Saturday, 16 November 2013

Game 37: Loom - Final Rating

I'm genuinely interested to see what PISSED rating Loom will get. It's undoubtedly a very good game, but I do wonder whether its short running time and puzzle simplicity might cause it to fall short of the top of the leaderboard. Only one way to find out...

Puzzles and Solvability
There’s no doubt that the draft mechanic is fun and unique, but I can’t help thinking there’s a reason why it hasn’t been replicated repeatedly over the years. I did have to use my brain a few times to figure out which draft was going to assist with my current predicament, but overall I have to say that the system made the game far too easy. Pretty much all the puzzles in Loom are obvious (and by that I mean that you know you’re faced with a puzzle when it arrives), and since every puzzle can ONLY be solved by weaving a draft, and the amount of drafts available is limited, it’s always only a matter of time. The fact is that I was only temporarily stuck three times in the whole game, and on each of these occasions it turned out that it was the environment that was causing me trouble. I was trying to find a puzzle to solve when in fact there was a well hidden (or should I say unobvious) environmental pathway that I was supposed to be taking. I would however like to retract a couple of complaints I made in my gameplay posts, where I criticised certain puzzle solutions (having to weave invisibility on the tower for one). It was my way of thinking that needed adjustment, and once I understood how drafts should be applied (ie. they cannot affect the weaver), things made complete sense. In the end I don’t think the puzzles were the main focus of Loom, and that’s never more obvious than in the final scenes where the player only occasionally takes care of menial tasks in between minutes of rapidly climaxing plot. As much fun as I had, I can’t go too high here!
Rating: 5


The climax arrives too soon, and once you're there, unravels with very little interaction. Just to be clear...I am talking about the game here!

Interface and Inventory
Loom is a very professional and polished adventure game. It was also a really brave project, which stepped away from all previous (successful) LucasArts games to try something different. For this reason it’s amazing that the interface is so incredibly simple rather than overly complicated. If anything, the interface may actually be TOO simple, as strange as that might sound. I found myself on a few occasions wanting to do certain things or talk to particular people, and I didn’t have the means to do it. But I’ve already criticised the game for being too easy, so I’m not going to get stuck into it for being too simple too. The fact is that the interface does exactly what it’s supposed to do in an efficient and enjoyable way, so credit where credit is due. As for inventory, well there isn’t one in a traditional sense. I could however argue that the Book of Patterns is the real game inventory, as it holds the “items” required to solve the game's puzzles. I guess it’s not unlike a Quest for Glory game, where the player has to gain enough experience and skill to be able to best utilise items that they already have. I may not have been able to open my inventory in-game, but I spent heaps of time skimming through it in the real world, gaining more information about each of my “items” than I ever could have in-game.
Rating: 6


The staff may not look impressive, but it's easy to use and very effective (yes, I'm still talking about the game here!)

Story and Setting
The story is a huge part of Loom’s appeal. The developers used everything at their disposal to give the world of Loom a deep and lush history, not least of all the package material that accompanied the game. I’ve already mentioned how useful and satisfying the Book of Patterns was, but the audio cassette that I listened to prior to playing had just as much impact. It was surprisingly professional and entertaining, and made the whole gaming experience so much more fulfilling. The story of Loom within the game itself is really unique and interesting too. I never quite knew in what direction it was all going to go, and was constantly surprised and intrigued throughout. Some of those surprises were shocking, including the gruesome death of the young boy Rusty, which left blood on my hands that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get off. There were however a few issues that I need to mention. Some of the game’s explanation of events felt weak, such as the Glassmakers’ decision to let Chaos destroy them, although I believe later versions of the game fleshed these out to a more acceptable level. It also felt odd to follow an obvious villain throughout the first three quarters of the game, only to have him abruptly destroyed and replaced by another towards the end. That being said, I guess it adds to the unpredictable nature of the storytelling, and Chaos was a much more formidable opponent than Bishop Mandible. At the end of the day, I’m disappointed that the sequels were never made, and that has a lot to do with how involved I got with the history and setting of the game.
Rating: 7


I didn't really see the point of the visions though. At first I thought they were puzzles, but they merely showed me what was to come. Interesting I guess...

