Articles

Thumb

LucasArts' Secret History #4: Loom Second Opinions

Okay, so screw that guy. What does everyone else think?

Jennifer McMurray

Loom is a real departure from the average LucasArts adventure game, and I think that it is brilliant. It has one of the most engrossing storylines that I have ever had the pleasure of playing in any adventure game. The game takes place in a fantasy setting, so the classical music by Tchaikovsky fits in perfectly. My favorite version of the game is the PC CD-ROM version, as it contains full speech for the game, and as usual for LucasArts productions, the actors perform their job admirably.

The interface is completely different from any LucasArts game that came before or after it. It consists of a staff with musical bars that can be used to play "drafts", which are the spells that the main character, Bobbin Threadbare, can use to manipulate his world. This leads to some freedom in the game, as you can use the spells on certain objects that are not required to complete the game. The interface is a little cumbersome, as it's not as fluid as the other SCUMM games since the spells rely on memory (or more specifically, musical notes that you wrote down in the spells section of the game's manual).

This is the only game in the LucasArts catalog that I feel absolutely needs a sequel. The story is left on a cliffhanger, and it really leaves you wanting more. It would be a shame if we never find out what ultimately happens to the world of the great guilds.

JP-30

Hmm. I guess I really need to find some time to play this game.

Twilo

I am in high demand and will not write a single word until you promise me a hefty cash fee. (Editor's Note: We never paid him.)

Phil Colvin

When we talk about adventures which potentially closed the gap between video games and the novel; I think Loom has to be the start point for that discussion. It really felt like the first time that a game made a conscious effort to break down the barrier between the player and the fiction by stripping the interface almost to its bones and creating a seamless storytelling experience. Replaying it years later, you notice how every action you take in the game is aimed at pushing forward the narrative. There are few puzzles (beyond the correct usage of the distaff, obviously) and few occasions where you ever need to backtrack to a previous location or ponder where to go next. Loom is a page turner; replaying it is like reading a novel, rather than playing a game.

It was revolutionary and, admittedly, the shift from puzzle mechanics towards creating a richer fiction does make things a little too short. But I'm a big fan of the type of experience Loom tried to create; if there had ever been a path which could have brought casual gamers / novel fans into the adventure fold then Loom was probably the first signpost on it. (Especially in LucasArts choice to make Loom its first CD adventure; given how that format was originally touted as the one to bring the families together around the computer) However, it was a little too early for the non-gamer audience to find games, and although their subsequent catalogue is what made them truly great, I feel LucasArts missed an opportunity by never again deviating from traditional verbs and puzzle mechanics.

Loom is the odd cousin of the SCUMM adventures. Easily ignored; but unforgettable to those who spent time with it.

Robert Flannigan

It all started in the Scumm Bar, where a friendly gentleman told me to inquire about something called Loom. It was 1993, and Monkey Island was my first experience with a graphic adventure game. The pirate's spiel about Loom seemed interesting, but at that nascent stage of my PC gaming career, I wasn't even sure where to buy such a thing. I was sure that none of the stores I bought computer games from carried it. So, my next graphic adventure experience was with Sam and Max, Monkey Island 2, Day of the Tentacle, and the Legend of Kyrandia. It wasn't until a year later that I happened upon a copy of Loom (complete with a Book of Patterns!) at a computer expo, lying amongst a pile of shareware floppies and primitive CD-ROM games. I was very pleased to buy it, and I fell in love with it that night when I popped it in my 4X cd-rom drive. "Welcome to the age of the great guilds."

The copy I had bought was the CD-ROM "talkie" version, and at that point in my videogame playing life, it seemed like a revelation to me. I had previously played the talkie versions of Sam and Max and Day of the Tentacle, but Loom was different. It was the first adventure game that I played that wasn't a comedy, and the first videogame I had ever played that so successfully married its aesthetic ambitions to its CD-ROM era production values. I fell in love with the atmosphere of that world, all 256 colors of it. One of my favorite things about the game is the voice acting. I'm not sure why exactly, but I think it's because it's the first time I had heard "serious" voice acting in a videogame that was actually well done. To this day, the voice of Bobbin sometimes pops up as the voice I hear in my head when I read weighty narration in a book. I still get a little sad when I think about those two Loom sequels that never were. As one of the rare dramatic stories told in a Lucasarts adventure, it's original, understated, and bittersweet. It manages to make the score borrowed from Swan Lake into more than just an excuse to prevent Michael Land from putting food on his table. Despite the game's length, it creates a compelling (and creepily obscure) world, likeable characters, and a storyline that manages to put the stability of reality itself at stake.

