A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... A man named George Lucas decided to make a company. A company to produce computer games. Yes, it was Lucasfilm Games. I won't go into the details, because everyone knows the story (I believe you do, at least). Let us skip the boring parts, and jump right into the middle:
Loom was the fourth game to use the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) system, after games like Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken. Loom has a unique plot, a brand-new gameplay feature, and the standard graphics and music quality of all Lucasfilm games.
Let's find out what these are exactly!
You're Bobbin Threadbare, a Weaver. Your guild managed to get beyond merely weaving cloth and now possess the knowledge of weaving reality and imagination together. To do this, they use drafts: four musical notes played on a magical instrument called a distaff. Everything has a draft: the sound of sharpening a blade, the dyes used to colour cloth cooking in a pot, and much more. They can be used to give these attributes to other things, such as colouring the wool on lambs, and so forth.
There are other guilds specializing in certain skills; for example, the Glassmakers, Shepherds, and Blacksmiths. They all sell their products to anyone willing to buy, even to the Cleric. He needs these items to fulfill certain prophecies, and to open a dimensional gate to a different universe from whence he plans to set free an entity called "Chaos", which will help him to rule the world.
It is your duty to stop him...
Right after the short intro, you gain control of Bobbin. One thing you'll notice instantly is that you don't have an inventory, nor do you have buttons to do the usual "talk-pick up-open-close-pull-push" actions; you can only use your pointer to move and interact with the environment. Later, when you possess the distaff, you'll be able to use this to interact with objects. At the bottom of the screen, you'll see the distaff, and depending on the difficulty you have chosen, will see the notes of the C major scale. At first you'll only have a few notes to use, but later in the game you'll be able to play the entire scale. Whenever you encounter a draft, you'll need to use it on something else nearby, by selecting it and clicking on the certain parts of the distaff to play the same notes in the same sequence. This way you'll be able to weave spells. When playing at the hardest difficulty, you'll only see the distaff, and it won't even glow to help you play the notes. You will need to rely on your ears, yet you'll be rewarded with an extra animated scene which can't be found at other difficulty levels.
There are two major versions of the game: the floppy disc and the CD versions. The first one has EGA graphics and beautiful MIDI music, while the other one features full speech and VGA graphics. The scenes are detailed, the animations smooth. When wandering around in the Glassmakers' city, everything will be transparent, and the glass-objects will distort your character's image as he walks behind them, making the scene gorgeous. But there are other beautiful places, like the sunset you can see on the Weavers' island, for example.
The sound is beautiful. It includes covers of Tchaikovsky's ballet, Swan Lake, and other MIDI tracks; and the CD version supports Roland MT-32, not only PC speaker and AdLib (this will be a problem for us, but let's keep that for the technical section). The CD version has full speech, with voice actors, making the game feel like a movie. There was even an audio drama shipped with the original game, telling the events which led to the current situation we're in when starting the game.
All in all, the game is a masterpiece, made by professional artists, and because of this it shouldn't be missed, even though it'll cost you a little (the game is protected!). It was made in the golden days of Lucasfilm Games/Lucasarts, in the era of games such as Monkey Island, Sam and Max, Full Throttle, and many more... It definitely deserves 5 points.
Tip 1. Save often. You may miss certain drafts which you'll need to complete the game, so saving helps you to go back and listen to them again.
2. Write down every draft you hear. You'll need them later in the game. (Un)fortunately, they are different every time you start a new game, so you won't be able to finish it so easily next time!
3. If you're playing it for the first time, you should start on the Standard level, then next time play on the Practice and Expert difficulties.
If you have the the CD version, you'll need to use ScummVM to enjoy the speech, because DOSBox doesn't support the featured Roland MT-32 soundtrack. However, it is possible to force it to work that way, but some searching reveals that you'd need to have the original ROMs of the Roland chips. These chips are protected, so I guess using ScummVM is more painless. There's no problem, though, with the floppy version; it works fine with DOSBox under Windows. However, if you're using Linux, you'll need to use ScummVM for both versions, because the sound is of poor quality on the other emulator.
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