Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Loom (MS-DOS)

Developer: Lucasfilm Games | Release Date: 1990 | Systems: PC, Mac, Amiga, Atari ST, TurboGrafx-CD, FM Towns

This week on Super Adventures, I'm writing about Loom, one of the final point and click adventures by Lucasfilm Games (because they became LucasArts later on that year). Lucasfilm Games was actually revived this January, but only as a brand to stick on licenced third-party games, so that's not much to cheer about.

My gimmick for Super Adventures this year is that I'm playing games that have appeared in someone's top ten list, and Loom made it to #8 in IGN's Top 10 LucasArts Adventure Games list (it could've possibly made it higher, but they were listed in chronological order). You might be wondering if LucasArts even released more than 10 adventure games, and they actually did! But only barely. (Spoilers: Zak McKracken and Escape from Monkey Island didn't make their list.)

Loom's maybe not LucasArts' most famous adventure game, in fact I imagine a lot of people only know about it because of the dude with the 'Ask Me About Loom' badge in Monkey Island, but I believe it's fairly well liked. Personally though I don't have an opinion on the game, because I remember almost nothing about it. I've definitely finished it before, played through the whole thing, but I have zero memory of it past the first 10 minutes. Possibly not a good sign, but at least it'll be new to me!

As usual I'm planning to play the first hour or so of the game and then quit so I don't ruin the whole damn thing for people, but I promise you'll get more than your recommended daily amount of screenshots.

Oh cool, copy protection. This is a fun minigame to go through every time I start the game up. Actually it's not fun, I'm being sarcastic.

I was also asked to pick my difficulty level, though it doesn't change the amount of puzzles I have to get through, it affects how much help I'll get with the magic system. On 'Practice' mode the game writes the musical spells out for you on screen, on 'Expert' mode you have to figure them out entirely by ear. I think I'll be okay with 'Standard' mode.


This is definitely new to me: a two minute midi overture taken from the ballet Swan Lake. It only plays if you're running the PC version with the Roland MT-32 patch, and when I beat the game I was playing the Amiga port, so I didn't get it. Tchaikovsky definitely knew what order to put his notes in, but I feel like there are better ways to listen to his music so I'm going to skip it and move on.

There's something else to listen to before the game starts: an 30 minute audio drama prequel! With the roles played by real radio actors! Recorded by what's now called Skywalker Sound! It's not included in the current GOG and Steam version, but that's fine as you can just listen to it on YouTube.

The actual game was originally voiceless though, until they got the actors back for the CD version two years later.

The game begins at night, with a shot of a shadowy blue island and a sky full of twinkling stars. There's a group of lights along the shore hinting at a seaside village and next to them is a long winding path leading up to the cliff where the game's hero is currently hanging out.

Oh sorry, this is a shot from The Secret of Monkey Island, Lucasfilm Games' next adventure game, released a few months later. Here's what the start of Loom looks like:

It starts by panning over the island so I couldn't resist stitching shots together to let you pan the image yourself.

One thing Monkey Island doesn't have, is a wisp of light flying around looking for the hero. That's more of an Ocarina of Time thing really.

And the player being told to go speak to the Elders is taken from half the JRPGs that were released around this time.

This is Bobbin Threadbare, the game's protagonist. Well, these are his eyes anyway, the rest of his face is a secret. I'm tempted to stop and draw something in, but I need to get on with this.

It's the dawn of his 17th year, which I guess means it's his 16th birthday today (either that or I'm thinking too hard about it and he's just 17). Either way, a messenger nymph has been created to wake him up and call him down to meet the High Council in the Sanctuary. So that's our first goal: get down to the village.

I'm playing the original EGA version of the game by the way, but the game was ported to five different systems, then re-released on CD with new graphics, so you've got a few options. Most versions use the 16 colour EGA art, but the FM Towns port and the PC's CD version both have the same 256 colour artwork and the TurboGrafx-CD game is doing its own thing.

(This GIF might not be perfect by the way, as I hit the colour limit, but I can't spot what colours its messed with so it's close enough for me.)

