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Simon the Sorcerer 4
Chaos ist das halbe Leben


Release date: 02/2007

Developer: Silverstyle Entertainment
Publisher: RTL Enterprises



Game language: German


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Boxshots

 

USK: no age restriction

 


A review by   André   21st March 2007
translated by slydos

 

 

RTL Enterprises haven't rendered outstanding services to the adventure genre so far - instead the publisher was rather notorious for dull productions like "Hinter Gittern" or the average "Balko" at the best (TV adaptations in Germany). With "Simon the Sorcerer" they picked a first-class license with great anticipation by the fans of the series. The first two parts, which had been released in the early nineties, were very popular and advanced to - please forgive me the excessively used term - "cult games" within the adventure genre.

Just as well Simon 4 might be sceptically eyed by some gamers for a start, because the most recent third part in 3D failed at the fans, especially because of the not so superb block graphics. It should only be mentioned at the sidelines that Mike and Simon Woodroffe in the first place planned the basically none too bad game in 2D, but this project met a square refusal from not so clever publishers. It would have been better that way, but at that time the publishers had only 3D and big ideas in mind. Making it more difficult, the Woodroffes for their part handed over the reins to Silver Style for whatever reasons. That means the two are only involved as additional designers in the current development. So far the grey theory, fortunately real life looks more colourful. Let us finally come to the game itself ...

 

Graphics

I have noticed a few graphical blemishes, rather odds and ends: the characters sometimes unnaturally wobble and nod their heads during dialogues in close-up scenes. The lip-synch is likewise not yet perfect. Some scenes lack animation at all. But that doesn't make much difference - finally the overall impression counts and that's indeed thoroughly convincing. Because most scenes are attractive, lively and well animated. Animals and creatures are flying and creeping around, a fountain gushing water, etc.. No matter where you look: forests, castles or other medieval buildings, everything is imaginative and fairytale-like.

The three-dimensional Simon and his buddies move within a two-dimensional, often sidescrolling environment. But times of Simon 3D have gone, where Simon's hand was made of only one rough chunk. Instead he looks very handsome, emphasised by realistic movements and fine textures of skin and clothes. However not all of the new characters, like the town's official, the everyday pizza maker, the ringmaster, or the rich man, act as imaginative as the characters created by the Woodroffes: swampy or the two demons. But all in all Silver Style succeeded in creating a quite contemporary and convincing setting.

It's interesting, how they poured their own style over the graphics. It seems intended, that one should recognize the game was developed in Germany. Starting with the look of the medieval city and the forest including the raised hide and animal species such as rabbits, wild pig and mole up to some themes such as Haensel and Gretel. The characters likewise have quite a German touch: The bosomy Alix in her hearty-scanty dirndl-outfit could just have escaped from a beer tent. The official looks like a Bavarian teacher from the countryside (at least as one would picture one from the outside) and the wolf could have been taken from an illustration of an old book of fairytales. And after all, why not? - It's a great graphics style anyway. Later, when we arrive in the realm of the dead the style changes, it gets a bit more monumental because of the Greek mythology theme.

By the way Simon 4 was already finished a bit earlier. Adventure fans are a special, devoted bunch, who critically eyed every step of the developers. So they did with the Simon series. And the fans found that Simon's head wouldn't look cool enough. Thus they unscrewed the "old new" head and replaced it shortly before game completion with a slightly modified one.

 

Story

You don't need to have played the first Simon games to understand this one. Of course it wouldn't do any damage either, to understand a joke here and there better, to recognize a familiar place or character in a new guise. Of the latters there are 42 alltogether, 7 of them known from earlier games - ergo this makes nevertheless 35 new ones! I think, here we got a good mixing proportion, letting tradition in without turning the game into mold of the past days.

