Wow, almost a month without posting anything! Again, I apologise for the lack of posts and reviews. My professional life has a way of slowly taking over my personal life, which includes all my hobbies (but someone has to pay the bills!) But now I’m back and to make up for my absence, let’s review one of my favourite graphic adventures of all times, Loom.
Loom is a graphic adventure made by Lucasfilm Games (AKA LucasArts) and originally released in 1990 for the Amiga, Atari ST, DOS and Macintosh. The following year it was ported to the FM Towns and in 1992, for the CDTV and the Turbografx CD. Also in 1992 it was re-released in CD-ROM format for DOS. In 2009, the CD-ROM version was re-released for Windows and the following year for Macintosh. And in 2015, it was ported to Linux.
But as always, let’s look at the covers:
This is the iconic cover which everybody associates with Loom and as you can see, it’s perfect for any fantasy title with a lot of mysterious elements in it. I absolutely love it!
And the back cover is equally beautiful:
The medieval fantasy elements used here give a better understanding of what the game is about perhaps even better than the front cover. I also love the old-style border full of imagery found in the game.
The FM Towns version had its own cover, though:
This cover shows Bobbin, our protagonist and some of the other characters. It lacks the mysterious elements from the original cover, but it’s not a bad cover per se.
And as always, it’s time to weave this draft:
The game begins with something not commonly found in most graphic adventures: a difficulty setting option. You can choose between Practice (recommended for beginners to the genre), Standard (the default setting) and Expert (only recommended for gamers with a good ear). I’ll come back later to the difficulty setting.
But before starting the game, I recommend first listening to the audio drama that came bundled with physical copies of the game, which is the prologue that introduces you to the world, backstory and the initial characters of Loom. The game begins where the audio drama ends, at Bobbin’s 17th birthday while being summoned by the elders of his guild. From there, the story takes an unexpected turn and Bobbin remains as the sole member of his guild (with an obvious destiny plot to fulfill).
One of the first actions you can do, the moment you take control of Bobbin, is to grab the distaff on the floor. This distaff is the only object you take and use throughout the entire game, believe it or not. You see, Bobbin is capable of casting spells (or weaving drafts, as the game calls it) with the distaff and it’s with these drafts that you solve the game’s puzzles.
Each draft is weaved by playing 4 musical notes on your distaff. And this is where the aforementioned difficulty settings come into play. In the Standard setting, the distaff is displayed in the bottom screen and divided into several segments. Each segment corresponds to a different musical note and every time you hear a draft being woven, the musical notes played are displayed on the distaff. In the Practice mode, a box is added below the distaff showing the notes (and its order) as they are being woven and you can afterwards click on the full box to weave that draft. In the Expert setting, an empty distaff is shown without the notes displayed, meaning that the only way to learn new drafts is by ear alone (not great for people with bad hearing or without musical inclinations, like me). Also the Expert setting features an extra cutscene during the final act of the game, but it’s then featured in all the settings in subsequent versions of the game.
Also the notes for each draft are randomised in each new playthrough (except for one special draft) and if you reverse the order of the notes, the draft will have a reverse effect (e.g.: if you reverse the notes of the Open draft, it will become the Close draft). Of course, some of the drafts can’t be reversed. So, you need to write down every new draft you learn, either on a notepad or in the Book of Patterns that also came bundled with the game. Also, at the beginning, Bobbin is only capable of playing 3 different notes, but as the game progresses and you learn new drafts, you’ll be capable of playing new notes to a total of 8.
Also, when interacting with the world, when passing the mouse cursor over a hotspot, a small image of it appears on the right corner of the screen. If you double click on the hotspot again or left-click on the small image, a draft is heard or Bobbin will describe the hotspot (whether it’s an object or another character). To use drafts, you need to click on the hotspots and then click on the notes of your distaff.
The game, however, it’s not very big and experienced players shouldn’t have too much trouble finishing it, which makes Loom a great title for newcomers to the genre (especially with its lack of inventory and mostly easy puzzles). But despite its short length, the story in the game is great with memorable characters, dialogue and moments, although one might get curious and yearn to learn more about this fantasy world.
The original EGA 16-colour graphics are stunning and colourful (with big closeups of the characters during the dialogues) and the animation is equally great. The MIDI soundtrack is beautiful (taken from Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Swan Lake) and complements the game perfectly, although the sound effects are merely adequate. The mouse interface is very simple and easy to use and learn.
The CD-ROM version, however, it’s very different. Although it features beautiful VGA 256-colour graphics, a better quality soundtrack and well-acted voice over dialogues; in order to make room on the CD for all of it, Mindscape (who produced the CD-ROM version) had to cut down on the characters’ portraits, some of the animations in the cutscenes (while adding others), censored some of the gore and rewrote the dialogues, changing the game drastically (and also shortening it).
In conclusion, Loom is the perfect game to introduce anyone to the graphic adventure genre due to its simple interface, ingenious gameplay and great characters, story and setting. Yes, it might have some small shortcomings (like its length and the ending) but I still highly recommend it (especially the original EGA version over the CD-ROM version). If you’re interested, you can buy it here on Steam or here on GOG.com. However, both stores only sell the CD-ROM version without the audio drama bundled with.
The Amiga version, as far as I’ve played, seems identical to the EGA DOS version, as does the Macintosh version, but the FM Towns version seems to be the ultimate version because it combines the VGA graphics and the superior soundtrack of the CD-ROM version with the animation and other exclusive features of the EGA version (although there’s no voice over whatsoever and still a bit of censorship this time around).
Loom was very highly received both by critics and the public and at least 2 sequels were planned but never made. For years, everybody thought that the sequels were cancelled due to poor sales, but Brian Moriarty (Loom‘s main designer) said in a interview that nobody at LucasArts was interested in working at a sequel, so the project was abandoned. However, a fan-made sequel called The Forge is being made (click here to go to the site, where you can download a demo) but there hasn’t been any updates since 2015.
So, what do you think of Loom? Tell me by commenting below and I still promise to review games, is just that I’m extremely busy during the week and only have some free time in the weekends. Anyway, see you guys next time and until then, keep on weaving and playing!