I haven't mentioned the gameplay at all, because to me it wasn't the most important part of the game. I do think it's a nice way to shake up the regular adventure game tropes, and it integrates well thematically with the game as a whole. It can sometimes make the game a little easy, because at any given moment your potential interactions with the world can seem a little limited. And it does seem to contribute to how short the game is. But man, does it it pack a lot of impact into that very short running time.

Haggis

Yeah, I started playing it, but couldn't really get into it, sadly. The thing with the music is a nice idea, but in the end, I think I prefer standard inventory and dialogue puzzles.

MrManager

Not much to say...

Adventure game + musical interface = annoying puzzles. Points for an original story though.

Glo_kidd

Loom has always been one of my favorite games of all time. Not only was it the first LA game i ever played through to completion it was my first engrossing gaming experience. I absolutely had to see what happened next especially in parts where your solution ended up not being the best choice for those around you (Sorry Rusty). Loom will always have a place both in my heart and in my "play over and over again" list for being the first game to actually hook me :)

This next bit will be pretty spoilerish so if you havent played but plan to and dont want things ruined skip over this. I remember i was very young when we got our first copy, i sat with my mom as she started to play through the game. We found that it was handy to have two people at least for adventure titles as quite often one would thing of a backwards solution that the other had missed or overlooked. We played the game all day straight and had made it quite far, we had just found out though that our little spell has some serious negitive side effects on Rusty's well being. I felt terrible, couldnt sleep and had nightmares about rusty's vengefull ghost when i finally managed to. I had to continue and find out what else would happen, unfortunately my mom had lost interest in the game and didnt feel like playing it anymore :( That when i decided i should learn dos commands :P Starting the game from scratch i had a much better understanding of the game than i had as just an observer and quickly made it back to the point where we had stopped. Not long after the rusty nightmares stopped i was introdced in the face that to this day is pictured in my mental Encyclopedia beside the term "Embodiment of all Childhood Horror": Chaos. More Nightmares ensued :P Eventually i completed the game and all my fears and guild were alieved leaving general confusion and intense anticipation of the obviously impending sequel that would explain what the heck just happened :P It is truely a shame that those stories will never be truely known :( Im really getting tired of wierd dreams of swans carrying a flag that depicts a seemingly stationary star field :D

I absolutely love Loom, it is a fantastic game. It features probably one of the most flexible presentations of the SCUMM engine ever developed (at least in terms of what the player can do to interact with the world). Just imagine the size of the command bar if all the available interactions were listed ala monkey island, were talkin scroll bar material if you really visualize it. Using music combinations allowed for this fantastic amount of things to try but also presented the volume of interactions in a very involving way. I couldnt tell you how many sticks i picked up as a kid, pointed at a door and hummed ECED to :D

LOOM rocks, if you havent played it yet do it now. I recommend that you try to listen to the bundled audio drama first, it really helps set the tone for the game and delivers a back story that is definitely not to be missed. Packs a lot of impact into that very short running time.

Kroms

I never played Loom, but a friend once told me that he'd always wanted to know what happened with the swans and the world dividing. That probably meant the story was good.

Zaarin

Ahh, Loom. I remember playing this on the Amiga and I got stuck in the sea with the tornado. Took me a while to figure out that playing the drafts backwards had the opposite effect. Then I got to the part where the blacksmiths locked me up, and the game crashed because of a broken sector on disk 3. Happy times...

I remember that apart from the backward drafts, the game was really easy, even though I didn't know enough English to understand the dialogue. So I guess that's a plus. Playable if you don't know the language.

MarioColbert

LOOM was my first "proper" foray into LucasArts games, being that I was old enough to actually play and beat the game on my own, unlike Zak McKracken, which I've written in about before. Interestingly enough, I played it around the same time that the CD-ROM version of Monkey Island: The Secret Of became available. Being that I played Sierra and Gobliiins games, I had no idea that there would be a game in which you would not be able to actually die or lock yourself out, so I actually had to restart it after falsely believing that I was "stuck" at the Forge. Remember that Smith that holds up a sword? I always thought there was just one solution to this puzzle - "unsharpen" the sword. However, I did not write down the melody of sharpening at the glass blowers city... After figuring out that there was something I missed, I restarted the game, and played it all the way through without a hitch. Years later, I have found out that you can actually play the twister melody to twist the blade. Even now this serves as a reminder as to why I love LucasArts adventures ever so much.

