the tantalizing game!)
The game is recommended for ages 6 and up. Children at this age will
enjoy the game, however they won't understand much of the more or less hidden allusions
and the irony. Surely funny, if parents try to explain the perverse peruke-sect to them.
An excellent script and an excellent translation rounded up by the
professional speakers. Particularly Simon's German voice, which we already know from the
first two parts, provides continuity and makes this character so unmistakable together
with the awesome music themes and the unobstrusive however always suitable sound effects
(if Simon changes running from grass to paving, sound and pictures are always fitting
I looked forward to the third part of Simon the Sorcerer, since I
enjoyed the first two parts so much. At the end however despite great humour,
sophisticated puzzles, enormous, freely investigatable worlds and a gaming length with
approx. 60 hours and longer, that has really something to offer - was my impression
neither hot nor cold. It disappointed me, that programming bugs were not eliminated during
the long waiting time. This together with partial bumpy handling, the boring walk-arounds
and the partial very frustrating action sequences don't really let it be fun. A contrast
bath. Nobody should miss the wacky story and humour, but beware - those who flinch from
keyboard controls and fastidious skill challenges will not become happy with this game!
My rating: 68%
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended -
for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 95/98
- Pentium 233 Mhz MMX
- 64 MB RAM
- 430 MB on hard disk
- 8x CDROM-drive
- Direct3D-compatible graphic card with 8 MB
- Soundblaster-compatible sound card
- DirectX Version 7.0
- Pentium III 850
- 128 MB RAM
- Sound- and graphic card DirectX-compatible
- Toshiba DVD-ROM
To magnify click on the pictures
Spellbook with inventory and menu
Simon and the priest
What bargain can you find at "Tomb Trader's"?
There must be some way passing the clock keeper!
The house of the witch
Use phone boxes for teleporting
At last in Poliganis
The thief could be helpful
The sheriff's safe
So you want to be a sorcerer
The fairy godmother
The dark swamp
Swampy wants to blow up the whole thing
Bugs: Around the church Simon only sees white!
Bugs: Unfortunately one can only see the shape of the lady
Bugs: English instead of German
Dwarfs are brave but stupid
On the fair
At last he found Melissa!
Again bodyless within a computer á la Tron!