Never in my life has a bad game made me feel so conflicted. Simon the Sorcerer 3D peers over the corner of its little basket in the rain, staring at me with moistly blinking puppy eyes – a creature hated for its deformity but pitied for its innocence. I want to give it a good review, but instead a stream of guilty tears pour down my face as I’m compelled to shut it out and force it to endure purgatory instead.
This game is a third-person 3D adventure about a pretty typical adolescent: Simon rebels against authority, insults random strangers, grows a ponytail because it’s trendy, and even takes the time to chat up pretty women while gawking at their bits.
From time to time, however, Simon is an unwilling hero in a fantasy world where he becomes a practitioner of magic who has to save the universe from a big bad wizard. Along the way, he solves lots of puzzles and does his best to increase his magical ability beyond the potency of a small rock. A hallmark of the series is that most of Simon’s trials are self-inflicted challenges stemming from various antisocial teenage vices, meaning that he often has to find indirect and ridiculous solutions to otherwise trivial obstacles.
Simon 3D is no exception to the series, but players unfortunately have the added burden of dealing with a game that’s horrifically buggy (expect glitches and crashes often), graphically inferior (even for its time) and incredibly frustrating to control (keyboard at its worst).
Adventure Soft wanted to pounce on every gimmicky extra that early 3D adventures could offer: expansive, awful-looking worlds to explore, clumsy action sequences and grindtastic mini games and side challenges. These were carried out as well as one would expect – which is to say not too gosh-darn well at all. The game also manages to put forward the 3D equivalent of classic point-n-click pixel hunt problems, requiring the player to stand in just the right place at just the right angle to see some objects. It’s frustrating – not least because it often interferes with puzzle-solving.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. In fact, since I first got my hands on the original Simon the Sorcerer, I’ve been thoroughly entranced by the series. King’s Quest is interesting. Monkey Island is funny. But the Simon games have always been filled with the most beautiful mix of satire, geek culture references, fourth wall breakages, black comedy, insults, and adolescent humour that a gamer will ever have the good fortune to come across. And Simon 3D proudly maintains that standard, with some of the best dialogue — and one or two of the most amazing puzzles — that I’ve ever seen in an adventure game.
But for the love of all that is witty, rude and adolescent, don’t play Simon 3D if you want a good impression of the series. Maybe pick it up if you’re already a fan, but otherwise have a look at Simon the Sorcerer 1 and its sequel, instead, for examples of old-school adventure at its finest. They’re fun to play and aren’t crippled by gimmicks or bugs.