I expected the Steam version to use DOSBox or ScummVM, seeing as it's clearly the classic CD version of the game, but instead it's doing its own thing and it comes with filtering turned on by default. Fortunately it's optional, as is the aspect correction, so you can have the sharp pixels back if you want.

Oh by the way, all of my screenshots are the wrong aspect ratio, as it was designed to be displayed in 4:3. But then that's true for most DOS games. And SNES games. And NES games...

Straight away it's obvious that there's something weird going on with the game: the cursor won't stop blinking! It's bloody annoying!

Actually I'm talking about the lack of verbs. There was no option to push, pull, give, open, close, look, walk to, pick up, use, turn on or turn off this leaf, but I still managed to interact with it. That's really unusual for a game of this era. It's also strange that I had to click the leaf, then click the picture of the leaf afterwards, but then the game only has the one mouse button.

It was the last leaf of the year so I guess we're in late autumn.

I clicked the path in the background and eventually got Bobbin to walk down here to his village. I could go off to the forest on the left, or that pier on the bottom left, but I think I should go see what the Elders want first.

This... doesn't look like the High Council. In fact it's too dark to look like much of anything, though it's hard to miss the huge pile of gold lying on the floor. Whoever lives/works in this tent just left it here and then disappeared somewhere, and Bobbin isn't impressed.

In any other adventure game there'd be an option to pocket the money, but clicking the picture just makes him 'look at' it, so there's nothing I can do here right now.

It doesn't look like there's anyone around at all, which isn't too surprising I guess seeing as it's the middle of the night. Also all these tents look like they were made by giant spiders, so maybe it's better that I'm not meeting any of the locals.

Alright, let's try the next unmarked building then.

Oh damn, I think I wandered into someone's TARDIS; this tent is a lot bigger on the inside. Also I like Bobbin's shadow, that's a nice touch you don't see all that often in games like this.

I would comment on the way the camera pans across the screen to follow me, but that is something you see often, in SCUMM engine games anyway. They had that working all the way back in Maniac Mansion.

I don't think this does sprite scaling though. Sure Bobbin's tiny now, but it only happens when he walks onto a new screen or behind an object.

Turns out that this woven hut has giant stained glass windows inside. It also has tapestries revealing a bit of the backstory, just to make this walk even longer. Seriously, I'm starting to think I should've packed a lunch before this starting this hike.

And so Bobbin kept walking and walking and walking and walking until he eventually found the High Council hanging out next to a giant rainbow loom. But they look busy so he doesn't want to bother them.

The Elders are talking to someone called Dame Hetchel and they don't seem pleased with her.

Atari ST
Oh come on, I've walked so far, just let me have my cutscene!

Never play adventure games without a hard drive. Loom has a lot fewer disks than a lot of adventure games, but it's still not what you want.

Fortunately the PC version I'm playing has been installed to hard drive, so I'm safe now. I already got all my disk swapping misery out of the way when I played through the Amiga version.

Elder Atropos... hey I recognise that name! In fact I recognise the names of the other two Elders as well, Lachesis and Clothos. They're the Fates of ancient Greek mythology that weave every human's destiny. (I know this because they turned up in a season of Legends of Tomorrow). It's usually Clotho, not Clothos, but close enough!

Hey, another close up. Still no face though.

It soon becomes obvious that 'the boy' Hetchel is talking about is Bobbin. She's been accused of sharing the secrets of Weaving with him, even though teaching him is forbidden. He's part of their Guild of Weavers but they're terrified that anything they teach him could be used against them.

The portraits are basically the same in every version of the game, they just have a different amount of colours, except for the DOS VGA CD version. For whatever reason the CD version doesn't use portraits, even though they made 256 colour VGA portrait art and it's in the FM Towns version. In fact you're looking at it here. I read somewhere that they scrapped the portraits because they couldn't get the lip-sync right, but... not a whole lot of lips so far.

Oh, I also read some trivia about how a disgruntled artist wrote 'LOOM SUCKS' on the guy's face in the unused portrait art on the CD version. They apparently used another shade of black so it'd be invisible unless you changed the colours. So I ripped the art from the game and messed around with the palette and... saw absolutely nothing.

