Written by  :  Christina Nordlander (26)
Written on  :  Jun 10, 2003
Platform  :  DOS

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Music and magic are only two letters apart

The Good

Well, what is there not to like? This is definitely a break from the norm of LucasArts games: it is not humorous, it is dark, and there are no inventories or command bars. Much as I love "Day of the Tentacle" and the Monkey Island saga, I must say I *worship* "Loom". The graphics are dated now, but convey the magic of fantastical dreamscapes: a cathedral of woven tents, a spiralling path onto a mountain pinnacle, a blacksmith's castle made out of iron. The music (from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake") provides a perfect background.

The story is at first vague, but compelling. Bobbin Threadbare is a orphaned apprentice in the Guild of the Weavers, who witnesses the metamorphosis into swans of the Guild Elders. However, this is but the first step onto a journey of unforeseen complexity and darkness.

The depth of this game is nothing short of wondrous. Two motifs intertwine throughout: that of weaving and that of music. The Guild of Weavers are not quite regular clothmakers and not quite wizards: their craft and their art is inseparable, and they are the caretakers of the Great Loom. (This may ring a bell if you've read "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan.) Almost everything Bobbin does in the game he does with his distaff, which creates "weaves" based on music. I have yet to play a game where the hero is as potent and yet as restricted. As powerful as Bobbin is with his staff (commands you will execute throughout the game are, among others, opening the sky, stilling storms and turning into a dragon), as helpless he is without it. His powers unfold in a realistic manner, triggered by previous successes, like in any coming-of-age story.

The game world is only vaguely shown (it is a short game), but all the more compelling for that. It seems disjointed, perhaps post-apocalyptic, and consisting of unconnected islands or scraps of land, populated by mysteriously unconnected Guilds. Some names and events are references to myth and folktale (for example, there is one "straw into gold" weave). Others seem rather mythopoeic: the most haunting of these, in my opinion, is the giant scythe in the glass tower. Without any unsubtle telegraphing, it will hint of many possible symbols: the moon, or reaping death, or an element for cutting the threads of which the world is made.

The (first) villain is possibly the most entertaining, yet chilling, bad guy in any game I've played. Of course, from the company who has given us Darth Vader, that is only to be expected. And no, Chaos isn't bad either.

The Bad

It is too short. Also, with such an inconclusive ending, there should have been a sequel.

A slightly more serious fault, at least in my opinion... how to phrase this? Much as I enjoy LucasArts games such as "Day of the Tentacle", "Sam&Max Hit the Road" and of course the Monkey Island ones for their humour, some of the supposedly humoristic bits of "Loom" failed to make me smile. Perhaps it's the overall darkness of the game; perhaps I am merely losing touch. In between lovely touches of black humour, such as most everything said by Bishop Mandible, there are clichés... wow, the dragon is in fact a vain female, we have *never* heard that cliché before! (Maybe we hadn't, in 1990. I am not quite sure.) It is just a pet peeve of mine. I enjoy comedy, I enjoy anguish, but not in the same work of art.

I am certain the deliberate highbrow-ness of the game might get on someone's or other's nerves. Even I felt a little chafed by all the symbolism, allegory and myth-making, at times. Still, too much of a good thing is never bad. If only they had applied that to the length.

The Bottom Line

A haunting work where art, music and myth conspire to tell an original, dreamlike story. Definitely not your average adventure game, but well worth a try if you want to be swept away.