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Video Game / Loom

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"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 Lucasfilm Games in 1990, which tells of the Age of the Great Guilds (set in the 81st century), 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.note 

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, and the floppy version is available for free (but with no ability to save games) through Classic Reload. 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.
  • All There in the Manual: Some versions of the game came shipped with an audio cassette containing a thirty-minute audio drama that tells the game's backstory. Most significantly, it clearly spells out the circumstances of Bobbin's birth and the whereabouts of his mother, making them only an Internal Reveal in the game proper.
  • Almighty Janitor: Exaggerated 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. For instance, the glassmakers can make crystal balls that can see the future, or they can make an Absurdly Sharp Blade out of glass which is so powerful that they're afraid to use it. The weavers, of course, became powerful Reality Warpers capable of reweaving reality itself.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguously Human: While the Weavers were human at least at some point, something happened to them along the line that now causes immediate, agonizing death to anybody who sees them without their hoods on. It's also suggested that they do not have faces, or maybe even bodies.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: Bobbin, being conceived through magic, is destined to bring about the Third Shadow. This is only the prejudice of the Elders, however; apparently, the pattern is actually failing of its own accord.
  • 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.
    • The CD version has Bobbin state that healing the body was actually easy, but it required the actual soul being there, which could only happen thanks to Mandible's tearing the pattern open in the first place. So, this only works in an actual doomsday scenario.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Bishop Mandible envisions himself ruling the world with an army of the Dead. Meeting Chaos shows him to be utterly out of his depth.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Weaver's tents.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bobbin turns into a swan, and, together with the other Weavers, is only able to save half the world after sacrificing the Loom. The Big Bad, Chaos, claims the other half of the world, swearing to torment and ruin it so Bobbin will forever be tormented by thoughts of the half of humanity he abandoned. Oh, and Hetchel dies. In fairness, the story was supposed to get a continuation, but the failure of the sequels to materialize means that the ending suffers from Left Hanging something fierce.
  • Black Comedy: The haunting music and Crapsack World setting obscure some of the humor in what is ultimately a very funny game.
  • Book Ends: The game starts and ends with a confrontation in front of the Loom leading to someone being turned into a swan through the Transcendence draft.
  • 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.
  • Born of Magic: In game, it's mentioned that Cygna used the Great Loom to create Bobbin. The audio drama goes through the scene, where she weaves a gray thread and creates Bobbin when she is done.
  • Burn the Witch!: In the audio drama, the weavers managed to weave powerful magics into their cloth, causing some less enlightened people to hang some of the weavers. In response, the weavers used some of their wealth to purchase an island off the mainland and reclude there.
  • Brown Note Being: It is said to be death to look upon the face of the perpetually hooded Weavers. Turns out, it's true.
  • 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 smokestacks to retrieve Bobbin's distaff. She comments that she "must not singe the feathers" but otherwise seems to be unharmed.
  • Copy Protection: Early releases of the game would start off by showing a picture of a Guild along with a name of a Thread, then prompting the user to put in a sequence of four on-screen buttons that could only be found in the Book of Patterns that shipped with the game. If they put in the correct pattern, the game would proceed. Later releases (including some re-releases of the floppy version, unusually enough) omitted this.
  • Crack in the Sky: The sky rips open at the end of the game. It's not really a disaster, but dramatic nevertheless at it marks the new boundary between the land, one part ruled by Chaos and one part by the Weavers.
  • Crystal Ball: Spheres of Scrying, which give the gazer a glimpse into their future with little to no context.
  • Deader than Dead: Bobbin is able to restore dead people by way of the Healing draft, thanks to their souls being nearby and their bodies relatively intact. However, as Hetchel is a victim of the Unmaking draft, there's absolutely nothing left of her to resurrect save for a single feather, which Chaos cruelly claims as a souvenir.
  • Domed Hometown: The Guild of Glass Makers.
  • 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 the world is left behind to a bleak future at the hands of Chaos and the horde of the dead.
  • Dragon Hoard: The dragon that steals sheep from the Shepherds lives in a volcano, sitting on a heap of gold.
  • Dream Melody: C' - F - G - C, which comes up repeatedly, especially when using orbs to view the future. It turns out to be the Transcendence draft which allows you to turn into a swan and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Embarrassing Last Name: The protagonist, Bobbin Threadbare, of the Guild of Weavers.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Wellwrought "Rusty" Nailbender of the Guild of Blacksmiths. He mentions that hardly anyone calls him by his real name.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Bishop Mandible and Chaos.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Bishop Mandible attempts to summon Chaos and the horde of the dead as his personal army from the realm of the dead. This goes about as well as you would expect.