Anyway, the DOS VGA CD version is also the only version of the game with voices, but the actors aren't reading out the same lines. This was LucasArts' very first "Talkie" SCUMM game and they didn't have the technology to squeeze much audio in, so they rewrote the script to have the characters saying (basically) the same thing with less words.

Okay I'm going to show you the script of this cutscene on both versions of the game so you can see exactly what's changed, but I'm not expecting anyone to actually read it all. You only have to glance at this wall of text to see the gaps in the CD version.

CGA Script VGA Script
Bobbin Looks as if the Elders are busy. There's Hetchel! And the Elders don't look at all pleased with her.

Wouldn't want to interrupt…
Atropos You have heard the findings of the High Council, Dame Hetchel. You have heard the findings of this Council, Dame Hetchel.

What have you to say in your defense? Have you anything to say in your own defense?
Hetchel I have no defense or excuses, Elder Atropos. My Elders, my actions speak for themselves.

My actions speak for themselves.
Lachesis No defense? Not even the slightest remorse? This reckless defiance is intolerable.

This reckless defiance is intolerable. Any secret you share with Cygna's son might be turned against us!
Clothos Why do you disobey us, Hetchel?

You have always upheld the Rules of Membership to the letter.

Tell us what is in your heart.
Hetchel The boy must be told the truth about his birth, Elder Clothos. His talent is awakening, and the power is very strong in him.

His talent awakens! We dare not desert him now!

Soon he will wield the power of Weaving, whether we choose to guide him or not.

We dare not desert Bobbin now.
Lachesis Stubborn old fool! Stubborn old fool!

The secrets you reveal to Cygna's son may be turned against us. Who are YOU to decide such things?!

That is why his training was forbidden by this Council!
Atropos Enough, Lachesis. Enough, Lachesis.

We need not explain our decisions. Hetchel, I am grieved to see your many years of service end in such disgrace.

It grieves me to see your many years of faithful service end in this disgrace.

But the wisdom of the Elders may not be questioned.

That is the final Rule of Membership.

Another one of your students, Lady Cygna, learned the terrible price of defiance in this very chamber seventeen years ago.

Better that you had heeded that lesson.
Hetchel My destiny is in your hands, Elders. My destiny is yours to weave.
Clothos Our hands are empty, Hetchel. Hetchel, the fabric of your life has been woven by your own choices.
Atropos Gaze once more upon the Great Loom if you would know your destiny. Gaze once more upon the Great Loom if you would know your ultimate destiny.

For behold! That destiny is upon you. For that destiny is now upon you!

You could argue that the new script is actually better, as it gets to the point quicker, but poor Clothos probably wouldn't agree.

Anyway, Hetchel is transformed into a swan's egg by the Great Loom, which doesn't seem to be the punishment the Elders expected. But it doesn't surprise them as much as the other swan flying down from the sky and smashing through their stained glass window.

I didn't even think they were real windows, as you can't see any of them from outside. Maybe they're all facing away from the camera on the opposite side of the tent.

Well that just happened.

So the swan flies down and everyone else turns into swans... and this is somehow my fault? I'm starting to feel a little persecuted here.

And then everyone just flies away into a sparkly hole in the sky. Not just everyone from the Sanctuary, but all those people I didn't meet in the village as well. It's going to feel so quiet and lonely without them.

Alright, I'm back in control! It might seem like I used a lot of screenshots for one scene, but that was bloody long cutscene for 1990. I know Maniac Mansion literally introduced the term 'cut-scene' but I don't think they typically dragged on for four minutes even in the SCUMM engine games.

The Elders took their clothes when they transformed, but Atropos left his sparkly distaff for me to grab. A distaff is a stick used to wind wool for spinning, but I'm thinking this particular one will have alternative uses. Like maybe I could use it to play golf with that egg.

Clicking the egg made it play four notes, and a bunch of notes appeared when I picked up the staff, so I put two and two together and helped the cygnet hatch. Nice intuitive interface... it reminds me of Ocarina of Time again actually. Man, is there anything that Nintendo didn't steal from this game?!

Alright, I need to write that down now: E C E C - Hatch egg.