Sound and Graphics
Loom is a visually and audibly beautiful game! The designers had a clear vision based on certain influences (mostly Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake), and that vision was very well realized in the final product. I’ll say straight up that I’m not a massive classical music fan (or ballet fan for that matter), but I can certainly appreciate it for what it is. It’s probably for this reason that I don’t find a lot of the music in Loom to be all that memorable, but I have no doubt that it fits perfectly well, and adds to the atmosphere and “magic” of the game. Sound in general plays a more important role in Loom than it has in any previous game on the list, since progressing in the game relies on listening carefully (even more so in Expert mode), and once again I think it has been implemented perfectly. I'm still waiting for a game to fill the less important sections with mood creating background music and sound effects, but we'll have to wait a bit longer I'm afraid. On the graphics front, I really can’t believe how stunning Loom is, especially given the limitations of the EGA technology. So many times I sat back and just took in the scenery, admiring the use of colour and shadow. The animation is also of a reasonably high quality, and I was most impressed by the way a rainbow of colours constantly swirled through the Loom in the Guild of Weavers. The only remaining question is whether or not Loom technically surpasses the likes of Hero’s Quest and Indiana Jones. Given the full package of Loom, I think I have to say yes!
Rating: 8


From the opening scene to the game's close, it's just beautiful!

Environment and Atmosphere
This is the category where Loom will undoubtedly clean up! I really love the way the designers gave each of the game’s guilds distinctive regions, and each of them is memorable and vastly different in every way imaginable. The Glassmakers have a city made of green glass located next to the ocean, the Shepherds control a vast area of grassland where their sheep roam, the Blacksmiths live in a huge anvil structure which is built into volcanic rock, and the Clerics plot within a massive gothic cathedral built upon a graveyard. Each is cool in its own way, but the awe-inspiring cathedral was my favourite. Probably my only criticism is how unsubtly the shifts between them occur. Rather than gradually changing surroundings, there are some seriously jarring transitions, but I guess we’re supposed to assume that Bobbin had travelled a fair distance between screens. These environments are the basis for Loom’s irresistible atmosphere, but a bunch of other elements also come into play. I’ve already mentioned the music and sound, but for me it was the sense of wonder and magic that really had me gripped. While things do become quite whimsical at times (I’d prefer my evil dragons not to call me Sweetie all the time thank you very much), I found the steadily unfolding universe of Loom to be a fantastic place to spend my time. It’s just a shame I didn’t get to stay there longer.
Rating: 8


How can you possibly lose when you have a lair this awesome!

Dialogue and Acting
Loom is quite story driven, so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of dialogue. Strangely though, it doesn’t draw much attention to itself, which I guess could be considered a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, there was no horrible writing that made me grimace, but on the other hand, a lot of it lacks the character that other recent games have used so prevalently. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think the numerous characters were differentiated as much as they could have been when it came to language and speech patterns. If I read any portion of dialogue spoken by Bobbin, Goodmold, Rusty, Cygna etc. and paid no attention to the subject matter, there’d be very little indication of who said it. I should also mention that I was often frustrated at having no control over the dialogue in the game. Conversations were triggered by actions alone, and I was unable to choose what topics were discussed or to ask anyone anything in the entire thing. It was also a bit weird to see all the close-ups of the characters I was talking to, with no mouth movements (let alone lip-synching), at all. I believe the makers did attempt to include this feature when making the game, but felt it wasn’t convincing enough so left it out. If you’re thinking that I’m being pretty harsh here, when very few games on the list so far (if any) have met these standards adequately, well I guess I am! In a way, Loom feels so polished in so many ways that these features feel like they should be there, even if that’s an unfair expectation. The game made leaps in some areas, yet as professional as it is, this isn’t one of them.
Rating: 5


It was in sections like this one where I so badly wanted to ask someone something, but couldn't. With no parser, no branching dialogue and no verb list, I was basically mute!

So that's 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 8 + 5 which equals 39, divided by 60 = 0.65. Wow! 65 is a very high score indeed, and would make Loom equal with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for second place. How do I feel about that? Well both games were groundbreaking in different ways. I think I may have enjoyed Loom slightly more than Indy, but then it's short length and linearity probably hasn't been massively punished by the PISSED rating due to it affecting only one category. I'm going to leave it where it is, which means both games are tied behind Hero's Quest on the leaderboard.


Did anyone predict a 65? Yes, Joseph Curwen did! Kenny McCormick did too, but he changed it to 66 after noticing Joseph had already chosen it. Congratulations to our winner! You've won yourself the King's Quest Collection from Steam, as generously donated by our sponsor Lars-Erik. I'll send you an email shortly. After a bit of admin, we're back to Sierra with Conquests of Camelot.

