Friday, 24 June 2022

Simon the Sorcerer - Quest for Whimsy

Written by Will Moczarski



We’re back with our clumsy protagonist in the charming fantasy world of… does it even have a name? Whatever the case, we explored the eastern half of the map last time around and this time I’ll take a scrutinous look at the southern part. First I come across a scantily dressed barbarian who is crying bitterly because he has a thorn stuck in his right foot. I pull it out for him and he is actually very thankful, handing me a whistle I can use whenever I might be in trouble – he will then return the favour. “What a nice guy”, Simon remarks, and rightly so. So far I haven’t been in trouble. I have not even run across a single puzzle. But I’m sure it will come in handy. 

Next I find a tree stump, and this jogs some serious memories. When I pass the stump it starts talking to me, pestering me for some spare wood. Turns out I can talk to the woodworm who live inside the stump. I remember that I found this very funny and clever way back when but now...eh. It’s okay, I guess. The main joke is that Simon thinks that he’s talking to a tree stump while he is actually talking to the woodworm and they subsequently make fun of him because he thought he was talking to a tree stump. Ah, you had to be there, I guess. The woodworm want some wood from us so we’re left with yet another fetch quest. Simon won’t hand the ladder to the woodworm and since I don’t have any other wooden items yet we’ll just have to wait.

The next location begins with a cut scene of sorts. A troll is guarding a bridge and two goats approach. They rehearse a scene from the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” but the troll refuses to get kicked into the river again so a lengthy dialogue ensues (which is, again, not all that funny). The goats insist on sticking to the original text while the troll falls out of line by pursuing legal arguments. They reach an impasse and the troll won’t let me pass until he gets satisfaction, i.e. something to eat, preferably goat meat. This fetch quest turns out not to be an actual fetch quest as the troll notices the whistle around my neck, the one I just got from the barbarian. When I agree to let him blow it the barbarian turns up and does away with the nasty troll. I can pick up his placard which seems like a rather useless item. Did I just solve a puzzle? Does this count?

To the east of the bridge there are some empty screens to cross until I happen upon an oaf. He asks me if I was a farmer and whether I knew anything about magic beans because his just won’t grow. I suggest he water them and he likes the idea (but doesn’t have any water, of course). This must be the mother of all fetch quests. Get me some water, will you? At the end of the road there’s a tower with a strange doorbell. I ring it a couple of times but nothing happens. But wait, I have that clapper, right? It’s such an odd item that you simply cannot forget about it. I attach it to the bell and now it rings. Someone throws down an enormous rope with a ribbon tied around it, or is it maybe Rapunzel’s hair? It is, and I can climb it to reach the top room of the tower. A stunning young lady emerges from behind a folding screen and appears surprised that I’m not in fact the wicked witch of the West. She tells me she was kidnapped by said witch when she was just a little piglet and when I demand to know more she reveals that her other half is actually quite hideous. A kiss by someone from another dimension can save her, however, and yada yada yada she turns into a pig called “Repulser” which is added to my inventory. Sort of puzzle-ish, right? Does it count this time?

Just north of here I emerge on the other side of the waterfall on top of which I ended my last session. My regular bout of pixel hunting reveals some vines I can climb down to find a strange creature with a fishing rod. The creature is called “Golum” and talks like Gollum. The dialogue options are kind of funny.


Which one would you pick?


Golum turns out to be participating in some kind of Tolkien convention. He is unsuccessfully trying to get some lunch for him and the others and I’m able to offer him the swamp stew I acquired last time. He’s very thankful and gives me his fishing rod in return, then he hobbles off into a cave that Simon won’t enter. Our protagonist proceeds to catch a lot of strange items before reclaiming the one ring to rule them all, and it actually enables him to become invisible when he puts it on.

I backtrack to the troll’s bridge and find a musician playing a sousaphone just to the north. Simon won’t cross the screen with that racket going on, and that’s it – I’ve exhausted all of the visible exits for now. Let’s recap the possible puzzles, shall we? 