I know that's probably not its exact purpose, but I'll nail that down as I go.

Hatchel's still plenty talkative as a cute little cygnet and she calls Bobbin out on his feigned cluelessness when he acts like he doesn't recognise her (she saw him spying on the whole scene).

The good news is that Bobbin was going to be next in line for the swan makeover, so the surprise swan rapture has saved him. The bad news is that the time of darkness is nigh, chaos is spreading across the Pattern, it's the end of the world, and there's nothing that can stop it. The best the two of us can do is escape, so Hetchel decides to get a head start and tears a hole in the fabric of reality to go chase down the other swans. I don't have wings so I need to find an alternative way off this island. That's my first goal.

Anyway that was another three minutes of cutscene, but that's fine, it was interesting. It's the long walk back out of here that I'm dreading. This game really needs a run button, or maybe it could just jump to the next room when I double click an exit.


Now that I have the distaff I can start experimenting with stuff. My first experiment was to press F5 to see if it brought up the save menu, and it did! Total success.

Then I found a third tent with a bubbling pot of dye and clicked it to hear the notes C D C D. I tested it out on the heap of white fabric and it turned it green! Bobbin hates the colour green.

There's no button to reveal hotspots, so I swept the mouse around the room to see if there was anything else I can interact with and found a Book of Patterns. Bobbin picked it up, but there's no inventory so I guess I'll never see that book again. Though that's not entirely true, as the game comes with a Book of Patterns with descriptions of all the spells and a place to write down the notes when you find them. Even the Steam version comes with the book, though it's harder to write notes on a PDF.

I should probably look through it to find out the proper spell descriptions for the new tricks I'm picking up... but I don't want to. Plus 'turns fabric green' is fairly obvious.

Speaking of colour:

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (MS-DOS)
Here's what Lucasfilm Games' previous adventure game looked like, so you can see the difference in graphics. They both use 16 colours on screen at once, and maybe not the 16 they would've preferred, seeing as the CGA hardware gave them just 64 to choose from (compared to 4,096 on the Amiga 500 and 32,768 on the SNES).

The big difference between Loom and Last Crusade is its use of dithering to create the illusion of extra shades (though that effect doesn't work so well on a modern sharp screen). This change was actually due to improvements to the SCUMM engine, as they needed to upgrade their image compression algorithm so that it could handle dithered art.

Also Loom looks less scruffy without all those plain-looking verbs on the bottom of the screen.

Oh cool, I got another new spell for accidentally knocking over the giant flask. G D D E - Knock over? It'll take me a long while before I get to test this out as I haven't even unlocked the 'F' note yet, never mind 'G'.

So I left the tent with two new spells, a book that only exists in my reality, and a much deeper understanding of just how much Bobbin hates the colour green.

No green out here Bobbin, you're safe. Though there are a couple of fires I could click on...

Nope, didn't do anything. I can't even 'look at' them. I guess a 'fire' spell is too dangerous to let players play around with.

Bobbin doesn't want to go to that other tent in the background and I can't continue to the right so I suppose I'm done here. There's the Sanctuary with the Great Loom, a pitch black tent with gold all over the floor, a tent full of green and that's it. I suppose I should check out the pier next.

Oops, I tried to click on a seagull and fell off into the water. It wouldn't be so bad except I can't swim anywhere but back onto land.

I managed to get a clam open at least. Turns out that my 'hatch egg' spell is actually an 'open' spell, so I can update my notes. I did manage to click on the gulls in the end, but they're just repeating the notes for 'open', like the clam is all they can think about. One of them swooped down to eat it, but that doesn't seem to have gotten me anything.

There has to be some point to this screen, so I tried turning the gulls green. Nothing but red sparkles of failure. I guess the green dye spell only works on fabric. 'Open' didn't work on them either, thankfully.

I headed up to the forest instead and found four holes with three owls inside. Checking the first one got me 'D', the next got me 'D C', and the third got me 'D C C'. Spells are always four notes long, but you have to hear the whole thing to be able to cast it yourself. I tried playing 'D C C C', 'D C C D' and 'D C C E' and got the line "I don't think I spun that quite right" for the middle one, so I know what it is but I still can't use it yet. You learn magic through watching and copying, not reading or deduction.

