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SummaryVery innovative, yet overrated
The Good----First of all a little disclaimer. I played the Macintosh version. It's common knowledge that Lucasfilm's Mac versions of its early adventure games looked and sounded better than their pc brethren. The pixel jaggies were smoothed out, the music used a better library of sounds, and in general the experience was smoother. I'm not sure which PC version the mac version compares best to, but from what i've seen, it looked and sounded even better than the CD rom version. In any case, i assume this review applies best to the CD rom version. ----
I'm a sucker for spellcasting, and i'm a sucker for adventure games. At the time Loom was released, you know, back when "Lucasarts" was synanimous with "quality", it pretty much blew me away with its originality. Here was a game with only one inventory item, your staff, and where all puzzle solution was done by knowing what spell to cast and how (casting "open" backwards equals "close" for example). The game also featured a truly compelling world that seemed properly fleshed out, it had shades of both fairytales and postapocalyptic nightmares, characters who all seemed to have their own agendas, and a player character who inspired a lot of sympathy, especially through his voice acting, where he always comes off as an innocent.
The first hour or so of the game is a real adventure. Learning how to wield your staff and your spells, seeing how many objects in the world you can alter to your liking can be a powertrip at times. From starting off with spells to alter colors and opening clams, to unravelling the fabric of reality itself. There's a lot of cool stuff to do here.
The graphics, for their time, were very very good. The game is essentially a showcase of pretty pictures, starting with the craggy outset island to the glass city, the iron city, the cathedral of the clerics.. Some very attractive pictures indeed. The character designs include some good if unoriginal concepts. Chaos, essentially a being of pure evil, looks purely malevolent, but also looks a lot like Maleficent from disney's Sleeping Beauty. This kind of derivative design is the norm for the game, sadly. But the craftsmanship is fantastic, and the end product is surprisingly adult.
It's obvious a lot of heart went into Loom, but that gives more reason to be disappointed. The story, which starts off poetically and with a lot of emotional drive, jumps to conclusions. There's literally no time at all until you're confronted with the villain, and only one more encounter is what it takes for the ending sequence to begin. The game is, indeed, painfully short. This shortness is only emphasized by the linearity and simplicity for the gameplay. It is in essence a 2 hour session of simon says with dialogue, and there is rarely any opportunity for wonder, as the game's plot is spoonfed to the player. The story is also wildly inconclusive, with an ending i can only describe as "cop out". Actually a lot of the game gives me the feeling that the developers evaded a lot of problems and simply wanted to get the story over with. There are numerous plot nuances that are simply left behind after being introduced, and the ending isn't even a real ending. The bad guys won, yahoo. Obviously a sequel was planned, but we haven't seen any yet, and i doubt we will. This kind of ambiguous ending can really hurt a game, as seen in the recent Beyond Good & Evil.
A much touted aspect of Loom is its music, but i can't help but feel disappointed. The soundtrack is for the most part based off existing pieces by Tchaikovsky. Considering the extremely talented musicians Lucasarts employed at the time, just going for classics doesn't seem very inspired. Tchaikovsky is good, but not for a game, i'm sad to say.
Another problem is how the game flops into melodrama a bit too often, and the apparent depth of the storyline is betrayed by the developers' constant wish to move along. You're never given the opportunity to wonder.
Overall, i think what disappoints me the most now is how bad aging has been to the game. You can pick up Monkey island or Day of the tentacle today and they will still be incredibly entertaining games, while Loom is simply short and plain.