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Loom: A Curiously Beautiful Game from Lucasarts

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George Lucas's genius has always been diversification: back when he was a gifted filmmaker, he was a pioneer of merchandizing, and founded what would become industry-standard effects and sound houses with Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. Lucasfilms' computer animation division later became Pixar. And then, some time in the 1980s, Lucasarts became one of the best video game companies in the world, with a house style that was thoughtful, twisted, funny, idiosyncratic, and frequently brilliant. One of the best was 1990's Loom.

Loom has no opening narration and barely any user interface: no inventory, no menu (other than a save dialog). There's just you, the pointer, and when you move your mouse across something you can click on, a picture of it appears in the bottom right corner of your screen. Eventually, you obtain a distaff, on which you can play tunes for various magical actions. You should write down the tunes when you learn them, so that you'll know how to them when needed. You play Bobbin Threadbare, last of the Weavers, keepers of the Great Loom on which is weaved the Pattern of the universe. Something terrible is about to happen, but you don't know what. The game does a good job of moving you forward without telling you much of what's going on. You can't die, and you basically can't get "stuck," caught in a situation where it's impossible to win the game and a restart is mandatory.

The game is relatively short, particularly if you're armed with a walkthrough, but it's not a cakewalk, and some of the puzzles can take a while to figure out. It's the spiritual ancestor to all the innovative Flash games with beautiful interfaces and short runtimes, like at Casual Gameplay. Nineteen years after its release, it's as curiously out of time as it was in 1990.

Rating: 80

Crossposted on Remingtonstein.

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