75 CAPs for Charles
Olav Challenge Award – 50 CAPs – For meeting my challenge and blogging through Olav & the Lute
Lure of the Temptress Award – 20 CAPs – For solving my Lure of the Temptress riddle
Gravity Award – 5 CAPs – For picking up on my Gravity reference

60 CAPs for Andy_Panthro
Olav Challenge Award – 50 CAPs – For meeting my challenge and blogging through Olav & the Lute
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it.

60 CAPs for Zenic Reverie
Olav Challenge Award – 50 CAPs – For meeting my challenge and blogging through Olav & the Lute
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it.

50 CAPs for Reiko
Olav Challenge Award – 50 CAPs – For meeting my challenge and blogging through Olav & the Lute

50 CAPs for Ilmari
Olav Challenge Award – 50 CAPs – For meeting my challenge and blogging through Olav & the Lute

45 CAPs for Laukku
Version Comparison Award – 10 CAPs – For directing us to a clear reference of Loom version differences
LucasArts Referance Award – 10 CAPs – For mentioning some neat in-game references in other LucasArts efforts.
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it.
Alternate Solution Award – 10 CAPs – For informing me of alternate puzzle solutions
Companion Assist Award – 5 CAPs – For helping Lasca with a technical issue.

42 CAPs for Draconius: Reference Hunter
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it
Obvious Reference Award – 7 CAPs - For discovering seven incredibly obvious references!
Wheel of Time Award – 5 CAPs – For picking up on my Wheel of Time reference
Bear Hunt Award – 5 CAPs – For picking up on, and then reciting, my Bear Hunt reference
Green Sheep Award – 5 CAPs – For picking up on my Green Sheep reference
Candlemass Award – 5 CAPs – For picking up on my Candlemass reference
Phantom of the Opera Award – 5 CAPs - For picking up on my Phantom reference

35 CAPs for Lars-Erik
Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it.
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing an adventure game sale on Steam

25 CAPs for Canageek
Cutting Room Floor Award – 20 CAPs – For adding CRF links to pretty much every game on the blog
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing an adventure game sale on GOG

20 CAPs for Corey Cole
Failed Tricky Smackdown Award - -20 CAPs – For betting against me and losing…twice.
Inside Info Award – 10 CAPs – For giving us inside information on the people involved in the game.
Inside Info Award – 10 CAPs – For giving us inside information on what was cut from the QfG games
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it.
Caption Contest Award – 10 CAPs – For coming up with the best (IMO) caption

20 CAPs for Schide
Sharing is Caring Award – 10 CAPs – For sharing his thoughts on Loom in great detail
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing

20 CAPs for Jarikith
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it.
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing an adventure game on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing an adventure game sale on GOG

20 CAPs for Tymoguin
Loom Halloween Award – 20 CAPs – For carving a Chaos Halloween pumpkin!

20 CAPs for TBD
True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it.
Kickstarter Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing a new Kickstarter adventure game

10 CAPs for Joseph Curwen
Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – For predicting the score I would give the game

10 CAPs for Pacpix
My Dying Bride Award – 10 CAPs – For picking up the My Dying Bride reference

10 CAPs for Aperama
Grammar Correction Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting on Bobbin’s spellcheck malfunction
Mulligrubs You Award – 5 CAPs – For damaging Draconius by picking up on my Mulligrubs reference

10 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
Creation / Apocalypse Draft Award – 5 CAPs – For having a vivid imagination
Monty Python Award – 5 CAPs – Run away, run away!

5 CAPs for Cush1978
Matrix Award – 5 CAPs – For picking up on my Matrix reference

42 comments:

  1. If anyone out there wants to blog through Circuit's Edge (as a guest blogger for The Adventure Gamer), you have until my Conquests of Camelot introduction post to put your hand up. Stacks of CAPs for anyone that's willing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll volunteer unless someone else wants to do it more. I was going to play this along with Chet once he gets to it, but I'm not sure about his order anymore. I'll probably need something to distract me from Double Dungeons that I have coming up soon.

      Delete
    2. I'd freaking do it if I'm not busy moving to my new house.

      I'm visiting your blog now in my cubicle!

      Although I suspect that I'm not the only one to do this...

      Delete
    3. It's all yours Zenic. Circuit's Edge is supposed to come straight after Conquests of Camelot, so that gives you a few weeks to prepare. I think it would be great if we could put your guest posts up in between my posts for Earthrise. It would make for an action packed month. :)

      We can discuss more details over email.