(a) The paleontologist Doctor Von Jones is looking for fossils. 

(b) The woodcutter need some milrith and I can’t enter the dwarf mine in order to retrieve it.

(c) The oaf needs some help with his magic beans (and they are on sale in the shoppe).

(d) I didn’t get anywhere with the bartender, the shoppekeeper(s) nor the dodgy geezer.

(e) I can’t get past the broken plank on the pier behind the swampling’s hut. 

(f) I don’t know what the owl wants from me. 

(g) I need to fetch some wood for the woodworm. 


I decide to go talk to the owl first, then attempt to enter the dwarf mine with the ring on my finger. However, I get lost and find another exit first: a spooky cottage that might belong to a witch – the wicked witch of the West maybe? I can examine some things but as soon as I try to pick up the broom the witch materialises and scolds me for trying to steal from her. Then she sends me off with a stern warning. When I return she challenges me to a wizards’ duel – her broomstick for my life. It’s only because I know that I can’t die in this game that I eagerly agree to it, possibly to learn from my mistakes. However, she only tells me to come back when I’m a proper wizard – right, I’d forgotten all about...


(h) Fetch the magic rod and become a wizard. 


At this point I decide to resume drawing a map (I tried to wing it for a while) and return to the village first before checking out the owl and the dwarf mine. I hit the shoppe first and give the shopping list to the shopkeeper(s). They notice that I’m not the regular person but believe me when I tell them that he’s sick. Also, they tell me that they’ll leave everything outside when they’re ready. Outside where? Possibly right where I found the shopping list? 

On a hunch I return to the cottage with the chocolate truffle door and let “Repulser” do her thing. She reliably eats a hole into the door and I can finally enter the building. Inside I find a beekeeper’s hat and a smokebox. Now I can safely approach the beehive outside the cottage and pick up some wax. Can I use it as earwax in order to be able to approach the noisy musician? 

That seems to be all for now but wait – there’s more! The shopkeeper(s) left the box outside the shoppe. I can climb inside in order to infiltrate the dwarf mine (another MI2 reference but who's counting anymore?). Once inside, Simon automatically puts the ring on. I retrieve my spell book from one of the boxes and find that the only way out is through a locked door. 


Incredible how you can / see right through me.


I know this one, it’s the oldest puzzle in the (adventure game) book. The spellbook contained a loose piece of paper full of scribblings. I can push it underneath the door because the key has been left carelessly inside the lock (on the other side). Now I just need to poke the keyhole in order to make the key land on the piece of paper. The thing is: I don’t have anything to poke the keyhole with. The scissors don’t work, the smokebox doesn’t either. I’m sure there must be some pixel hunting involved. After quite a while I find a rat bone lying on the floor. I can use it to push the key onto the piece of paper and thus retrieve the key. 

Inside the cave - which turns out to be not the dwarf mine but rather the cave of the goblins - I pick up a bucket with a hole in it (also, fittingly, I can't buy no beer!) and find the village druid tied to a rack. He doesn’t believe that I’m not a creature of darkness and demands that I plunge a silver dagger in my chest in order to prove him wrong. Luckily there’s an alternate trial and I only need to touch his silver cross for that. Now that we're allies we try to come up with a plan for our escape but it’s not all that easy. The druid mentions that he might be able to turn into a frog when he sees the full moon but at present I don’t have a solution for this… wait, this is an actual puzzle, innit? 


Riddle me this, druid!


I poke around the room some more and find that I can pick up a flaming brand as well as a roll of extra strong mints (another Monkey Island reference! yo ho ho!) I can also open the Iron Maiden but find no use for it. For now, that is. Didn't the bucket have a hole in it? Of course it did. Maybe this will enable me to simulate a full moon for the druid somehow, pretending it's a pinhole diaphragm or something? It's a long shot but the game lets me put the bucket over the druid’s head so I must be on the right track. Now I can hold the flaming rod up to the hole and the druid turns into a frog right away and hops through the metal bars to the right, to freedom! This alerts the goblins and unfortunately my invisibility ring runs out of batteries around the same time! After some trial and error I find out that I can hide inside the Iron Maiden. I just have to wait until the air has cleared and then I can come out of hiding. When I do, Simon tells me he needs a drink and the water pours out through several holes in his body. Very funny. At least the druid returns in his frog form to bring me a hacksaw, enabling me to cut open the metal bars and escape! 