Also the spells are randomised when you start a new game so you can't just check a list even when you have learned them. You have to write your own notes.

Hey, I've found my fourth owl! Sucks for the rabbit though. I wonder what rabbity spells he could've taught me.

I got a new spell from the owls at least... though it didn't come with instructions so now I have to figure out what it is. Hey, maybe it's a flying spell and I can use it to get off this island! It worked for the swans.

That's interesting, I tried it on the sky and it failed. But Bobbin said that dawn was coming soon anyway, which means it must be a light spell! Now I need to get back to that pitch black tent covered in gold.

The room contained a spinning wheel and a new spell, so now I can turn straw into gold! Doubling the amount of gold on the floor doesn't actually help me at all, but doing it did get me an extra note, so I guess I need to cast each new spell when I get them just for the practice (and to demonstrate that I've learned it). Unfortunately getting the 'F' note doesn't help me either because I don't know any spells that use it.

You don't have to click the buttons like I'm doing by the way, as you can play the notes on the keyboard instead. In fact you don't even have to press them in time with the character, though the game's designed to make you feel like you've got more direct control than most adventure games. They were actually thinking of giving it a gesture system at first, letting you draw the spells as shapes like a Nintendo DS game, but thankfully they realised that a lot of PC owners at the time didn't have a mouse so we were spared!

Okay, I need to figure out what to do next. There's three tents, a pier covered in gulls, a forest full of owls, a graveyard and a tree. I've learned the magic spells for 'open', 'dye fabric', 'knock over' and 'night vision'. There's something here I'm missing, but I don't know what.

I eventually figured out that there was a gravestone I could click on over in the graveyard, and it belongs to Bobbin's mother.

Damn, 8004? That means it's something like 8020 now. I wonder if this is supposed to take place in Earth's distant future or a fantasy world somewhere else. If it is Earth, then this might be the furthest into the future that Super Adventures has ever travelled. It also means that Lady Cygna was only 21 when the Elders punished her.

Hang on, I recognise that picture at the top. That's the tree that Bobbin hangs out by up on the cliff. And the text seems pretty relevant to it as well. Afterwards Bobbin made it absolutely obvious by saying "The day the sky is opened..." to himself, so I've gone from being hopelessly stuck to knowing exactly what I should do with absolute certainty in just one move.

Destroying the tree that Bobbin hangs out next to feels symbolic somehow, especially as it's now a raft. He's leaving his old life behind and moving forwards. I don't know how the person who did the engraving on the tombstone could've possibly known this would work like this (the tree even stopped at the pier to let me get on), but I guess when you literally weave the strands of fate you can pull off anything you want.

Well, except for stopping yourself getting turned into a swan, obviously.

That's a beautiful shot of Bobbin heading off at dawn, with the seagulls following. Monkey Island puts a picture up saying PART II: THE JOURNEY when you leave the island and then you're straight onto the next bit, but Loom would rather show the journey than just cut straight to the next joke. Any excuse to play a bit more Tchaikovsky.

Also the art style was apparently inspired by the 1959 Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, which is a pretty ambitious look to try to pull off with just 16 colours.

It seems a bit risky though, paddling a tree into the ocean like this, with no food and no water. Does he even know where he's going? Maybe I should've tried harder to look for a boat. I mean the Weavers must have had one right? They didn't just strand themselves on Loom Island.

Oh shit.

Well, I can either try to open it, turn it into gold, dye it green, or make it easier to see in the dark; that's my full set of abilties right now (I still don't have the 'G' I need to knock things over). Or suppose I could click on it and see if it teaches me anything.

It played F D D E, so I suppose that's a storm spell. I tried casting its own spell right back at it, because it seems like it'd be more productive than colouring it green, and it didn't work. But Bobbin actually had a bit of dialogue for this, saying "It's twisting hard enough already! Must be SOME way to untwist it ..."

Untwist it... reverse the twisting... a reverse spell? Can I just reverse the notes to reverse the spell? Man, if this works I'm going to feel so damn clever for working it out myself from just a semi-obvious clue.