  • Exact Words: Lady Cygna was forbidden from ever setting foot on the island again. They never said anything about flying over it.
  • The Faceless:
    • The Weavers generally remain hooded due to the alleged danger in removing their hoods. Cob is foolish enough to test this rumor with Bobbin. On lower difficulties, the scene suddenly cuts to somewhere else. On expert (or the CD-ROM version) the head is obscured with a flash of light before sucking in Cob.
      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.
    • The Blank: Implied by Bobbin.
      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.
  • Forced Transformation: This was presumably the idea behind the elder's method of banishing Cygna by turning her into a swan. By the beginning of the game, however, not only has her power returned but the swan form ends up being incredibly helpful, allowing her and the rest of the Weavers (including Bobbin) to easily travel outside of the pattern and carry their half of the world to safety.
  • Foreshadowing: You encounter several graveyards in the game. Trying to cast "open" on them will result in an ominous rumble and Bobbin going "Uh-oh." but no further effect (The CD version has him say "Maybe I shouldn't try that"). You will learn what that is all about.
  • 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.
  • Glowing Eyes: In the final playable scene of the CD version, Bobbin's eyes will glow to match the note's color.
  • Gonk: Cob.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Cob looks on Bobbin's uncovered face. When it cuts back, Cob is gone without a trace. Averted if you play the game in Expert mode, as the game lets you see exactly what happens.
    • In the CD-ROM version, Rusty gets munched on by the Dragon in a Sound-Only Death, with only the hood shown on-screen. Prior versions simply return to Bobbin and show the draft wearing off.
  • The Grim Reaper: The game implies that our image for the Grim Reaper comes from Chaos; it even gets a huge scythe.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Guild of Weavers.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: The Glassmakers are afraid to use the Great Scythe because they believe that this would make them just as evil as their enemy.
  • Internal Reveal: Anybody who's listened to the audio drama will already know that Cygna's grave is empty; it's just a matter of Bobbin finding out.
  • In the Hood: Why are all Weavers wearing a hood? Because you do not want to peer inside.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Dyeing draft gets used to pull this off on some sheep.
  • 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 are 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.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The draft used to kill Bishop Mandible. Naturally, it's irreversible.
  • Magic Music: Every spell (or "draft") in the game is composed of four notes on the C-major scale, which Bobbin must "spin" with his distaff.
  • Master of Threads: The Weavers are able to "weave" far more than just fabric, and utilize the ability to cast powerful magic and even create life.
  • Meaningful Name: Lady Cygna. "Cygnus" is Latin for swan.
    • 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 a failure, it's not hard to see why he's better known by his nickname.
    • Bishop Mandible sure loves to jawbone.
  • 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.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: Played for Drama in the radio play — the elders are so piously committed to their outdated laws that they refuse to use the Loom to bring health and prosperity to their people, even though its well within their abilities and their society is on the verge of collapsing. While pleading her case with them, Cygna loses her temper and implies that this is only an excuse to hide them losing control over the Loom, but we don't find out how much truth there is in this.
  • Names to Run Away From: Bishop Mandible? Really?
  • 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.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The second-to-last draft you use is Unmaking, which you learn how to cast when Chaos Unmakes Hetchel. In the original version of the game, the same draft was used earlier in a cutscene when Chaos Unmade Bishop Mandible, and so anyone capable of playing on Expert mode already knows the draft coming into the final scene—but, as noted under You Shouldn't Know This Already below, you still have to wait until after Hetchel's death for it to work. This was fixed in later versions of the game by changing the draft used in the cutscene to, presumably, Rending.
  • Original Position Fallacy: Bishop Mandible believes that the legions of the dead will follow and obey him simply because of his "superior spiritual guidance". He did not consider that for them, he would be just another life to extinguish.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The game's dragon is female, afraid of fire, loves mutton and speaks with a Cockney accent.
  • Planet of Hats: Each guild is this, having the traits of their chosen craft as their distinguishing characteristics.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: All the music in the game is from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.