      Delete
    4. Great! Looking forward to giving back to the community (and the sweet, sweet CAPs). ;)

      Delete
    5. I might as well announce that I'll be competing for the chance to play Oregon Trail. Heck, I already tested the game and went through it in an hour. I am planning to lead a new team of colonists, whom many of you will probably know very well - but let's that be a surprise.

      Delete
    6. Ilmari: Hmmmm, let me know when you start that. I might try and find the version I grew up with and play that one. I own a legal copy, distributed in Canada by The Learning Company.

      Delete
    7. Canageek: Isn't its place already determined in Trickster's list? After Altered Destiny, it seems. Anyway, I assume Trickster will make a similar announcement as here ... let's see, after Monkey Island ... and there's still the possibility that someone else will beat me for a chance to guest blog Oregon Trail.

      Delete
  2. I really have mixed feelings towards this game. I loved playing it, I loved the whole set up with the audio drama and the world they created. The beginning of the game made it appear that story was the main focus and then to just have that abrupt rushed ending. In some respects I agree with a high score, and in others I don't. I just feel it could have been so much more as far story goes. I still really enjoyed it, but I think I just felt disappointed at the end. In fact my level of disappointment is probably a reflection of how much I was enjoying it.
    Maybe I'm just spoiled by modern games being so large and involved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know exactly what you mean Draconius. I actually spent quite a long time putting this Final Rating post together for exactly the reasons you mention. I had to weigh up just how much I should punish the game for not making the most of the excellent setup. In the end I just couldn't rip it apart because it was too fun to play and too polished. I had to take the audio backstory and the Book of Patterns into account too, which I think were fantastic. I feel comfortable with the score, but wont be surprised if some people feel it's too high while others too low!

      Delete
    2. It does feel high having it in second place, but I'm not sure how much I would change the score anyway (this is the reason I don't do scoring on my blog!).

      I guess it seems high now, but in the next couple of years there will be plenty of contenders for those top spots.

      Delete
    3. It's one of the reasons I'm considering taking it off my blog. I just don't seem to rate things very highly. Probably better to just have a list of top favorites for the year / overall.

      Delete
    4. From your point of view, the scores should probably be generally low at the moment because you've got so many more games to play. Each new year of games will bring improvements that will boost the scores, up to a certain point (graphical progression for example).

      The score progression through the years is probably quite affected by the shift in technology, not least graphical improvements, voice acting, music etc.. I guess the question is, how much should the score be weighted towards gameplay/design elements (which are less affected by technological improvements).

      While having "games of the year" might seem fairer, having a universal score allows comparison between years. Comparing between years then allows you to indicate that a particular game was very much ahead of its time, or that it has a lasting appeal.

      My dislike for scores is that they would have no context, I generally don't write as a comparison because I'm playing and writing about games from different years and in different genres.

      Delete
    5. The problem I see in trying to give absolute values to graphics etc. is that the scales would be constantly moving as the actual years go by. Trickster, Zenic and Chet have all began their blog series somewhere around the beginning of 2010. When they finally hit the end - let's say in 2020s - there's been who knows how much progression in these things so that what looked like 8 in graphics in the beginning might be just 7 or even 6 compared to the future standards.

      Furthermore, I think using absolute scores penalizes games, when the problem usually lies in the current hardware being incapable of fulfilling all the ideas of game creators. Voice acting etc. weren't just possible when some of these games were made, and it makes little sense to discredit games and their creators for this.

      Delete
    6. The "mixed feelings" about LOOM are not new. When it first came out, I talked with someone at LucasArts who said their customer support had gotten a number of complaints about the game being too short. One said, "I finished the game in 4 hours. I want my money back." The CSR asked, "How did you like the game during those 4 hours?" "Oh, it was incredible! Maybe the best game I ever played!" The customer thought about it and said, "Well, I guess I don't really need my money back." (Quotes approximate, 3rd hand, and from memory.)

      If I recall correctly, one of the Space Quest Games (4 or 5, maybe?) was also very short (but very good) and elicited similar CSR (Customer Support Representative) conversations.

      Delete
    7. I would guess 4. Generally people like it better than 5. 4 certainly took me long enough to finish and I was totally enthralled by it.

      Delete
    8. I think the scores are fair this time. Since, y'know, I guessed that number correctly (the 1st time) and I'm so freaking insightful and modest.

      I believe it feels rushed in the end to make you feel a sense of urgency. On top of that, it is supposed to have some sequels continuing the story line.