No, I just wanted to select the whirlpool, not paddle into it!

Wait, why am I complaining? I got to see a unique animation I would've missed out on otherwise and I didn't even get him killed! Also, man that's a buoyant tree.

I've reached land! A brand new location, with a strange new art style. The way those cliffs are coloured it's like they haven't been finished yet. I also got my 'G' note just for coming here, so my magic potential has increased.

Well I've done it, I've escaped the island. I haven't escaped the chaos that's going to unmake the world or whatever, but I think I've done enough to call this a day. I don't want to spoil the whole game for people who might want to play it themselves.

But... I don't remember any of this and I want to see what's here, so I'm going to do a bit of exploring first.

Yep, it's definitely autumn.

Also I've found actual people to talk to! Well, I've found people that talk anyway. Bobbin's not a silent protagonist, but conversations play out more like they do in a JRPG than in an adventure game, as I get absolutely zero say in what gets said.

These guys are looking for a wizard and none of my magic is good enough to impress them (I couldn't even reverse-dye their clothes and bleach all the colour out of the green bit), so I suppose all I can do is wander elsewhere.

Oh damn, I've found the Emerald City! This place must be torture for Bobbin, and it's not made of fabric so he can't do a thing about it, but maybe I'll find a Wizard of Oz here to bring over to the shepherds. Also the music's gotten very Lemmings all of a sudden. Yeah I know it's the Dance of the Little Swans from Swan Lake, every song in the game is from Swan Lake, but my mind immediately jumps to Lemmings. Here, have a Youtube Link to listen to... and here's the Lemmings version of the tune as well, because why not?

I've noticed that the game likes to have its art overlap the black bars at the top and bottom of the image and I think it helps give it an interesting look. It's just weird here though, as the cliffs overlap the bottom bar but the sand doesn't, so there's a strip of black between them.

FM Towns
It's the same on the FM Towns/CD version of the game, just with much smoother gradients.

This VGA art has distinctive style that looks very different to LucasArts' later VGA games, when they were creating art with 256 colours in mind from the beginning. By Monkey Island 2 they were drawing the backgrounds on paper first and scanning them in, with the side effect of them looking fantastic.

Hey, I've discovered a mysterious figure trying to buy a ball. Could this be one of the villains? Could the ball be part of his plot to bring chaos to the world? It would be nice to reach some story, seeing as I'm a bit aimless at the moment. I'm still just looking for a flock of swans.

It took me a while to figure this place out, because its really confusing to navigate. I mean it's only like four rooms, but they're a little hard to read due to the winding layouts and everything being transparent.

I achieved something interesting here though: I managed to get a character to say a different line of dialogue. There's a chalice here and when you look at it for the first time a character comes on screen to chat about it. On the VGA version I used a spell on it before looking (turns out that the 'knock over' spell is actually 'empty', so I reversed it to fill the chalice up), and the guy commented on how irreverent I was. So it is possible to change conversations slightly sometimes if you work at it.


I'm about halfway through the game now I think and I've reached one of those pitch-black maze levels!  There was one of these in Last Crusade too (in fact I think there were a few of them) and it was rubbish there as well. I was going to merge a bunch of screenshots together to show the whole thing at once, but then I decided that I can't be bothered. Man I hate mazes like this.

This isn't where I hit a dead end though. That was a little bit later when I got stuck in a room with a pool of water and a crystal ball.

I tried everything I could think of on both the pool and the water, but I just couldn't figure out how to get off this screen. After 17 minutes of this I finally gave up and checked a walkthrough. I really wanted to get through this without looking up an answer but I was completely stumped here.

The walkthrough said "leave the caves to go outside".

So I checked a video walkthrough instead. Turns out that you just go to the right hand of the screen, then up and around the back. Loom isn't always great at making its exits obvious.

It's also not great at giving you multiple things to solve, it's pretty focused and linear, so if you get stuck on a puzzle you can't go work on another puzzle for a bit instead. There's no 'Three Trials' here.

Man that is so much more hardcore than our Guild of Weavers HQ. And our HQ looks like it was made by spiders.

