Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Simon the Sorcerer: No Money Mo' Problems

By Will Moczarski

Obviously it has been some time since I last played Simon the Sorcerer so I decided to start over and make a proper map. I enjoy mapping a lot so it hasn’t been a big hassle and when I started mapping I wondered why I hadn’t done it before. The world seemed so much more coherent now. Also I had always been confused by the close proximity of the dwarf mine and the goblin jail so only then did I discover that they were completely separate environments at all, sharing but one common feature: they’re both situated underground. 

The 2 hours I spent retracing my previous steps were also well spent because I discovered a couple more items and things to do. First of all there’s a small rock on the screen called the “centre of the forest”. It’s not that small but it’s the same colour as its surroundings which is why I have missed it. This time I accidentally hovered above its hotspot with the cursor and thus was able to pick it up and discover the secret message underneath: “beer”. This didn’t help me at first but then I noticed – as mentioned above – that the dwarf mine is not the goblin jail. To be fair it would totally make sense geographically but I must have read the dialogue inside the dwarf mine in passing only because the guard clearly tells me that I’m not a dwarf. Reading my previous post (and some of my older notes) I actually wrote down that I should find a way to dress like a dwarf to enter the mine but somehow I still must have confused dwarves and goblins somehow. Amateur hour at the adventurers guild, right?

When you do read the dialogue more carefully the guard gives you another hint: dwarves have beards. I need to get (or grow) a beard somehow. It’s a good thing that I was already carrying a beard at this point. Why? Because I examined the “Drunken Druid” more closely, too, and figured out that there was a dwarf who was so drunk that he’d fallen asleep so I could cut off his beard with the scissors. Now I don’t mean to harp on it but...well, maybe I do. This is one more puzzle that reminds me a lot of another one from Monkey Island 2 (sawing off the wooden leg when one of the three pirates is asleep). When I cut off the beard I had no clue what I might need it for but after the conversation with the guard it all became clear. 

The rib bone is connected to the...arm bone...

Now the guard accepted me as a proper dwarf but asked me for a password. Having read the small rock in front of the mine I was able to choose “beer” from a short list of options and this satisfied the guard. Interestingly, the other options are just entries from a thesaurus in alphabetical order starting with “aardvark” if I remember correctly. I wonder if it’s possible to brute-force this one but you can probably understand that I don’t have the kind of patience to give it a shot right now.   

Inside the dwarf mine I can talk to the head dwarf (I guess) and one of the guards. The head dwarf will feel pestered by my questions pretty quickly and the guard suggests that I would be allowed to enter the lower areas of the mine if I had a suitable bribe. I guess that might be beer, too, since I’ve learned either from the guard or from the wise owl that dwarves love nothing more than beer. Or maybe it’s something shiny and valuable – I haven’t figured it out just yet. 

The next detail I had overlooked on my first exploration of the world is that there’s a handle attached to the well in front of the witch’s house. I had noticed the well but when I had failed to interact with it I had just assumed that it was just there for the atmosphere. The handle, like the rock, is well hidden. When you move it Simon is able to pick up a bucket full of water. 

This was already handy right away because one of the many fetch quests had been to bring some water to a kid to help him grow his magic beans. When you enter his screen carrying the bucket full of water Simon automatically starts a conversation and proceeds to water the beans. The kid wasn’t very happy with Simon's performance, though: “You DROWNED them!” he screamed. Simon left the screen immediately, tail between his legs, but when I made him go back there the kid was gone and he’d left his beans behind. 

Next I attempted to use the metal detector in all sorts of places. The woodcutter had loaned it to me because he wanted me to find some milrith for him. I’m unsure why the metal detector wouldn’t detect any other kinds of metal but so be it. The most likely areas seem to be either the compost, the dwarf mine or the blacksmith’s, right? No, no, and no. However, when I examined the compost again the word “magic” stood out. On a whim I planted the beans there and a “water-melon” (of all things) magically appeared. The bell that rings inside your mind is challenging the doors of time, indeed. 

Not knowing what to do with the magic fruit (is it even magic? Or just the process of growing it?) I tried the metal detector in some other places and got lucky deep in the mountains. There are three or four screens with former adventurers who got petrified by Sordid, I think. One of them looks suspiciously like a magician with a valuable rod. Is this the rod I have to get for the wizards in the Drunken Druid? I’m not sure and I can’t find any way to interact with the statue. Simon just left the metal detector behind to mark the spot, however, so I haven’t solved this one anyway. 