      Finally, I thought the aim of this blog is to compare and contrast improvements between games then and now? We're all gamers here and we all know for a fact that newer games does not equal better games. Also, Pixel Art (to me) has its own artistic merits compared to photo-realistic HD CG graphics. Soundtrack isn't so much as having clear, crisp sound effects as having appropriate background music that enhances the mood of the game at the correct moment.

      With this in mind, even some modern games can score horribly low. Strangely, I think the point-&-click Adventure games seems to suffer less in this department as compared to other genres.

      Delete
  3. Huh, you liked the setting a lot more then I did; it felt rather cliche to me; I've seen the whole 'group of different tribes/clans/guilds' things too many times before (Baten Kaitos, The 7th Gate series by Marget Weiss and Tracy Hickman, more that I'd remember it it wasn't 2 am ...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That said, it was nice to see a proper fantasy plot in an adventure game, even one as primitive as this.

      Delete
    2. I probably would have been a bit harsher as well, and am equally spoiled on more modern games. It was really just too short for me to get into. Most of the 3 hours I played on the TurboGrafx was filled with loading screens and slow movement.

      Delete
    3. @Canageek- To be fair, it may seem cliche to you NOW but this game was released decades ago. XD

      Delete
    4. Kenny: That is a good point now that I think about it. I guess that is really a CRPG thing; You have each tribe, with their own skills (Fire tribe, air tribe, etc). That might be why I can't think of books, it is mostly games (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (a bit), Final Fantasy Tactics, Breath of Fire II, just about every JRPG and similar where you have to go collect one party member from each tribe...)

      Delete
  4. Oh Trickster, one thing I think you missed, did you ever try to open a gravestone? It's some nice foreshadowing without giving away the climax.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried that in the glassmakers place, it certainly gave the impression that it was a bad thing to do.

      Delete
    2. Also, Twisting Rusty's soul is pretty fun too!

      And, Trickster, did you notice that there are entire places which are green in color and that you have a draft that dyes stuff green (and vice-versa)? Hilarious!

      Delete
  5. Hey Trickster, I believe I'm missing out on 50 points for playing and blogging Olav & the Lute!

    http://playedbypanthro.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/free-indie-game-olav-lute.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And do I get points for playing along? Or does it not count because I played the FM-Towns version?

      Delete
    2. I've added both. Sorry guys! Things got a bit confusing with this one since there were so many people playing along.

      Delete
  6. Trick, just reminding you to change the Obduction KS status - it has been funded :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just played the unity web-demo for Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption!

    Short, but enjoyable. Don't want to say too much, because I'm sure a lot of folks on here will want to play it.

    I'll hold off posting the link, unless Corey wants to share it (it should be made public in a week or two, according to the kickstarter update).

    ReplyDelete
  8. I thought the puzzle design was fairly good - there's no way to get stuck and there are even some alternate solutions. Furthermore, there are many ways you can use drafts on things which are completely unnecessary, but nevertheless add to the believability of the world. (Did anyone else refill Stoke's empty wood box after escaping the cell?)

    One thing I liked about the visions that the swan one came last in the first sphere, but came progressively sooner in later spheres, which made it increasingly apparent that trancendence was imminent.

    I like that the game doesn't end in a usual happy ending. I think it stands on its own without any sequels either. Then again, I'm bad at detecting cliffhangers - my reaction to Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was "huh, interesting conclusion".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, now that you mention it, I did fill his fire wood back up. If only he asked nicely earlier.

      Delete
  9. Wow, you can tell that I'm working now and have less energy to track down sales and such for easy caps.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You didn't get to stay whose longer?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trickster wrote their instead of there in the Environment and Atmosphere section.

      Delete
    2. I meant that. The longer belonged to them and they wanted it to stay. No-one understands me around here! ;)

      Delete
    3. Of course you meant that. Just like you meant to give me a "LucasArts Referance Award".

      Hmm, no points for informing about the MT-32 patch and the overture? Oh well.

      Delete
  11. I don’t think anybody in 1990 expected lip-sync in characters’ close-ups. Maybe developers’ decisions were affected by hardware/storage (diskettes) limitations or they didn’t think about it as a crucial part of the experience. Anyhow, you will have to play many games on this blog to meet the title with the feature implemented (1992/93 I suppose). I wonder whether you deducted points for The Secret of Monkey Island for the same reason. Seems it will take some time for me to find out.

    ReplyDelete