It was long after the passing of the second shadow, when dragons ruled the twilight sky, and the stars were bright and numerous...
Loom is an epic fantasy adventure, released by LucasArts in 1990, which tells of the Age of the Great Guilds, a time when the peoples of the game's world banded together to form city-states around their chosen profession. One of these guilds, the Guild of Weavers, eventually perfected their craft so that they could weave more than just fabric, and started weaving drafts into the very fabric of reality itself. Shunned by the other guilds as practitioners of witchcraft, the Guild of Weavers isolated themselves from the rest of the world onto an island of their own, naming it after the great Loom they held as the symbol of their guild.However, eventually the Weavers discover that their numbers are dwindling and their seed is barren (probably due to inbreeding), and Lady Cygna Threadbare decides to take it upon herself to plant a thread of her creation into the Loom and, inadvertently, draws an unforeseen infant out of it, whom she surrenders to an old serving woman's care as she is banished from the village, as well as the mortal world, by being turned into a swan.The planting of the gray thread has thrown the entire pattern of the Loom into chaos, and the Loom-child, named Bobbin by his caretaker, grows up shunned by the rest of his village. On his seventeenth birthday, as the Guild's rulers are about to reach a consensus on what to do with Bobbin, a swan appears in the village and transforms everyone but Bobbin into a swan. Hetchel tells him that the pattern is about to fall apart and he'll have to join the swans before it's too late. From thereon Bobbin sets out on a voyage into the world outside Loom Island, with grave consequences...At its time of release, Loom was noted for its ambitious fantasy story, imaginative setting and surprisingly barren user interface: The only item the player could carry was the Distaff, a magical instrument used to shape the world around the player and solve puzzles, which was used by learning and casting short four-note drafts that could be heard around the game world. Most of these drafts were also randomly generated at the start of each game, meaning they would have to be re-learned on each individual playthrough.Two sequels, Forge and The Fold, wherein the player would take control over two minor characters, whom Bobbin met in the course of Loom's story, were supposed to bring closure to the Story Arc started by Loom, but due to a lack of manpower, work on on them never began. There is a fan-made sequel in the works, available here with a demo out.The challenge of the puzzles was mostly in figuring out which drafts to use and how: Some drafts could also be played backwards for the reverse effect. Unusually for an adventure game, the game also boasted three difficulty levels which would change the interface of the Distaff: the highest difficulty level required players to play all the notes by ear.The CD version is available for purchase off of Steam. Give it a look sometime.
This game provides examples of:
Adaptation Dye-Job: In the versions of the game with the original (voiceless) dialogue, Fleece the shepherdess has blue eyes. In the rewritten PC talkie CD, she has green eyes.
Affably Evil: The dragon plays a courteous host after accidentally snatching up Bobbin (thinking he was a sheep) and at most gets a bit peevish after he turns her hoard into straw, but doesn't do anything. She's much less affable after Bobbin destroys her hoard and traumatizes her with fire.
Almighty Janitor: Taken Up to Eleven and beyond in the backstory. The guilds started out as just that, guilds representing common laborers, like glassmakers, blacksmiths, and shepherds, but now have all evolved to a point where they rule the world, the group that was once simply weavers (as in, tailors and seamstresses) being powerful Reality Warpers.
Animorphism: At the beginning of the game, the protagonist's foster mother and the village elders get transformed into swans.
Ambiguous Gender: Chaos, the ultimate Big Bad of the game, is an undead demonic Anthropomorphic Personification with no clear gender. Not even the game's developers were sure: in the original release of the game Chaos is referred to arbitrarily as "he" by other characters, but it became "she" in the later talkie upgrade.
Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Explicitly stated in the manual as the effect of the "Transcendence" draft. It turns Hetchel into a swan egg so that she can stay behind to help Bobbin. Everyone else subjected to the draft turns into a swan. At the end of the game, Bobbin learns to cast the draft. He also turns into a swan.
Stealth Pun: What's the last musical spell you use in the game? The swan song.
Back from the Dead: The "Healing" draft is capable of this. You can resurrect Rusty and the shepherds, but not the Glassmakers guildmaster. However, the latter says he doesn't deserve it, implying that it only works on the willing.