By the way, I am pretty sure by now that I had never used the map (“postcard”) on my previous playthroughs. The game is a lot more fun when you use the map. It’s a bit on the slow side already due to its lengthy dialogues and its snail-paced protagonist but the map takes a lot of the sting away. I remember Simon as essentially a walking simulator with a few puzzles thrown in but being able to teleport around the world really makes things easier. 

Easier or not, at this point I was stuck for quite a while. I stared at my map and tried to figure out what to do next. I read my list of puzzles again and again. The problem was that I thought I’d remember the solution to a puzzle but in actuality I remembered it wrong. I was dead-certain that in order to talk to the sousaphone player you need to use the beeswax on Simon to make him stick it in his ears. That is not possible and I spent a lot of clicks proving myself wrong on this. The thing is: I was pretty sure that I’d need the sousaphone to wake up the sleeping giant because it seemed quite straightforward. Unfortunately I was so on the wrong track about how to get the sousaphone. 

At some point I just tried out to interact with the sousaphone player from a distance by using items on him. After one or two failed results it dawned on me that the watermelon must be the solution. Took me only half an hour to figure it out. When you use the watermelon on the sousaphone Simon throws it and it gets stuck in the bell. The sousaphone player is then convinced that his instrument is broken and Simon will promise to take it to a specialist. 

Once you have the sousaphone in your inventory you can troll the whole world with it. The right thing to do is to wake up the giant, of course. He didn’t quite wake up from it but he stirred enough that he hacked down a tree with his bare hands in his sleep. I was then able to proceed further to the east. 

East of the giant there’s another statue, this time of a woman pygmy warrior. And then there’s the dragon cave. I entered only to learn that the dragon had a cold and his hiccups were unreliable and potentially deadly. Simon actually got toasted in a very cartoonish fashion but this puzzle was quite obvious when you have done your pixel-hunting homework scrupulously. Using the cold remedy on the dragon prompted Simon to walk outside and throw it into the cave from a distance. This cured the dragon and I was able to pick up the fire extinguisher that someone must have left there for...occupational safety maybe?

Yep, those ashes is me. 

There’s also another exit that leads to a face in the rock where there’s another rock that can be picked up. Inside the rock there’s a fossil and we already know who’s looking for that! To the right there are also some climbing pins and one of them is missing – another puzzle lifted straight from Monkey Island 2

I brought the rock with the fossil to the paleontologist Doctor Von Jones right away but he wouldn’t accept it until I got the fossil out. So I took another look at my map to find out who might be able to help and the blacksmith seemed most likely to have some rock-breaking equipment. Indeed he gladly helped me and I was able to take the “amoeba from the Cambrian period” to Doctor Von Jones now. When he asked me where I’d found it one possible answer is in the craggy peaks where I left my metal detector. It’s a lie, of course, but it prompts Von Jones to set up camp there and he accidentally digs up some milrith ore in the process. 

 Henry David Thoreau, eat your heart out.

At this point it seemed that I’d hit upon a veritable sequence of solvable puzzles. I took the milrith ore back to the blacksmith who agreed to make me an axe if he could just keep the leftovers. What a nice guy! Then it was off to the woodcutter who was suddenly very happy to see me. When I handed him the milrith axe he immediately headed out to chop some wood, allowing me to plunder and pillage his home in the meantime. 

I found a climbing pin lying right there on the table which solved another puzzle right away. I dabbled with some other things and in order to be a total arsehole (and see how the game would react) I used the fire extinguisher on the fireplace. Let me tell you, I was quite surprised that it worked. Simon just said “I love these things” and put out the fire. I solved this one completely by coincidence and can see that I might have got stuck right here just as well. When the fire is gone I was able to see a hook attached to the fireplace that was previously hidden. I tried to interact with it by attaching items to it, thinking they might weigh the hook down and reveal a secret passage or something. The solution turned out to be simpler: moving the hook will suffice and open a passage leading to a secret room. Inside there were stacks of valuable wood. Simon would only pick up the mahogany but that must be sufficient for the woodworm. I travelled to the tree stump and gave them the mahogany and they were frantic, jumping right into my pocket. To be honest I didn’t expect them to become one of my inventory items. 