My love for LOOM, however, was generally disrespected in Russia as well as in the US. Most notably, there were two games that were quite popular at the time, both of which were "preferred" by most "gamers." The first one is the ever-obvious one-letter-off DOOM, which I have to admit I never liked. The second one was DUNE 2, which doesn't sound like LOOM at all, unless you're Russian, in which case it sounds even less like LOOM, but was still preferred all the same. I never understood that. It wins in every department: seagulls, music spells, awesome box cover, mythology that isn't clouded by academic elitism (take that, Frank Herbert!), and best demon ever - probably my second favorite villain after Gygas.

Last but not least, I have to admit that I'm rather grateful that there was no sequel to this game (just as I am hoping that DoubleFine will not revisit Psychonauts), as the game has one of the best closing moments ever. While I generally dislike the discussions of "philosophical" nature of content (as it is best understood), the lack of a happy end or "victory" over evil rings rather nicely, in the same way that the ending of Out Of This World (or is it Another World in the states? I can never remember.) is a truly rare case in American storytelling. Together with the lack of inventory, and streamlined interface with the world make it possibly the most original of LucasArts adventures. And if my life wasn't busy enough, I have to replay this gem yet again, if only for nostalgia. Damn you, mojo!

Darth-Phenom

Loom sucked. The end.

Capel

I really admire Loom. It puts an original spin on the adventure game in a daring way not attempted ever again. While the main critics of the genre accuse it (perhaps correctly) of not evolving and its fans being downright resistant to new ideas, here you have Loom out before even Monkey Island. No inventory, no verbs, just one item and all the puzzles are solved in the same way. Perhaps "daring" was an understatement!

It also helps that the story and world are perhaps the most original and well-constructed in any LucasArts adventure. Grim Fandango is the only one that comes close, but then that's all based on folk tales. Loom is the creation of the minds at LucasArts alone. It draws you in like no other - what a shame those sequels were never made.

But it's the Staff that is both the game's most unique and compelling feature and the main drawback. Every puzzle is solved by playing music? Genius! You have to write down every single tune and if you miss any you can't finish the game? Ah. While 'use every item on everything' solutions in most adventures get tedious, Loom does not fix things by having tunes to play instead. An in-game recording of songs as Bobbin encounters them would have been helpful. Why couldn't he have written them down in that Book of Spells he gets at the beginning?

Okay, so you have to be paying attention and have a notepad and pen by your computer at all times. Loom's worth it. And it's the first LucasArts adventure to get a CD talkie version! How cool is that?

Gabez

I wrote a response to this game in which various sentences like "startingly original" and "groundbreaking for its time" were farted around. The truth is that I haven't played this game. What I did do was looked at a few screenshots out of interest, expecting to see the usual LucasArts affair. What I got instead was... dragons? Magical music? Healing shepherds with the magic of song? This is like if someone made a computer game out of my childhood imagination...! I mean, it has Swan Lake in it! In a computer game! A billion years old!

It's clear that a) I must play this game, and b) this is not (as Jason said in his review) merely a case of "good for its time"; some kind of historical relic. This game looks awesome now. I mean, Swan Lake...! And a radio play included for free! "Be still my beating heart"!

For a long time I thought Loom was just some boring game about stars. I was, of course, wrong. What's amazing is that the same company that made Monkey Island, Last Crusade, Maniac Mansion and others, could produce this in almost exactly the same period. Classic LucasArts really was a hotbed of creativity and originality, for one simple reason: it allowed people like Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, Dave Grossman, and Brian Moriarty to follow their own personal visions.

Lagamorph

Loom... Loom...

I remember playing this game with the Lucas Arts sampler years about maybe ten years ago. After playing through the demo I didn't do anything with it until a few years ago, when I downloaded... ehrrr... I mean e-mailed Lucas Arts about it and got the 256 color talkie version from their store..........

It was only after playing through this version that I discovered that it was far inferior to the other versions with more dialogues and stuff... I always wondered why it was that short...

Wasn't there a sequel or something?

No news post