Let's now turn towards the plot itself: The first location will surely be familiar to those who know Simon already - the boy's bedsit with the wondrous wardrobe, starting point of so many dimension travels before. Sedulously pubescent Simon and his brother are sitting on the sofa in this legendary room and do what all pubescent boys do: No, no... maybe that too, but I rather meant quarreling in this particular case! In the heat of the moment Simon gets hit by his brother who threw a remote control at his head. The shot kills Simon. Stop, stop, don't worry, that's only what Simon thinks, when he finds himself drifting through a dimension tunnel in a vision caused by the attack. That's where he meets pretty Alix again, granddaughter of the sorcerer Calypso from the other dimension. She tells him that their world is in great danger. Back in reality it's clear, what this all will amount to: Simon will travel again into the other dimension using the wardrobe, in order to save this parallel world. Having arrived there, he is confronted with a surprise: a double-ganger lingers around and has taken his place. The other Simon has already pinched adored Alix, but on the spot has lost her again because of his correct, but very boring behaviour. Who is this other Simon really and what does he intend to do?

 

Sound/dialogues

Concerning humour, Silver Style gets it about right, but the quite "typical" German humour cannot totally hold a candle to the inimitable British word joke of the Woodroffes. And so you won't necessarily be rolling on the floor laughing with each wisecrack. Sometimes the sayings and dialogues are long-winded or try too obviously to be funny. In the better moments (and there are a lot of those, don't worry) humour is however cynical, crude, black and sometimes even enigmatic. From time to time the somewhat ambivalent impression is intensified by the German voice overs, but mostly it succeeded. Simon, as three times before, is spoken by Erik Borner, his German original voice, whom I need to make no words about because he makes up a significant part of Simon's personality. Most of the other speakers like the voices of Alix, Little Red Riding Hood and GoldiLock make a good job, while others like Calypso or the instrument maker sound rather overconscientious and artificial, what in turn finely fits to the spoken texts and attitude of the instrument maker. The somewhat insignificant, little changing electronic music wouldn't knock my sock off if played solely detached from the game. But it serves its purpose, if you run it low in the background.

 

Puzzles

Another highlight are the puzzles kept in best comic adventure- or let's say Simon-tradition. Primarily we must lead dialogues, hoard and use objects. These must be combined, partly within the inventory too. The box blurb speaks of "hundreds of original and throughout logical puzzles". I didn't actually count them, but the number appears to be correct anyway. Generally the examplary long playing time is not only a result of these numerous puzzles, but also of the many small plot threads and dialogues as you will hardly find in many other adventure games nowadays.

In terms of the promised logic I would like to agree at least partly. At the beginning the puzzles are quite easy, but the explorable area at start quickly increases and thus the degree of difficulty rises too. Simon 4 is not linear and so usually lots of tasks unfold, which can be worked on at the same time. As not unusual in cracked comic adventures, you have to combine the most abstruse items and you'll carry a lot of them around after some time. Apart from that you are not necessarily always set on the right tracks by dialogues.

Each scene contains an appropriate number of hotspots or let's say items that can be examined, so that investigating the Simon-universe does not become boring. Another nice change will occur later in the game, when you are enabled to switch between two characters. In case you are at your wits' end the journal might help. Here we find not only entries about the happenings but also a hint system. With respect to specific main tasks you can get a step by step help. As for me however the hint system coundn't provide help just in those crucial moments when I needed it most, since I already knew the given solutions and only new hints would have eased my situation. Remains to mention that one cannot die, there are no timed sequences, and no labyrinths.

 

Handling

In Simon 3D one could hardly concentrate on puzzle solving while so busy covering the long distances in the three-dimensional landscapes by keyboard. But controls improved a lot in Simon 4 compared to its predecessor. Not only walking short distances is problem-free, since Simon starts to run on double-clicking the mouse. In addition one gets a map to reach all locations in a tick of time simply by selecting the places you want to go. The rest is briefly described: you move by point&click. The right mouse-button normally serves to look at things while the left uses objects, puts them into the inventory or starts conversations. If it's not possible to use things with the left button, both mouse-buttons serve the same purpose.

The escape-key leads to the menu, with F4/F5 you go directly to the load-/save-function. Don't miss the H-key! It shows you all object-hotspots immediately! P stands for 'pause' and the E-key shows all exits. The journal or hint system can be reached through the menu but much easier with the F1-key.

