After the semi-failure with Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens, Silver Style Entertainment hits back with Simon the Sorcerer: Who'd Even Want Contact?!, a title that tries to prove that the producers have learned from past mistakes. While I have a hunch that Simon’s voice is the game, it’s a bit more “worked on”, lacking that 10 year old boy flimsiness that really didn’t work well with dialogs targeted towards a more mature audience. Secondly, the tones fit better with the action on screen and the overall result is that Simon seems more mature, more responsible towards the characters he’s interacting with and the unusual situations he finds himself in.
But this doesn’t mean that the sarcasm, (self) irony and cynicism are gone. They’re just better dosed, yet more profound at the same time. More profound in the sense that the sexual jokes went a bit overboard, thus diminishing their overall quality. Some pop culture references are pretty hilarious, the ones concerning Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yoda of Star Wars fame, Men in Black, X-Files, Star Trek or Harry Potter being at the front.
Others however are more vulgar and with a debatable humor. Captain Narrow, commander of the Black Pear (a not so subtle pointer towards Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean) is an effeminate who isn’t shy of making invitations that betray he’s inclination towards homosexuality. Also, Goldilocks, Simon’s old thief friend, refuses to climb on he’s shoulders because she believes that Simon will have an indecent view of her body. Even though Goldilocks doesn’t wear a skirt, but pants.
In this category I can also include the exchanges between Alix and Simon or Red Riding Hood and Simon, dialogues that almost border the embarrassing with their sexual nature when compared to the adolescent look of both Simon and Red Riding Hood. On the other hand, almost all the swearing is censored, regardless of being spoken or written, with one audio exception that’s very distinct. Was this intentional? Tough to say if Who’d Even Want Contact?! wanted to cater to adults (as well).
This confusion is further strengthened by the cartoonish graphics and the lack of any straight line (think World of Warcraft). The curved lines, fluid animations, beautifully drawn backgrounds and the tasteful color palette point towards the fact that Who’d Even Want Contact?! is still a fairy tale firmly established in the classical visual molds of the adventure genre. The use of the cel-shading technique isn’t a problem, except for the characters that have unconvincing faces, even ugly at times. The musical score on the other hand, even though it can get repetitive, is interlaid with peaceful and quite moments, so it doesn’t become irritating (one of the upsides that made the transition from Chaos Happens).
The journal is another feature kept from Chaos Happens, keeping track of all the quests, either completed or pending. If you can’t find the solution to a puzzle, the journal can also offer you up to three hints, some more vague than others. What’s important to note is that you can’t fail a quest. If you can’t solve it at a given time, it probably because there are a couple of sub-quests that you have to complete first. Moreover, two puzzles have multiple solutions, but regardless of how much you’ve used the hint system, the game ending will be the same – there’s no reward for finishing the story without any help whatsoever.
It’s possible that on two or three occasions you’ll feel the need to look for a walkthrough or start to randomly combine items in the inventory, but this need can be overcome if you have a bit of patience and carefully scan the screen with the mouse pointer. Since the actions you can perform are context-sensitive, you won’t have to go pixel-hunting through each scene to make sure that you didn’t miss a useful object or skipped through their description that might have offered hints on how to solve a certain puzzle.
Just like its predecessor, Who’d Even Want Contact?! is mainly geared towards the newcomers to the adventure genre, thanks to its intuitive interface and the journal hint system. And experienced players won’t have any problems reaching the end without their aid. However, both types of players will notice the pretty thin storyline with a mundane “twist”, as well the debatable quality of the humor, be it situational or dialogue driven. If you’re looking for a better alternative, try Ceville.