Now where was I? Right, I wanted to go see the owl. First I go see the sousaphone player but Simon won’t stick the wax in his ears – I must be on the wrong track with this. The owl doesn’t have any more useful information for me either but I accidentally find that I must have missed an item on this screen. There’s a small feather lying right there on the path. Has it been here before? I wonder. 

Where to go next? I’ve run out of real clues for the moment and seem to be missing almost all of the necessary items if I want to complete any of those fetch quests. I’ll call it a day for now and return with a clearer head. It’s quite possible that I haven’t exhausted my options in the village just yet. 


Session time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes



10 comments:

  1. I don't think this world has a proper name, at least from the first 2 games, and from what I recall on the manual. They could have retconned a name in 3, 4 or 5, but I really don't know.

    The woodworms cutscene is sooo long, and if I recall correctly you can't skip dialogue, at least a line like in LucasArts pressing the dot key. Never found it funny and it drags a lot.

    The troll puzzle is a little weird, if you tried to use the whistle before Simon says it has something stucked so it doesn't work. The troll fixes it for you, but yeah, not very good at signaling. Also the evil face the barbarian makes when you save him is a red herring, since he actually helps you.

    Those vines to reach the Gollum clone got me stuck in the game for months, they may look like an obvious exit for some, not for me.

    About that goblin fortress, back in the day there was a pirate copy of the game running around, the only way to really play the game around here since we never got a lot of original big boxed games. In that hacked copy, the gate was always open from the start so you could enter the fortress and solve some of the puzzles in inverted order (like converting the druid to a frog). Of course the game was then glitched since you couldn't get the items from the cell. Fortunately I managed to get a legal copy after some years and finish the game many times since then.

    Regarding the feather that you missed, it falls off from the owl when you speak to him, in a very tiny animation, very easy to miss. I think this is a direct reference to Cedric from KQ5, a meme by all means

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    1. They didn't give it a name in 3, but the developers of 4 and 5 retroactively named the world, and decided to call it... Magic World. That level of creativity is about on par with the latter two games themselves.

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    2. The woodworms cutscene is sooo long, and if I recall correctly you can't skip dialogue, at least a line like in LucasArts pressing the dot key. Never found it funny and it drags a lot.

      I agree. It's painful.

      Thank you for all of the insightful remarks. They're much appreciated, especially because they cover some things I just didn't think to try.

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    3. @El despertando: I haven't played any of those late sequels but of all the bad things I've heard about them this must be one of the worst.

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  2. At least the oaf didn't insist on trying Brawndo on the beans.

    The box doesn't appear until you've got the ring from Golum, a clumsy progress lock in the same vein as the tambourine in King's Quest V. Even if it does prevent a dead end (but the ring is barely useful anyway).

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    1. Ah, that's interesting! I wouldn't have noticed. To be honest, I don't care much for progress locks that make you revisit locations again and again just to see if anything has changed. I'm glad to have evaded this one by coincidence.

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  3. Is there a joke un this game that isn't a "homage" from Monkey Island por classic cartoons?

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    1. That's a good question. There are some references to the King's Quest games and classic fairy tales (although I admit that in this context it may be the same thing) but I think that you're getting at the game's lack of originality, right? It's kind of a second-level pastiche even when you take into account that the games which are being referenced already had their own share of parodies and homages. Does that make Simon postmodern? I don't know but it hasn't aged particularly well imho.

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  4. I really like the invisibility effect, yay for transparent layers!
    Also loved the Hank Williams reference...

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