Plus I've found a graveyard up here, which wouldn't be so weird except it's the fourth one I've come across so far. The game draws attention to them as well, as tombstones are one of the few things I can look at. It's definitely ominous.

Speaking of unnerving, I met someone from the Blacksmith guild who said he was out looking for firewood and hadn't found any, and I was suddenly very aware that all of my abilities rely on this stick I'm carrying around. Bobbin's extremely powerful, but if I lose my distaff I lose my entire interface and ability to interact with the world beyond knocking flasks over. So that's a bit worrying.


Hey I've finally found Cob! You know, the man with the 'Ask Me About Loom' badge in Monkey Island! I figured he'd have a fairly big role in the game, seeing as he was the one chosen to advertise it, but I guess not.

Also the voice actor sounds nothing like the guy they got for the Monkey Island Special Edition with the voices. When's Loom going to get its Remastered edition anyway?

Secret of Monkey Island Cobb ask me about Loom
The Secret of Monkey Island (MS-DOS)
High-resolution 3D landscapes huh? Don't remember seeing any of them in Loom. I suppose the score is pretty sophisticated though, seeing as it's been borrowed from a ballet.

Okay that's it, I'm going to wrap this up now, but I need another static image so this GIF isn't annoying you at the top of your screen while you're trying to read the last block of text. Fortunately I've got an idea for that:

(Lines only vaguely point to the right month, especially for the earlier games.)
It's my old timeline image that I put on all my LucasArts adventure game posts!

Man, I've gotten a lot of use out of this thing since I made it for my Sam & Max: Hit the Road article back in 2015. Not not many LucarsArts games left for me to write about now. Just Labyrinth, Maniac Mansion, Zak McKraken, The Dig and Grim Fandango and then I've played them all.


I knew that Loom was going to be short, LucasArts games generally are, but I wasn't expecting it to be this short. Despite all the times I got stuck and went wandering around, and all the times I got distracted and left the game running, I completed it in just under 3 hours. I checked YouTube afterwards and there's people finishing it in just over an hour! They were 12% through the whole game by the time they'd made it out of the tent, holding the distaff. 3% of their entire game time was spent just walking from the door to the Great Loom and back again! Granted they were playing the CD "talkie" version with less dialogue, but that's the version you can buy on GOG and Steam these days.

At least now I know why I barely remember anything from the first time I finished the game: there's not all that much to remember. I did finish it again though, which is usually a good sign. I'm definitely not going to complain that the game wasn't padded out with time wasting frustrations just to make people feel like they got their money's worth.

Loom came out just a little too early to take advantage of the switchover from to VGA graphics that made PC games like Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max look so great. It looks fantastic for an EGA game, but it's definitely not the prettiest game you'll find on the Amiga or Apple Mac, and the VGA makeover didn't work out as well as The Secret of Monkey Island's did. Though despite its archaic visuals, Loom feels a lot like a modern indie game to me. That's partly due to the streamlined intuitive interface, which is hard to improve on, and partly due to the philosophy it was designed with. LucasArts games are famous for not screwing over the player with deaths and dead ends, but Loom takes player friendliness a step further as it really wants people to stick with it and experience the entire story.

It's a game that's made to be finished and designed to be fair... so basically the exact opposite of something like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which basically plays humans to amuse itself. Monkey Island isn't that tricky, but you can get stuck for a long while on some of the puzzles, unlike in Loom where I was rarely far from an epiphany. No one ever got rich from the Loom hint line. It makes sense though; Bobbin's an unusual character archetype for an adventure game as he's a Chosen One whose powers are growing rapidly rather than a regular guy scraping by with their MacGyver skills, he's more a Luke Skywalker than a Guybrush Threepwood, so his puzzles require him to understand how to use his own abilities. (Though you can make the process a little easier by reading the Book of Patterns that the manual tells you to read, like I didn't.) You're still going to be sweeping the mouse across the screen to make sure you haven't missed anything, but there's no items to pick up and that means no inventory puzzles. At all! Instead you're basically collecting your collection of verbs, and notepaper is mandatory because you're on your own with writing them all down. Unfortunately there's only a few opportunities to have fun with your magic, and a couple of problems with multiple solutions; there's no simulation aspect to the spells.