  • The Queen's Latin: The voice acting in the audio drama and the talkie version (which has all of the same actors plus a few more) reveals that all of the characters have some manner of British accent, with most characters having English accents and the Shepherds having Scottish accents.
  • Radio Drama: The developers commissioned veteran radio voice actors to record a prologue for the story in this style, which came packaged with the game. All of these actors return for the talkie version of the game, averting the usual "bad, early video game voice acting by developers".
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Chaos, to Mandible. "I am Chaos. Join me."
    • Even more literal in the CD version: "For this, you will be rewarded. Join me now — as my SLAVE."
  • Shadowed Face, Glowing Eyes: All of the Weavers have this design as they are always In the Hood.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
    • In the tradition of LucasArts, there's at least one nod to their most famous film property when Mandible opens the barrier between the world of the living and the dead.
  • Sinister Minister: Bishop Mandible.
  • 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.
  • Threads of Fate: The weaver guild's numbers are dwindling and their seed is barren. Lady Cygna Threadbare manipulates fate by weaving in an unforeseen child and is banished from the mortal world for doing so. The grey thread that was woven into the Loom is claimed to throw the pattern into chaos and bring the Third Shadow.
  • Truly Single Parent: Bobbin was woven out of a single gray thread through the power of Reality Warper alone. It's somewhat unclear if Bobbin is actually Cygna's dead baby that she weaved new life into, since drafts can raise the dead under some circumstances, or if he's an entirely new person, making Cygna an example of this trope.
  • Unwinnable: While you can backtrack to some drafts when you first need to use them, forgetting to write them down correctly can leave you stuck if you forgot them later unless using a walkthrough or earlier saved game. The healing draft is the trope's example, as its first learned before you can use it, with no obvious way to relearn the draft once you need to use it.
  • Updated Re-release: The CD version, which featured a full CD-quality talkie soundtrack, although much of the previous versions' dialogue, animations, portraits and music were cut to fit the whole thing on one disc. Notably, the abbreviated talkie version's script was edited by Orson Scott Card.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Bobbin can choose to restore the Blacksmiths' firewood supply with the filling draft after escaping their prison cell. He can also be directed to give a seagull on the beach breakfast by opening a clam.
  • Voice of the Legion: Chaos talks like this.
  • We Can Rule Together: Chaos pulls this on Bobbin toward the end of the game, not just asking but telling him that he will be its advisor in the use of the Loom. It isn't fazed when Bobbin immediately shuts the idea down, arrogantly believing that he will cave with enough time and pressure. This keeps Bobbin alive long enough to defeat it.
  • The Weird Sisters: The three Elders of the Guild of Weavers are named Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos like the Moirai of Greek Mythology. The Weavers have mastered the art of weaving "subtle patterns of influence into the very fabric of reality" and are the keepers of the Great Loom, a device that is able to predict the future as well as manipulating reality.
  • 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.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After Rusty's death, his ghost is furious at Bobbin for antagonizing a forty-foot dragon that was only preying on sheep instead of people, and then swapping their appearances so the dragon got her revenge on the wrong person.
  • 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.
  • World of Snark: Though not nearly as egregious as the more comedy-focused LucasArts titles, the entire script is still generously peppered with dry humor. Not even the Anthropomorphic Personification Big Bad is safe.
    Chaos: You will now instruct me in the use of this fascinating instrument.
    Bobbin: Over my dead body!
    Chaos: Preference noted.
  • 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.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: if you try a draft before you've heard someone or something else play it, you get a comment from the player character ("I don't think I spun that quite right") or a shower of sparkles to indicate that you've hit an actual spell, but you don't get the expected effect.
    • This becomes an almost-plot point (and somewhat frustrating) in that at one point near the end, Chaos uses a draft in a cutscene (but close enough for the player to hear.) Unfortunately, you're not carrying your distaff at the time (which normally echoes music and shows you which notes to play.) It's totally possible, if you have a good ear, to recognize the notes of the draft and play it yourself. In some versions of the game, you use this draft later, and you have to learn it the 'proper' way (at great personal cost) before it will work. (In other versions of the game, you use a different draft.)
    • There's also a justified example. You also know the swan transformation / transcendence draft right from the beginning of the game, if you pay attention to how the Loom works (plus, it's one of the two drafts in the manual, the other one being Opening, the first draft you need to cast); but you can't use it until the very end (as literally the last command you input) because notes on your distaff only unlock as you grow in power, and the swan draft requires the very highest note.