Twenty years ago this month, Lucasfilm games (now LucasArts) released a graphical adventure game like no other: Loom. Led by lead designer Brian Moriarty, Loom's design team departed from the standard point-and-click adventure formula and devised a fantasy-themed game with no maps, typing, or inventory management.
Instead, the player adopts the role of an outcast weaver named Bobbin Threadbare who makes his way through Loom's strange and beautiful world relying only on his distaff and a collection of 4-note tunes he can play to cast spells.
All the music in Loom comes from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, and as the game progresses, the sophistication of the musical passages grows. Coupled with the game's lovely landscapes and clever writing, the music adds an aesthetic dimension to Loom that still resonates today.
Moriarty recently discussed the game's influences:
We found ourselves gravitating towards Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty as a model for the look and feel of the game. Sleeping Beauty has a very distinct aesthetic, unlike any other Disney film. The production designer for the film was Eyvand Earle, a painter known for his flat, stylized shapes and planes.
The other major influence was Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake. ...The majestic sweep and melancholy atmosphere seemed perfect for a wistful story like Loom. All of the music for the game was transcribed note-by-note from Tchaikovsky's score. I also borrowed the swans, the owls and a few other elements from the scenario of the ballet.
If you've always been curious to try a graphical adventure game, Loom is a terrific place to start. You can't die or get lost, and the game offers three difficulty modes for handling the musical notes. Players with no musical chops will have little trouble with Practice mode; and players who enjoy a challenge will find one in Expert mode, which requires you to play all the music by ear.
If you'd like to give Loom a go, now is a great time to do it because the Vintage Game Club is hosting a collective playthrough. We're a group of friendly folks who enjoy playing and discussing older games together, and we'd love for you to join us.
As I've mentioned before, we all have busy lives, and the VGC is a no-pressure environment. If you decide to start a game with us, but can't continue it, or if you post a comment but can't return to follow up, no big deal. The club is just a framework for bringing us together. We're here to have fun and broaden our knowledge and awareness of important games. All are welcome.
PC and Mac versions of Loom are available on Steam for $4.99. If you can find and run them, other versions are also available for Amiga, Atari ST, and FM Towns. We'll be happy to help you get the game running on your system if you ask for help in the VGC forum.