Boring but Practical: The first draft you learn in the game, Opening, is also the one that gets used the most. It may even be used to tear open the literal fabric of reality.
British Accents: All characters have them in the voiced version. Most characters speak in Received Pronunciation, but the dragon and the Blacksmiths speak in Cockney, while the Shepherds speak in some generic Scottish accent.
Chekhov's Gun: The Scythe the Glassmakers are sharpening to protect them in case Bishop Mandible attacks them.
Convection Schmonvection: The city of the Blacksmiths, the Forge, is a castle protected by a moat filled with molten metal (and the drawbridge seems to be made of iron). Nobody feels any kind of discomfort when crossing it. Then there is Hetchel who flies into a furnace through one of its pipes to retrieve Bobbin's distaff. She comments that she "must not singe the feathers" but otherwise seems to be unharmed.
Crystal Ball: Spheres of Scrying, which give the gazer a glimpse into their future with little to no context.
Doomed Hometown: Weaver Island, as well as the rest of the world. However, except for one, all the residents of Weaver Island survive the ordeal! In fact, in a strange way, the very act that doomed the hometown actually saved them all, and they survive when the world is torn in half. Everyone in the wrong half of world is left behind to a bleak future at the hands of Chaos and the horde of the dead.
Dragon Hoard: The dragon that steels sheep from the Shepherds lives in a volcano, sitting on a heap of gold.
Dummied Out: An early screenshot showed a room in the Glassmakers' City with three giant sandglasses, two of which had run out and were sealed up; the last one was open at the top and a worker was pouring sand into it to keep it running. The three sandglasses of course represent the three Shadows, of which the first two have long since passed, and the third is imminent. The room was ultimately cut to save disk space. The sandglasses can still be glimpsed in the 16-color version, in the wide shot of the city (though they were painted out in the VGA upgrade).
The existence of a puzzle can be deduced: Bobbin was probably going to use the Emptying draft (which you can play by the time you get to Crystalgard) to empty the sandglasses. The running sands mark the time remaining until the Third Shadow: they were being replenished indefinitely, but presumably Bobbin screws that up and reduces the symbolic time until the Apocalypse to nil. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! Alternately, playing the draft in reverse might have added time before the apocalypse.
The Weavers generally remain hooded due to the alleged danger in removing their hoods. Cob is foolish enough to test this rumor with Bobbin — the scene suddenly cuts to somewhere else (or obscures the event with a flash of light on Expert difficulty) and the player sees nothing.
Bobbin: Can't say I didn't warn him.
Bishop Mandible complains that he can't do his important work with all this screaming distracting him. Cob did not go quietly.
Cob: Why not? There's nothing to fear under that fine robe of yours, is there?
Bobbin: If you fear Nothing, then you'd better not touch me.
Family-Unfriendly Death: Chaos rips Bishop Mandible's body to shreds, staining his cathedral with blood as his decapitated head flies directly into the screen! This animation was the work of Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell.
Fractured Fairy Tale: The game has a very dark but ultimately cathartic story that uses fairy tale tropes in very unusual ways.
Among them is the whole "you cannot fight against chaos, we can side with it, or leave." thing mentioned by Hetchel in literally the second scene of the game. Kinda unusual to get a "run away!" speech at the beginning of the game.
Gainax Ending: Due to the limitations of how the graphics can portray what happens in the game, the events of the ending can be confusing. After the entire world is split in two, the swans take the other half and fly away with it. But what it looks like in-game is that they're flying with the hole, inside the other half where they left all the other characters.
Kansas City Shuffle: Bishop Mandible traps Bobbin in a cage, but doesn't take the magical distaff Bobbin carries. Big mistake, right? Not quite — Mandible is actually after the Draft of Opening. He watches Bobbin cast the spell to unlock the cage and then takes the distaff.
Left Hanging: The game will probably feel depressingly short for many players. Many potentially interesting drafts is only needed once and many plot points that could have been exciting to explore in greater detail is never resolved. The game was going to have two sequels, but these were cancelled because of other projects. It is a damn shame, really. Even worse, the Book of Patterns that comes with the game includes a host of unused spells that could have been very useful in the game proper, but were never heard.
