Loom review

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:

782-loom-dos-front-coverThis 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:

92695-loom-dos-back-coverThe 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:

217963-loom-fm-towns-front-coverThis 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.

669-loom-dos-screenshot-attacked-by-a-swan

Believe me, swans are mean motherfuckers. I know from experience.

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.

394139-loom-windows-screenshot-in-the-village

Exploring the village

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.

394140-loom-windows-screenshot-the-village-lab

You’re not alone, Bobbin.

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).

394142-loom-windows-screenshot-trying-to-open-the-grave

Weaving a draft. At a cemetery. Necromancy or neck romance?

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!

Who Framed Roger Rabbit DOS review

Well, it’s Easter again and to celebrate this holiday, we’re going to take a look at an adaptation of perhaps the best live-action and cartoon crossover movie ever made (that also features a rabbit BTW). We’re talking about Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an action game developed by Silent Software and published by Buena Vista. It was originally released in 1988 for the Commodore Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and DOS.

There are also other adaptations for consoles, but those are different games made by different companies, not ports of this one, so they’re not mentioned in this review.

But as always, let’s first look at the cover:

61790-who-framed-roger-rabbit-commodore-64-front-coverI have to give props to whoever was responsible for the cover art for not recycling the movie poster and although this cover is reminiscent of one of the movie posters, it features most of the main cartoon characters in the movie. Not a bad cover, truth be told.

But it’s time to boot this hare:

The intro isn’t anything to write home about and the title theme is just atrocious, although the title screen by itself isn’t that bad. Then there’s a small sequence (with much better music) featuring Baby Herman doing some exposition and telling Roger to go to the Ink & Paint Club before Judge Doom’s weasels and look for Marvin Acme’s will. You take control of Roger the entire game throughout its 4 levels: the 1st level is a driving section where you control Benny the Cab while you race against the weasels, avoiding other vehicles and dip puddles. You can jump over anything and even the buildings but if you fall in a puddle, you’ll lose a life.

If you manage to finish the level before the weasels, then we move to the 2nd level, where Roger has to run around all the tables, collecting all the pieces of paper he can find. But there are 2 penguins waiters replenishing the pieces of paper and a gorilla bouncer in the lower part of the screen. If the gorilla bouncer catches you, he’ll kick you out of the club and you’ll lose a life. There’s also some whiskey glasses on the tables and if Roger catches one of them, well if you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens (and you’ll also lose a life).

47659-who-framed-roger-rabbit-dos-screenshot-beat-the-weasels-to

Those dip puddles (on the right corner) are hard to avoid.

There’s no way to tell where’s the correct piece of paper (remember that Marvin used invisible ink), so the level just ends, presumably when Roger grabs the correct paper or some time limit runs out. The 3rd level is just like the 1st level but with more dip puddles on the road and finally the 4th level is on Judge Doom’s warehouse where you need to travel from left to right to save Jessica from the dip truck. Unfortunately the weasels are on the way, so Roger needs to use all the gags he’s carrying on himself in order to kill the weasels with laughter (just like in the movie) before the dip truck reaches Jessica.

If you’ve seen the movie, the game follows its plot more or less faithfully but as you can see, there’s no Eddie Vaillant in this game. In fact, the game focus exclusively in the main cartoon characters (not the WB or Disney characters). Perhaps the developers didn’t have the rights to use the actors’ likeness or the licensed characters, who knows.

The EGA graphics are okay although the animation is mediocre. It has nice, colourful still images between the levels, though. The PC Speaker music is horrible with just one or two tunes being somewhat good and the sound effects are almost non-existent. The control scheme is not very responsive, both the keyboard and the gamepad.

47660-who-framed-roger-rabbit-dos-screenshot-roger-must-collect-all

“Why don’t you do right, like some other men do?”

In conclusion, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of those licensed games where minimal effort was put into it. With just 4 levels and a ramped-up difficulty in order to stretch the gameplay, I can’t recommend it, not even to fans of the movie. If you want to try it in your own browser though, click here.

The Amiga version might have better graphics, more colours and way better music and sound (including digitised samples from the movie) but the controls remain unresponsive and it has some long loading times between the levels. I haven’t played any other ports or adaptations, so I can’t compare. There’s however a sort of a sequel, which we’ll review on a later date.

So, are you also a fan of the movie? If so, tell me below in the comments. And I know this was a short review but I promise a longer review of a much better game next time. Until then, have a happy Easter and keep on playing.

WWF WrestleMania DOS review

Any wrestling fan out there (even filthy casuals like me) knows that the upcoming weekend is WrestleMania, definitely the most famous wrestling event in the world. And to celebrate such occasion, let’s look at one of the first wrestling games ever made for the PC, WWF WrestleMania (not to be confused with all the other games with the same title though).

WWF WrestleMania is a wrestling (duh!) game developed by Twilight and published by Ocean. It was originally released in 1991 for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. It was re-released the following year for DOS.

This game is very similar, graphic-wise, to the arcade game WWF Superstars by Technos, but it doesn’t seem to be a port of it (well, at least officially it doesn’t).

