I hate this game with every fiber of my being. Sure, it looks good and has some top-tier sprite work. Sure, it has lots and lots of voice acting. Sure, there are dozens of items you have to combine in various ways to progress. It manages to screw all of these up in some way or another though. The good graphics seem to have put a focus on visuals that necessitates walking through many same-y areas, most of which have nothing you can interact with and that exist only to showcase more art and slow down the middle parts of the game to a painful crawl. The voice acting is grating, takes forever to get to the point, and tries so hard to be funny that it manages to instead come across as irritating to the point of becoming genuinely infuriating. The large number of items only exacerbates the puzzles’ tendency to rely on huge leaps of logic, sometimes veering so far away from anything approaching observable reality or even cartoon logic that the game more or less necessitates a walkthrough just to complete. I enjoy old games and adventure games and went in to this thing expecting the best, only to be faced with one of the least entertaining adventure games I’ve ever played, and anyone speaking positively about Simon the Sorcerer is drawing from nostalgia or brain damage.
I hate every character here
It blows me away how irritating every single character here manages to be. Simon is the obvious place to start, and while the idea of a fourth-wall-breaking main character who cracks jokes and such is one I could get on board with, it’s so over the top and forced that it just becomes grating after awhile. There’s no charm to any of it, and that also goes for the various characters (spoof and otherwise) who litter the game world. There are talking trees and lazy wizards and a two-headed convenience store clerk, and not only are these annoying characters sporting some of the most irritating voice acting I’ve ever heard, but they also have no redeeming elements. Every single character in this game comes in one flavor—absurdly cynical and sarcastic. There’s no growth or change. Hell, there’s barely even a story. It’s just an excuse to make lame references to other, better things, and for anyone keeping track, that’s something I hate with a fiery passion.
Some version stuff
Simon the Sorcerer originally came out in 1993 for the PC (well, DOS, in addition to the Amiga and a few other things if the error-prone Wikipedia is to be trusted in this instance), but watching a little gameplay on Youtube was enough to dissuade me from purchasing the original version on something like GOG. Instead, I picked up the Android 20th Anniversary Edition that comes with updated music and a filter that smooths out the graphics. This came with a host of its own issues, however. For example, while tapping where you want to walk is much easier than using the verb menu to hit “walk to” and then clicking, it’s not always implemented consistently. At one point, clicking on something climbable is enough to coax Simon to climb it. Other times, you have to first tap “use.” Later on, I found a point where I had to use something on part of the screen that was covered up with the “highlight interactive objects” button, and this became a problem when I thought that I had tried something, but it turned out that the game had instead misread what I was trying to do. As a result, I assumed the correct solution that I had tried was incorrect and spent some time wandering around aimlessly. It was only when I got frustrated and looked up a walkthrough that it dawned on me that the game’s poor design had sabotaged me. Basically, if you’re going to try a solution, always try it more than once; not only do parts of the core game (so things that will remain constant across all versions) necessitate occasionally doing things multiple times, but the game had an amazing knack for disregarding any “use X object on Y” orders I’d give it the second Simon walked over to actually do the thing.
The puzzles aren’t actually puzzles
I don’t know what it was with older adventure games and moon logic, but Simon the Sorcerer has to be up there as one of the most nonsensical games in existence. Its inability to make sense pervades every aspect of the game, making both the puzzles and basic mechanics a pain. An example: late in the game, you shrink down and then create a little boat. Then you get stuck because it’s not obvious how you actually sail this boat. As it turns out, all it took was to tap further on (I imagine in the original, you first have to tap “walk to” or something). Simon has no oar, no anything, and yet the boat magically maneuvers itself through a completely still puddle of water. Then there’s the mechanics side where things don’t work the way you’d expect. At one point, a troll blocks a bridge and the solution is to use a whistle you’ve obtained earlier to summon someone to move him. Thing is, you can’t just give him the whistle or use it yourself because it’s conveniently blocked off. You have to engage him in conversation—a conversation you may have already gone through, as I did—before he randomly notices it and takes it from you in a cutscene. There’s no logic behind any of it. Speaking of which, how about the part of the game where you use mints to breathe fire so that you can melt a magical snowman blocking the path? Or using a magnet to pick up non-magnetic gold? Or throwing a watermelon into a sousaphone in order to obtain it to use to get a sleeping giant to knock down a tree? For all the hate The Longest Journey gets for its duck puzzle, most of the puzzles here are so much worse.
Hidden paths and long-windedness
As if the game wasn’t annoying enough as is, there are also various paths that aren’t obvious. Miss them and you’ll miss out on items crucial to moving forward. It’s simply not obvious where you can and can’t go, and it makes playing more an issue of trial and error than an intuitive thing. That’s made worse by the fact that Simon has a painfully slow walk. Speaking of painfully slow, the dialogue. Everyone talks, and all of the dialogue is terrible. Not content with simply being terrible, however, it’s also long-winded, with various characters going into long (sometimes unskippable) tangents and occasionally possessing weird speech quirks that cause their dialogue to take forever to communicate even the simplest things. The gameplay here simply has no redeeming qualities.
Great sprite art, terrible music
I already mentioned that the game has great sprite work, but it really can’t be overstated how much detail is here. Walking through the (irritatingly labyrinthine) forest, you can see butterflies fluttering around, a bird picking up a worm, and all kinds of various animals. It’s obvious that the visuals have had ten times more effort put into them than everything else here combined, including the music. When I was first looking into this game, I quickly realized the original music was grating (as DOS music so often is), and that’s a large part of the reason why I went for the 20th Anniversary Edition. Sadly, the music is poorly written and generally uninteresting regardless of instrument quality, so even the updated versions of the old tracks quickly became more of an annoyance than a positive.