Next I put the climbing pin to good use. I was now able to cross the passage with the previously missing pin but on the next screen a rather aggressive snowman was blocking my way telling me that I shall not pass. He wouldn't elaborate or bargain with me so I walked back down, feeling I must have slipped back into the previous main game I played for the blog (Dare to Dream). That was when I noticed that there is another exit to the right, one I had overlooked before. There’s some more snow there and possibly Bigfoot? Do you recognise what this should be? It doesn't have a hotspot, it just lies right there frozen to death.

The day the trainee was allowed to design a screen. 

On the next screen to the right there's a tree I can talk to. Quite disappointingly, this was merely the beginning of yet another fetch quest. The tree knew some magic words but wouldn’t tell them to me unless I helped him remove a mark (called a “pink splodge” when you point at it with the cursor) from his bark – it’s a woodcutter’s mark condemning the tree to a horizontal fate. The tree, however, knew all about that already and told me to fetch some white spirit from the shoppe in the village. At this point Simon remarked that he would probably run somebody's errands forever and yes, this really struck a chord with me BUT the self-deprecating humour doesn't alter the fact that this is still the umpteenth fetch quest, whether the game is aware of it or not. Skyrim can hardly compete anymore.

Back at the shoppe I found the white spirit after some pixelhunting but I still didn’t have any gold pieces (I would need only one!). It was either too early for this or I’ve missed up on some opportunity to come across some money. 

This is where I’m stuck right now. I haven’t run out of things to do but the next move doesn’t really stand out. Going back over my notes I see a few quests I haven’t yet solved: 

* I probably need to buy the hammer to fix the loose plank below the swampling’s hut. I also don’t have any money for this. 

* I was so far unable to open the blacksmith’s locked forge door - however, he has helped me twice already so maybe that’s a red herring. 

* I haven’t found anything to buy from or sell to the dodgy geezer, possibly because – once again – I don’t have any money. 

* Is it possible to reach for the moose head or the suspicious herbs at the druid’s – wait, is he back home now that I’ve freed him? I never checked! Let’s do this right away...

... yes, he is, and at first he is willing to give me a free potion for helping him out. However, this quickly deteriorates into another fetch quest: he wants me to pick up some “frogsbane” from a place called Skull Island. I don’t have any leads on this, so there’s another puzzle. 

* I need to find something to bribe the dwarf inside the mine with. There's a strong possibility that it’s beer that he wants (seeing as it is their secret password as well as one of their favourite pastimes) but so far I was unable to order anything from the barman in the Drunken Druid. 

* Speaking of which...when I order a kids drink (another MI2 “reference”) the barman dives below the bar to look for some but it’s all out (same as in Woodtick). There’s a short moment in which he’s underneath the counter but I have no idea what I should be doing there. I’ve tried to steal the beer keg but it doesn't work.

* The magic word(s) I could learn from the tree (once I got the white spirit) are probably useful for the witch’s magic contest.

* The woodworm might chew through some wood for me; I don’t know where this might come in handy, though. 

This is not a request for assistance since it feels like I could dabble with some more things before I really hit a roadblock. I’ll try that next time. And the next break will be much shorter. Pinky swear. 

Do you like mapping, too? Miss it even, perhaps?

Session time: 3 hrs
Total time: 6 hrs 15 min


  1. great post !

    Another game where you steal clothes from a sleeping person: Hook, but in that case, you have to give him 3 beers before. And you steal his trousers !

    I have no idea about bruteforcing the password, seems like something I will have to try one of these days.

    That second exit from the dragon cave, the one that goes behind the cave also got me stuck for months, could never find it when I was a kid. They didn't use the LucasArts system of having labeled exits, which would have helped a lot.

    Also, some years later, CMI would steal the Skull island game from here, guess they deserved it after so many things were taken from MI2 !

    This is a game with really nice art, and tons of empty screens, to make the world feel larger. It certainly did work for me, walking from one end to the other (witch house to X pink tree), felt like an eternity.

    1. You think Curse's Skull Island was intended as a reference to this? I'm not sure Jonathan Ackley or Larry Ahern would have heard of it much less played it (but I could be wrong)... I always thought it was just a general "piratey" sounding thing, like how there's a "Skeleton Island" in the book Treasure Island.