There's also no dialogue puzzles, because there's no dialogue options, and that's a downside for me because the conversations are what draw me into these games. You can influence the dialogue you get by doing something in a scene that a character will notice before you initiate it (like turning a shepherd's sheep green for instance), but you're really just watching lots of small cutscenes. Loom is so keen on having you experience its story that it rarely lets you mess around with it. It's a really weird, unique story though, set in an imaginative fantasy world you barely get to glimpse. I can imagine it being adapted from some ancient myths and some of it definitely was, as the Greek Fates are there running their reality-warping loom at the start. Not much actually happens in the plot by the end of it but there sure are a lot of swans.

It's not that different to Monkey Island in tone, as it's fairly light with a hint of menace, but it's more of a fairytale than a daft comedy and despite coming across like a kid's story it can get surprisingly dark. It has no problem breaking out the horrific gore when it wants to make sure you're paying attention and it's more jarring because of how well animated it is. People die in this game. Bobbin's goal is to escape chaos and rejoin his guild as it's stated right at the start that there's no way to win. The apocalypse is coming and you're witnessing how it comes about. You're also discovering how much power you have in simple spells, and I don't think any adventure game gets as much mileage out of 'open' as this does. I mean I opened the sky and destroyed a tree before I even left Loom Island!

You'd think that music would be a big part of the game, seeing as you cast spells by clicking on musical notes (or playing them on your keyboard like a piano), but really the only thing musical about the process is when you're playing on Expert (or you're in the final showdown) and you have to learn the spells by ear instead of seeing the notes light up. The rest of the time you might as well be typing in magical Deus Ex door codes. It does have a soundtrack by Tchaikovsky, so that's pretty musical (depending on your system's sound hardware), though I'm not sure whether fans of Swan Lake would be impressed. I mean I'm trying to imagine what I'd think if I was watching a ballet and it had a soundtrack nicked from Monkey Island. Games like Lemmings can borrow whatever they want and get away with it, but Loom might have done better to have its own themes.

The voice acting is great though, which is what you'd expect from a LucasArts game but maybe not a game released in 1992. I'm personally not that keen on Bobbin's voice, but they got a solid cast together for this, apparently all veteran radio actors. You could argue that you're better off with playing the silent version with all the dialogue intact, but some people like the more concise dialogue of the CD version, so it's subjective. The CD version also tones down some of the blood, drops the close ups, and the 256 colour graphics look a bit inconsistent compared to the original 16 colour art. Creator Brian Moriarty says that the original EGA game is the closest to the developers' vision, but the FM Towns version is a good compromise if you really want the higher colour art, as it has the close up portraits and the original dialogue (but no voices). You can stick all of these into ScummVM and it should play them just fine, so whatever version you want to try there should be no issues getting it to run on modern systems.

Overall, I liked the game! It's maybe not in my personal top five LucasArts adventures list (it's no Curse of Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle) but top ten for sure. So it can have a 'not crap' star.

Fun fact: this article has more words in it than the entire Loom game script. No seriously, I think that's actually true. It wasn't my plan, believe me, I just kept writing until it was done.

If you want to leave me a complaint for how much I just made you read, or take a guess at what the next game is, then you can leave a comment below! You can also tell people what you'd say if someone asked you about Loom.


  1. How dare you make me read that many words! What is this, a book?!

    Apart from that, I also completed this game years ago, and I also can't remember much at all from it.
    Also, it seems like the FM Towns is a mostly unexplored source of retro game goodness. I recently saw Ultima 3 on that system, and it's amazing how different it looks from the DOS one.

  2. The next game looks a bit Game Boy Advancey to me, but I don't think it's either of the Golden Suns. Hm.

    I remember playing Loom on the Amiga, but I almost certainly didn't finish it. I recall that I found it a bit obtuse at the time, but I was a teenager, so it was probably me being obtuse.

  3. The next game looks vaguely familiar... Sword of Mana, perhaps?


Semi-Random Game Box