Loom. (computer game) (Reviews) (evaluation)
by David T. Sears
On the barren island of Loom, the exiled Guild of Weavers plies its trade and works its magic, spinning threads that alter the present and the future. No children had been born to the Weavers for many years, until you, Bobbin Threadbare, arrived 17 years ago. Instead of being a welcome member of the Guild, you're an outcast, for your birth was an evil omen. Shadow will soon fall across the world and the age of the Great Guilds will be over. Unless, of course, you, the untrained and youthful Bobbin, can stop the cataclysm. Thus begins Loom, an unusually well-conceived and-implemented graphic adventure game from Lucasfilm.
Before actually playing Loom, you're advised to read the Book of Patterns, which contains spell descriptions and blanks to fill with the musical sequences that you discover throughout the game. Since much of the game concerns magic, knowing what could become available to you is an advantage. The spells, or drafts, as they're referred to by the Weavers, are found in objects around you and are noticeable to you when you carry your distaff. Drafts are easy to record and your distaff. Magic seems to work on most objects in Loom, and weaving drafts just to see what might happens is quite entertaining.
Unlike most other adventure games, Loom does not kill you every time you make a mistake. There's often more than one way to solve a problem, and the problems are not so convoluted as to be unsolvable, as in some other games. This simple combination alone makes Loom far less intimidating than virtually any other adventure game I've played. Because thought is rewarded with success, not death, thinking is encouraged, and the game feels more like a challenge than an insult. While this approach to game design makes Loom an excellent game for beginners, it's no less a game for the seasoned player.
The story that you participate in is told with devastating humor, and the supporting cast is quite lovable. Your role in the fiction allows you to become an offbeat hero, and the ease with which you become attached to Bobbin is surprising.
Graphics in Loom are limited in palette and low in resolution, ported directly from IBM EGA, but they're rendered fairly well in a cartoonish sort of 3-D. You move Bobbin by pointing with the mouse and clicking on the destination; the game moves the character for you. Animation is everywhere, but again, it's limited. Most figures move in a laborious, choppy manner, and when one or more are onscreen with Bobbin, there's an appreciable delay in all movement. Yet most of the animation is charming, and some of it's rather complicated. Despite being so graphically dependent, floppy disk access is moderate and holds up gameplay very little. The music in Loom is neither brilliant nor annoying, but it supports the actions of the characters well enough and can always be counted on to accompany plot developments.
Occasionally Bobbin is removed from your control; the game loads a lengthy animated sequence to which you're merely the audience. Much inside information is related this way, like Bobbin's own history and what can be done about the oncoming apocalypse, but these sequences are sometimes disturbing. At one point Bobbin's distaff is taken away, and he's imprisoned. Without the distaff Bobbin is powerless, yet I was unable to prevent its theft. While necessary to the plot, the sequence was extremely obtrusive, and the animation that depicted Bobbin's escape also proceeded without my intervention. For several minutes, I could only watch and wonder what would happen.
Despite my annoyance with some of the animation, I was delighted with Loom as a whole. I'm pleased to annouce that it's the first adventure game that I've been able to solve on the Amiga, and that's not because it's an easy game. It's because Loom is a sensible fantasy - engrossing, amusing, and a minor epic in its own right.