Point and click adventures are fascinating things sometimes, for their own reasons - the writing in The Secret of Monkey Island, or the artwork in Broken Sword for example. The fascinating thing about Loom is that, while looking pretty good and having voice acting (depending on the version you play), the whole story is centred around and interacted with a musical stick.
Not like a flute or, as the 1001 list points out, Link's Ocarina in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but a literal wooden stick that magically plays musical notes, with the correct tune played in the correct place on the screen changing the environment and solving puzzles.
It sounds pretty neat, and it sounds like I'm about to find out if I'm tone deaf sooner than I think...
I'm playing a later version of Loom, which comes complete with voice work, albeit a little abridged from the original lines. Nevertheless, it hooked me in fairly quickly, with catchy music and graphics that I frankly wasn't expecting - and I don't know why. It's not like they're hard to draw in the early 1990s or anything.
It's a strange, colourful game, Loom, as you begin it by watching a bunch of hooded figures turn into swans and fly through a portal out in the night sky, as unsure of what to do as your character is as well.
You play as Bobbin, an inexperienced weaver of... something... I assume a loom, as in the title, but I've not quite been able to follow along with the plot.
In terms of gameplay, Loom seems to be nice and approachable. Interactivity generally takes the form of clicking on something you think is interactive, finding out what Bobbin thinks of it, then playing it a musical tune, often found by clicking on other things you find on your travels.
Not to spoil the plot or anything, but an example of this is found early on by having you open the sky, for which you need to know the tune to open things. Where do you learn this tune? On a small pier at the beach are a bunch of seagulls, who will teach you the tune so that you can open a nearby clam, so that they can have something to eat.
These tunes are reversible, so the tune for open, played backwards, would close something. It couldn't be simpler, and this mechanic allows Loom to get rid of all the verbs that other point and clicks have cluttering up the bottom of their screens. Sure, Loom has a ruddy great big musical stick at the bottom of its screen, but it's more visually appealing than a verb list, and perhaps more engaging and less overwhelming, too.
But like many point and click games - certainly those where I'm in the driving seat - there are times where any forward progress just grinds to a halt, and the pace of Bobbin meandering across the screen as you desperately hunt for something that might help you out starts getting to you. You hope you're walking in the right direction, you hope there's something at the end of this walk, you hope you've got things done in the right order...
My stumbling block was this waterspout, impassable because I hadn't learnt enough notes for my stick (or Distaff, if you want its proper name). How do I learn notes? I'd assume by solving other puzzles. What other puzzles are there to solve? I don't know, because I haven't found/solved them yet.
It could well have been something simple that I walked past on multiple occasions, but I'm damned if I know what it is that I'm missing.
I watched a walkthrough on YouTube afterwards, but I watched it being played on expert difficulty, which removes the notes from your Distaff and forces you to do everything by ear. There's a lesson in there for me, surely...
My success rate with point and clicks is... well, very poor, but I am able to get a sense of whether they're good or not, and Loom is pretty good. Its story is a bit out there, as is its control scheme, but they go together so well that it's hard to forget about Loom.
It isn't as well known as other SCUMM games, like the Monkey Island series, but it's not for reasons of being worse - just different. Not as universal. Requires a bit more thought maybe. I don't know - they're clearly different, yet of course very similar.
If you like point and clicks and haven't gotten around to Loom yet, don't delay. Don't ask me for help, though. I play the Distaff about as well as I play the air guitar - and I air guitar to the beat of the drum, not the twang of the guitar.
Loom was the subject of some not-too-subtle in-game marketing in The Secret of Monkey Island, where a pirate wearing an 'Ask me about Loom' badge will happily talk to you about Loom, should you ask him about it.
Loom, developed by Lucasfilm Games, first released in 1990.
Version played: Talkie re-release, PC, 1992/2009.
Version watched: DOS, 1990 (SaikyoMog)