In Loom, we take on the role of Bobbin Threadbare, an inexperienced member of the Guild of Weavers, who must quickly master the magical arts of the Weavers to travel the lands of the Guilds and battle Chaos.
While the gameplay is pretty simplistic and the humor child-friendly, Loom provides genuine entertainment for the undemanding fantasy fan.
The magic system in Loom is based on music notes. Sets 0f four notes (called “drafts”) are used to perform actions or work effects on objects and people around you. New drafts are learned by listening to the surrounding environment.
Don’t worry about needing to pick out the pertinent tones from an auditory background, though. There is almost no atmospheric music in Loom. None. I was expecting an experience like Riven and Myst, with environmental sounds that pull you deeper into the game-universe – or at least like Beneath a Steel Sky and Humongous’s Pajama Sam series, where area-based music helped add to the mood of the story and characters.
Thus, I was surprised that Loom used hardly any theme music, and next to no environmental sound effects. This highlights the magical drafts, but is a missed opportunity to add to the world.
The game guide suggests that everyone, but especially those “new to this sort of game” read the manual (called the Book of Patterns) before playing, to become accustomed to the system of how things work. Since Loom‘s publication in 1992, adventure games, puzzle games, and games of all types are much more common, so the average intelligent player can probably figure out the mechanics without needing to read them first.
However, I do recommend you read the Book of Patterns at some point, because it’s a humorous and intriguing look at the broader world Loom inhabits. The main purpose is to describe the various drafts that can be learned, ranging from such labor-saving skills as Emptying and Dying to out-right “magic” such as Invisibility and Rending. This helps give an idea of the types of abilities that will be useful.
The Book is written “in character” as a textbook/history for developing Weavers, and as such contains hilarious tidbits about the world of the great Guilds, and their interactions with each other: the diplomatic interactions with the Guild of Nannies, the bloody war between the Guilds of Undertakers and Florists, and the scandalous false advertising of the Guild of Umbrella Openers.
The Book of Patterns also contains hints for the various puzzles Bobbin will encounter along his journey.
The puzzles themselves are mostly easy. I got stuck a couple times, and the reasons were usually:
–Thinking outside the “box”
–Pixel-hunt/finding the route forward
I recommend the Universal Hints System for when you just want a nudge to get you unstuck, and aren’t looking to have the whole solution laid out for you. At least one of the puzzles has more than one solution, which increases re-playability.
Another point of confusion with the interface was that in order to work a draft (or spell), you must click on an object to cast the draft on. Only certain objects are even selectable, making the action fairly linear sometimes.
It’s also not possible to continue conversations with people. In the Pajama Sam games you can click characters repeatedly to get more dialogue out of them, whereas in Loom you often prompt conversation by walking near them or clicking an object near them, not actually clicking them. There are no dialogue trees, such as Beneath a Steel Sky uses, so there’s no selecting what Bobbin will say or answer. Not that I object to him as a character (he’s a likable guy), but it stymied the possibility of further world exploration. Some players like to rush off to whatever must be done next – I would have liked the chance to ask the new characters about their homes and history (I’m like that).
As I said previously, the puzzles are fairly straightforward, and children should be able to get through the game without help. In fact, they didn’t seem as challenging as I remember the puzzles being in Humongous Entertainment’s excellent puzzle-adventure game series for children. Thus, the easiness of play makes Loom more suitable for inexperienced players or players (child or adult) who aren’t too demanding.
As for the story: the world is woefully under-explored during the game. We do get to meet several colorful characters from the various Guilds, as well as an old lady dragon, and Chaos, an entity from the Void who is let into the Guilds’ part of reality and begins to destroy things.
Unfortunately, the plot (and actions available to the player) and very linear at times, and the conclusion of the game is, well, inconclusive. According to Wikipedia, the developers hoped to make Loom the first part of a trilogy, with Chaos finally defeated in the third installment. However, at the time the developers were working on other things, and the other games never got made.
That doesn’t keep it from being a fun world with an intriguing magic system – that suspicious children might think is meant to teach them music notes. I laughed out loud at several points (such as when Bobbin is spun around, howling, in a twister). The humor is clean and accessible, and while the mumbo-jumbo about Chaos unraveling the Pattern of reality is a little weird, any parent who’s okay with their child playing a game that calls something “magic” should have no concerns.
In the end, we got honest-to-goodness entertainment out of Loom, and while most of the puzzles didn’t exercise my brain the way other adventure games tend to, it was an engaging way to spend a few hours.
There’s so much unused potential, though, I’m glad I waited until it went on sale to buy it.
This game is available on GOG.com as a DRM-free digital download. GOG includes copies of the game guide and the Book of Patterns for download.
(If you put it on your GOG.com wishlist, they’ll email you when it goes on sale!)