Loom

Review by Jen

While waiting for my mail-ordered copy of Morpheus to arrive, I was looking for something else to play and came across this enchanting little game called Loom. I popped in the CD, rebooted to DOS, and was instantly hooked. This game is a real gem!

You are Bobbin Threadbare, an outcast from the Weavers Guild. You are summoned by the elders to your village and find them at the Loom, a magical thing that weaves the patterns of life. The elders are set to banish you but instead accidentally cast a spell on themselves that turns them into swans, and out the window they fly. You pick up the magical distaff of Atropos and set off to find the swans. Your travels take you to several different cities and ultimately you must foil an evil bishop and prevent Chaos from taking over the world. The plot is pretty rich (no moss growing on this one), especially for such an old game.

The graphics in this game were probably state-of-the-art in 1990, and they hold up pretty well today except for the bigger pixels. Some of the scenes are beautifully rendered, most notably the starry background in the "void." It was easy to tell exactly what was going on; there is no pixel-hunting, and all of the scenes were very clear.

This is a third-person game with you controlling Bobbin's actions throughout. There is no "inventory" in this game. The only thing I ever picked up was the distaff. By clicking on items or talking to people you encounter in the game, you learn four-note sequences that turn out to be magic spells when you play them back on the distaff. The items that give you the tune generally provide a clue as to what the magic spell will do. The trick is to know what spell to apply in each situation.

You have three choices at the start of the game, Standard, Practice, and Expert. According to the handbook, Standard shows the notes as they are played, and Practice lets you practice playing the little tunes. Unfortunately, I didn't read that part until I was well into the game, having unwittingly picked Expert because I fancy myself pretty good at adventure games. Also unfortunately, I am not very good at playing back tunes, even if they are only four notes, but I did not want to start over again and so decided to muddle through. However, this turned out not to be such a bad thing. It is a LucasArts game, so you don't die or screw up irremediably, and you get plenty of chances to try things again. Also, you start off with only two or three notes and gain more notes as you gain experience, to a maximum of nine (C to C), so there is time to get used to them. I found I had to restore previous games a couple of times, though, because I did not make note (pun not intended) of tunes that I needed later in the game. However, this is not a long or difficult game. I finished the whole thing in about five hours with no hints. I wish it had been longer!

The music in Loom is just lovely, but there is not enough of it. The sound effects mostly consist of the noise that happens when you cast a spell, which is a twinkly harp sequence. It is not impressive but also not annoying and, along with the rest of the sound effects, fits the mood of the game quite well. I get the impression from the two copyright dates on the CD that the voices were added later when the game was transferred to CD, and that usually means terrible acting, but not so in this case. Most of the characters don't have much to say, so none has a chance to get annoying. I would say, though, that if they had talked more, I would have been irritated by some of them, notably Bobbin, who sometimes sounded whiny. Some of the women in the game, though, did an outstanding job. I really liked the voice of Chaos—she was truly scary.

The overall effect is just magical, and I would recommend it to anybody. It's got a lot of the standard adventure elements, but it just so extraordinary overall that it was an absolute joy to play. It takes its place right up there with the rest of my all-time favorite games. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Release Date: 1990

Available for: Macintosh DOS

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System Requirements

PC:
IBM and 100% compatibles
10 MHz 80286
640k RAM
Keyboard, Mouse or Joystick
256-color VGA/MCGA, 16-color EGA
Soundblaster, Adlib, PC Speaker

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