Saturday, 26 October 2013

Playing Along: Loom (1990) - Finished!

Well that was quick. As soon as I decided to spend an hour or two with Loom, it was all over. They really did make them short and sweet back in those days, but in this particular case they left it with a huge cliffhanger ending. Anyway, to recap...

Head to the forest, or the city. There is nothing to the left, nor is there anything to interact with on this screen.

I had been stuck at a waterspout, which I couldn't get past. I needed to think a little bit more about how the game works, because all it took was clicking the waterspout to get its pattern and then reversing it. Simple really, but enough to confuse me early on when I was still getting to grips with the interface.
The forest! Nothing to do here but annoy shepherds.

From there I took a trip to the realm of Glassmakers, Shepherds and Ironmongers. I'll be as brief as I can going through this, and get to the interesting bits. After washing up on the shoreline, I saw two paths: one to the woods and one to what appeared to be the Emerald City. My trip to the woods was cut short by some annoying shepherds (but did result in getting the invisibility pattern), so I turned my attention to the green structures.

The emerald city! Or just a literal greenhouse?

Turns out the buildings were glass, not emerald. How disappointing. They did have a lovely diamond goblet, not that I could take it, and a super sharp scythe (odd choice of weapon for glassmakers, but whatever). The only really interesting thing here was a bishop - Mandible of the Clerics. He looked positively evil, and wanted a sphere to see the future. Of course I looked into the sphere and got a couple of future hints (something that would be repeated a couple of times later on).

A large, almost empty series of rooms.

One of those hints was an appropriate spell to cast on the shepherds to scare them away (an illusion of a dragon). The next place to visit was the shepherds fields, where they were breeding thousands of sheep for Bishop Mandible. Yet another piece of a rather sinister jigsaw (although a simple one that only has a few pieces). Turns out the reason the shepherds feared the dragon (other than being a dragon) was that an actual dragon was eating their sheep.

This makes sense later, but never now, just like all good clairvoyance.

A quick spell later, and those sheep were grass green and hidden in the valley, just in time for Bobbin to be picked up by the dragon. Thankfully not eaten right away, the dragon gave me just enough time to put it to sleep, turn its gold pile to straw and then step back as it set itself on fire. You'd think dragons would be rather resistant to flames, but it allowed me to escape.

The escape was short-lived though, because I was in a more fiendish trap: A maze! A very simple maze, but an annoying one nonetheless. It's almost more annoying because it was short and simple apart from one particular screen. I had fallen into a room with a rather large puddle on the left-hand side. Emptying this puddle using a spell revealed a sphere and yet more hints. The only hint it didn't give me was the way out.
Middle of the maze, look at the pool for the reflection spell. Empty the pool for another sphere, and the path is to the right beyond that stalactite formation, rather than down the hole that the empty pool reveals.

I spend a short while wondering if I needed another spell, or if there were other things to click on. Eventually I chanced upon the path leading behind a particularly large stalactite. This game is rather awful at letting you know where you can actually go in any particular location. After finding my way out (and untwisting some stairs in a rather bizarre section), I arrived at the ironmongers.

The Forge, that looks like an anvil. Subtle.
The Forge was an impressive structure. Of course the limitations of the game meant it was a mere few screens, but it certainly looked like it could produce the thousands of swords that Bishop Mandible needed for his obviously evil plans. They did seem to be operating the fires of the furnace by burning wood though, which seems rather silly (not sure a wood-fire is appropriate for smelting iron). Having got inside by impersonating a young blacksmith by the name of Rusty Nailbender (really), my reflection spell got him killed by the dragon for looking like me. Not sure why the reflection spell had to change his appearance, but I guess there was a reason for it (oh wait there really wasn't as we will see later on).

Inside the Forge. Again, looks lovely but nothing to do here.

I interrupted Bishop Mandible by spoiling the last of the forged swords, dulling it's edge with the reversed sharpening spell I'd learned from seeing the glassmakers scythe. His rage was short-lived, and instead he grabbed me and took me to the top of a rather impressive if Disney-villain tower. He stole my distaff, and threw me in a dungeon with a curious fellow by the name of Cob. So curious was my gaoler, he wanted to see beneath my hood (even though the rumour was that this meant certain death).
Disney-villain-wannabe Bishop Mandible

Death indeed did await him, although quite why that should be I guess I'll never know. It allowed me access to another sphere, but the hints were bizarre and wouldn't make sense until the end. No wonder the Bishop wanted a better sphere! I went outside to challenge the Bishop, but arrived only to see him try and raise an army of the dead. This ripped apart the fabric of space and time, and released Chaos from the vortex. Chaos being an actual supernatural creature in this context.

Bishop Mandible telling me the details of his evil plans.

The creature decided to make an example of the bishop, and his body was obliterated. I had remained hidden, but ended up into the tear in space after falling off the balcony (seriously, this was a weak part of the game. You escape the balcony and go inside, where a small green dragon has escaped. Heading back to the balcony, the dragon follows and the edge of the balcony crumbles since it's suddenly weak for some reason and you fall).

Chaos. Probably a little bit evil. Maybe.

It was in this void in space that I finally found the swans I was looking for. My mother Cygna told me to close the ripped holes, then I had to make my way to the Loom to prevent Chaos from gaining control of it all. This felt quite a tense experience, but the actual puzzles were a little weak. It was a series of counter-spells and then unmaking of the loom, leaving a massive rip, separating Chaos and yourself.
Swan Lake

You are left to transform into a swan, join your mother and... well... it kind of ends there on a massive cliffhanger. How does Chaos get stopped? How does the fabric get mended? I guess the developers moved onto other projects. There is a fan-made sequel (Forge), and we shall see how that works out!

The final battle, such as it was.

I liked the story, even in it's Disney-like simplicity, but for such a short game that middle section was a little empty. There really aren't a lot of puzzles, and I only found a few of them any particular challenge (and that was sometimes down to the game's eccentricity). I wasn't a fan of the way they used the interface either. There were a lot of different patterns to weave with the distaff, but in the majority of cases they were used once or twice. Only the open/close pattern was used with any regularity.
Artwork from the Forge fan-made Loom sequel (Miner's Guild)

The artwork was generally quite good, but lacking in a few specific areas. Firstly, there was the problem I mentioned before: some scenes were unclear as to where you were able to walk to. Second, the green glass city looked particularly poor (and made little sense, who lives in a literal greenhouse?). They could have been better served having large stained-glass windows or something. Finally, the VGA version cut a few bits (mainly close-ups of characters faces) due to the voice-acting on the CD version. Apparently they couldn't sync up the animation and the voice-acting, so they ditched those bits which is a real shame.

Artwork from the Forge fan-made Loom sequel (Vintner's Guild)
Overall, I found the game generally enjoyable, if flawed. Lucasfilm Games/Lucasarts would go onto much better things of course with the Monkey Island games and Day of the Tentacle, which I will no doubt play again once The Adventure Gamer gets to them!

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