Also, a bobbin is a component of a sewing machine around which thread is wound, and the briefly-seen elders of the weavers' guild are named after the Fates of Greek myth, who wove threads corresponding to mortals' lives.
Rusty Nailbender's actual first name is "Wellwrought". Given that he's apparently a lazy layabout and a bit of failure, it's not hard to see why he's better known by his nickname.
Messianic Archetype: Bobbin was miraculously born from the Loom itself, and can resurrect people, many will die for his name, but the world's salvation lies in his hands. Ring any bells?
Now Do It Again Backwards / Magic A Is Magic A: Drafts can be reversed — that is, their notes played in the opposite order — to create the opposite effect. A few drafts are palindromic in nature and thereby have no reverse. The Transcendence draft, despite being reversible, does absolutely nothing if reversed.
It's implied that Bobbin is the first to figure out that this is possible: the manual makes no mention of reversing drafts, and Bobbin is genuinely surprised when he finds out it's possible.
Several PC games after Loom, made by LucasArts or not, included references both to it and to Brian Moriarity. Bishop Mandible's assistant, Cobb, even shows up in The Secret Of Monkey Island as an NPC pimping off this game.
Space Quest IV has a rather nasty Take That: a store sells a game Boom by Morrie Brianarty, with a picture of two hands and an explosion on its box. Its description: "No other characters, no conflict, no puzzles, no chance of dying, and no interface", which satirizes the simplified interface of Loom, the key differences to Sierra adventures and the fact that one of SQ4 authors tried to play Loom, but couldn't leave the deserted starting island. Granted, the same store has Space Quest IV hint book in a bargain bin (called "trash bin" by the staff).
The home of the Glass Makers evokes imagery of the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz.
Songs in the Key of Lock: All of the drafts are Magic Music spells that Bobbin uses to solve puzzles, but Opening especially qualifies as a literal, universal example. It's the first draft Bobbin learns and the notes are always E-C-E-D.
Stable Time Loop: Of the "ontological paradox" variety. Scrying spheres enable the user to see several hours into the future. At least one of the drafts is learned only by observing a future vision of Bobbin casting it. So where'd the future Bobbin learn it, and so on.
Swans A Swimming: Swans play an important role in this game. They even figure into the very magic of the Weavers: Hetchel knows Bobbin is in trouble when the Forge's chimney emits a swan-shaped billow of smoke as a result of his distaff being thrown into the furnace.
Thanatos Gambit: Towards the end of the game: Hetchel annoys Chaos enough for it to cast the Draft of Unmaking on her, teaching Bobbin how to destroy the Loom.
Theme Naming: All guild members have names related to their professions, such as Threadbare, Goodmold, or Nailbender.
Unwinnable: If you didn't write down the notes for the drafts or don't consult a walkthrough, you'll get stuck and need to revert to an earlier point.
Weird Trade Union: Every human character is a member of some guild and the story is set in "The Age of Great Guilds". The guilds we see are (spell)weavers, shepherds, glass-blowers, blacksmiths. They are effectively autonomous city-states, each specializing in some trade. The manual mentions many more guilds: embalmers, career politicians, assassins, umbrella openers, dancers, psychotherapists. Also it mentions the bloody 5-century war between undertakers and florists.
What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Subverted with the Dyeing draft. Bobbin really hates how he can only make objects green, but it helps him save a flock of sheep later. As the only white-colored moving object, he gets taken instead.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The dragon is pyrophobic (afraid of fire), which is a bit more of a disadvantage for a fire-breathing dragon than it is for most.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Averted. Mandible doesn't kill Bobbin because he needs Bobbin to demonstrate the Opening Draft, and Chaos doesn't kill Bobbin because he needs Bobbin to demonstrate how the Loom works.
Wonder Child: The protagonist Bobbin is born when the childless Lady Cygna weaves a single gray thread into the Great Pattern, which the elders immediately discover and then banish her by turning her into a swan.
Worthless Yellow Rocks: What use is gold to a race that can bend the fabric of the universe itself to its will? Indeed it doesn't even require a weaver to reach a particularly high level before being able to successfully cast the "Straw to Gold" draft — which is why the Book of Patterns notes the use of the draft is regulated to prevent inflation.