Simon the Sorcerer 4
Chaos ist das halbe Leben
Release date: 02/2007
Developer: Silverstyle Entertainment
Publisher: RTL Enterprises
Game language: German
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
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 ...
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
Hard disk 60 GB
- Win XP
- AMD Athlon XP 1800
- 512 MB RAM
- Video card Radeon 9200 series
Click to magnify the screenshots
I assume, Alix was designed by a man
Simon's traumatic encounter with Little Red Riding Hood, an egomaniac little
Simon is available in woodruff and rich cherry
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')
This is the home of Little Red Riding Hood's not much less intractable
They are really not in good humour down in Hades.
Ladies and gentlemen: The Map - at the moment we can't get everywhere we
The town really looks beautiful, doesn't it?
The wolf gets predicted a rather poor social prognosis.
How to win the chess game against the demons?
That's all! - You can identify a great game by the degree of sadness when