Despite my computer has past its prime by now and the relative high minimum requirements, the game ran without problems. This generates quite long loading times between scenes, which however still lay within a tolerable band width. However it came to my ears, that some machines had their problems like crashes running the game.

 

Result

Well, all right, Simon 4 doesn't get along without small weaknesses. So I had to get accustomed to its humour, which cannot entirely keep up with the British comic of the first parts. It's a bit long-winded here and there and not as polished. It would be best, not to compare the humour with that of the Woodroffes. Because if you look at Simon 4 on its own, you'll notice that Silver Style are skilled at word joke in their own style, from sarcastical to duly black humour. The new developers brought along many really great ideas to have fun with Simon 4 too.

Graphically the positive impression outweighs either. In short, Simon 4 truly comes near my idea of a beautiful comic adventure game, whereby graphical state-of-the-art is not a determining criteria for me. Slight weaknesses like clumsy character movements in close-ups or not totally perfect lip-synch are to be neglected. Simon 4 comes in a harmonious, modern guise without loosing the charm of the old games. The numerous background scenes are more or less equipped with animations, however all shine brightly by their beautiful, imaginative, magic look. Simon and many other characters like Little Red Riding Hood or the wolf are skillfully made. I wished part 3 would have been a little bit like that.

The music does not excel, but fulfills its function in the background. Silver Style made a good job of the puzzles. The object-oriented tasks are varied and pretty twisted in best Simon tradition. Highly welcome is the extremely long playing time too. A fine countertrend to today's often rather short games, sometimes even cut into episodes. So, Silver Style Entertainment succeeded in creating a great game, which clearly follows the first two parts in quality.

 

 Rating: 85%

 

Adventure-Archiv rating system:

  • 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 on it)

 

Minimal system requirements:

  • Windows XP/Vista
  • Pentium 4  2.0 GHz or 100% compatible processor
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 4 GB free space on hard disk
  • DirectX compatible graphic card with 64 MB (GeForce 3 or better, no MX cards)
  • DVD-ROM-drive

 

Played on:

  • Win XP
  • AMD Athlon XP 1800
  • 512 MB RAM
  • Video card Radeon 9200 series
  • DVD-drive
  • Hard disk 60 GB

 

Click to magnify the screenshots

 

I assume, Alix was designed by a man
I assume, Alix was designed by a man

 

 

 

Simon's traumatic encounter with Little Red Riding Hood, an egomaniac little miss!
Simon's traumatic encounter with Little Red Riding Hood, an egomaniac little miss!

 

 

 

Simon is available in woodruff and rich cherry.
Simon is available in woodruff and rich cherry

 

 

No, not the new Slayer cover, but Simon in the realm of the dead.
No, not the new Slayer cover, but Simon in the realm of the dead

 

 

 

Wonna play some Doppelkopf? (explanation: German card game, literally translated 'double head')
Wonna play some Doppelkopf?
(explanation: German card game, literally translated 'double head')

 

 

This is the home of Little Red Riding Hood's not much less intractable grandma.
This is the home of Little Red Riding Hood's not much less intractable grandma.

 

 

They are really not in good humour down in Hades.
They are really not in good humour down in Hades.


 

Ladies and gentlemen: The Map - at the moment we can't get everywhere we want to.
Ladies and gentlemen: The Map - at the moment we can't get everywhere we want to.

 

 

The town really looks beautiful, doesn't it?
The town really looks beautiful, doesn't it?

 

 

The wolf gets predicted a rather poor social prognosis.
The wolf gets predicted a rather poor social prognosis.

 

 

 

How to win the chess game against the demons?
How to win the chess game against the demons?

 

 

 

Das wars-  Ein schönes Spiel erkennt man  daran, dass man traurig ist, wenn es vorbei ist!
That's all! - You can identify a great game by the degree of sadness when it's over!

 

More screenshots

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

Copyright © André for Adventure-Archiv, 21st March 2007

 

 

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