    2. Also, FWIW there used to be a "Skull Rock" in Disneyland, from Peter Pan - https://www.yesterland.com/skullrock.html

    3. Thank you, Alex! It's true that the world feels really large when you just walk around in it. I remember that experience from playing the game in the 1990's. Back then I wasn't aware of the postcard, I think. It makes travelling a lot easier and the forest does get a bit old after a while.

    4. @Lisa: That Skull Rock looks VERY peculiar.

      The first two MI games also play with the trope of the piratey Skull Rock/Skull Island, I think -- both the monkey head on Monkey Island and the voodoo hut in the swamp sort of play on the notion of a giant penetrable nob.

    5. @Will: How do you mean "very peculiar"?

    6. Well, I don’t really know what to make of it. It looks really goofy but also sort of cool.

    7. I don’t know why I’m suddenly anonymous. It’s Will. Must be the ring of invisibility.

  2. I was also stuck at the second exit by the dragon's cave for quite a while when I replayed the game recently. (By the way, glad to see you back at the game, I was getting antsy for your next update). The game has a nasty tendency to hide things, exits being among them. For example (rot 13, just in case)
    Lbh ner jnl bss gur znex va ertneqf gb jurer gb svaq gur zntvp ebq, ohg gur tnzr qbrf fvzcyl abg gryy lbh jurer gb svaq vg. Va snpg lbh arrq gb erivfvg n cynpr gung lbh jbhyq abeznyyl guvax nf nyernql orra znqr erqhaqnag orpnhfr lbh nyernql fbyirq gur boivbhf chmmyr gurer. Naq rira jura lbh erghea gurer lbh arrq gb svaq n abg irel boivbhf ubgfcbg gb vagrenpg jvgu va beqre gb cebprrq.

    1. Ha, glad to have you back in the comments section, El D! I've systematically checked everything that even remotely looked like an exit. I do hope that you didn't rot13 that I still missed one ;-) (I'll check it out when I'm done with the game or if I get really stuck.)

    2. Well, it is about an exit, more or less. Vg vf na rkvg gung arrqf gb or haybpxrq, va n jnl (juvpu znxrf vg rira uneqre gb svaq, rfcrpvnyyl fvapr vg ernyyl vfa'g nyy gung boivbhf) 😉

    3. Oh and yeah, travelling the map makes the game much more enjoyable. The backgrounds are really beautiful and all, but Simon's walking at a rather slow pace, and walking all over the map screen through (empty) screen really drags things out. (They fixed this in Simon 2, allowing you to jump straight to the next screen by double-checking an exit - MUCH better!)

    4. (I meant to say "traveling the map by postcard")

    5. Having spent three more hours looking for new hotspots I finally found one that's really unfairly well hidden. I'm afraid to un-ROT your comments just yet but I assume it's about woodworm :-{ ?

    6. Yes, that was it (sorry, I hadn't seen your comment until now).

    7. No worries. In hindsight that was the most difficult "puzzle" in the game for me. Not sure how I feel about that.

  3. It strikes me that the main and only challenge of this game is pixel hunts, because the puzzles are either extremely obvious, or so obtuse that you only solve them by randomly trying everything. Good graphics, but clearly not a shining example of game design.

    1. Sadly, most of the game's better puzzles are lifted from MI2, too. Still the beginning of the game really felt like a slog; I'm actually enjoying it more now.

  4. I think the bigfoot frozen in the snow is a reference to King's Quest V, as it looks very similar to the one from that game. Shame there's no pie tin nearby or something.

    1. Ah, that makes sense. Thanks, Andy! I have played KQV at some point but I don't know the Quest games half as well as the LucasArts games which is why I keep spotting MI references while there may be just as many KQ references. It seems that they "borrowed" a lot from Monkey Island while they rather poked fun at King's Quest, though.

  5. A bunch of legendary adventure game developers featured in this archived PAX West 2022 stream: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1581145334

  6. Cutting beards is an old anti-Semitic trope. Congratulations, you're copying the Nazis.

    1. Interesting. The only historical reference to beard cutting I could remember was that of Russian tsar Peter the Great assigning a beard tax during 18th century to make his subjects look more western.

    2. It could also be a reference to that episode in Black Adder II were the titular Black Adder returns from his sea voyage and the only thing they saved from their old captain was his shaggy beard. Not everything is related to Nazis, you know