But as always, let’s first look at the cover:

181928-wwf-wrestlemania-commodore-64-front-cover

Well, now this is an interesting cover. Of course, you’d have to include Hulk Hogan (on the centre) and the US flag in there, but it’s the inclusion of the British Bulldog (on the right) and the UK flag that makes it interesting. It’s probably due to the fact that Ocean is a British company. And the mean-looking soldier on the left is none other than Sgt. Slaughter, another famous WWF wrestler. Just by looking at the cover, one might think these are the 3 wrestlers we can control in the game, but actually, Sgt. Slaughter is the final wrestler we face in the single-player mode.

But it’s time to boot this sucker, brother!

The intro actually looks good with an equally nice theme. It also shows the 3 wrestlers you can choose: the aforementioned Hulk Hogan and the British Bulldog along with the Ultimate Warrior. Then we go the the main menu where you can choose between two options: the simple-player mode, where you compete for the WWF Championship belt and the Practice mode, where you can practise your moves and attacks against Mr. Perfect.

I recommend the Practice mode if you’re not used to this type of game, although the control scheme is quite easy to learn for it’s simply the directional keys and one attack button. The practice mode also doubles as the two player mode, but the second player will always play as Mr. Perfect, unfortunately. And all the matches are one-on-one. There are no tag-team matches.

If you choose to compete for the belt and after choosing your wrestler, you’re then taken to a TV screen where your 1st opponent, Mr. Perfect, is cutting a promo. You can then choose between 3 possible answers to your opponent’s taunt, to which then your opponent will respond to. The answers you choose are different to each wrestler and to each opponent, but your opponent will always answer back the same reply regardless. All this promo segments, while faithful to pro-wrestling, doesn’t affect the matches whatsoever.

209021-wwf-wrestlemania-dos-screenshot-it-s-kind-of-like-combat-in

“… BROTHER!”

We’re then taken to the match, which is shown in a side 2D view, with a bottom panel with two health bars, a 5-minute timer counting down and the number of credits left (you start with 2 credits).

If you’re used to fighting games, then wrestling games aren’t much different. In this game though, you can move in 4 directions and you can punch and kick the other wrestler. But you also have the ability to grapple your opponent when close to him. But the moment you grapple an opponent, two joystick icons appear in each lower corner of the screen. In that moment, you have to wiggle your joystick/gamepad left and right in order to build up a red bar. Whoever fills the bar first, performs a special grappling move unique to each wrestler (although said move doesn’t seem take a lot of health compared with the other attacks).

When a wrestler (either you or the opponent) is on the ground, another icon appears, of a finger pressing a button. This icon informs you to press your attack button as fast as possible for your wrestler to get up. While an opponent is on the ground, you can kick him or pin him, although the latter is only recommended with a low health bar. The less health a wrestler has, the longer it takes for him to get up and the easier it is to pin him. Any match ends when a 3-count pin is performed, the timer reaches zero or any wrestler reaches a 20 second time limit when outside the ring. But you’re only declared the winner if you successfully pin your opponent.

209014-wwf-wrestlemania-dos-screenshot-here-we-are-on-the-mat

FIGHT!

Yes, you can also go outside the ring, but each wrestler can only stay there for a maximum of 20 seconds. And outside the ring, you can find and grab chairs to use against your opponent (in fact, it’s the best attack due to its fast rate). Any wrestler can also climb a turnbuckle to jump on the opponent (or against the ropes) or even run towards him for more attacks (although again, they don’t seem to deal more damage compared to a normal punch or kick). But careful though, because running attacks can be countered.

After winning a match, your opponent returns to the TV screen for one last taunt and it then moves to the next opponent. To win the WWE Championship, you need to defeat a total of 5 wrestlers: Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, The Warlord, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, The Mountie and finally Sgt. Slaughter, presented here during his controversial Iraqi sympathizer heel phase. It would be great if you could also face the other two wrestlers you didn’t choose.

Now to the technical aspects. The graphics are okay and although the sprites are big, they’re also ugly and the animation is awful. The sound effects are also bad, but the music theme is good (although there’s no music during the matches). The controls, either keyboard or joystick/gamepad, aren’t very responsive and you’re going to lose the grapple wiggle a lot of times.

209023-wwf-wrestlemania-dos-screenshot-this-action-is-a-bit-more

In conclusion, WWF WrestleMania isn’t a good game. It has a hard difficulty setting and the controls, while intuitive, aren’t very responsive which makes the game unnecessarily harder. And there should also be more wrestlers available, not only to choose from but also to face and more variety of moves and attacks (you can’t even do irish whips). In other words, I can’t recommend it, not even to wrestling fans. But if you want to try it, then go here to play it in your own browser.

The Amiga version, although having better music (but worse sound effects), is equally bad in all other aspects. The other console and arcade titles with the same name are different games made by different companies, so I won’t even mention them in this review (although the ones I played are definitely better).

Well, what’s your favourite wrestling game? Tell me below in the comments or on our social media. Till then, enjoy WrestleMania 35 and keep on playing, brother!