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Sommeril Reviews
Author: SFzapgun
Date: 2004

Reviewed by David Whyld

To say the beginning of Sommeril was strange would be a wild understatement. The game begins with a kind of dream sequence (although whether it's a dream or really happening I couldn't in all honesty say) involving a pair of bizarre beings who hand you a book. The next thing you know, you're falling through the air. You drop the book and land naked at a junction of a truly unusual town. Told you it was strange, didn't I?

The strangeness continues, indeed increases, as you wander around. At one point I found a giant fried egg the size of a circus tent; at another a glass eyeball the size of a Volkswagen suspended from a dead tree. While I've played some strange games before and enjoyed them, in Sommeril the strangeness just seemed too… strange. Too bizarre. The setting was like a leftover from a bad nonsense poem and left me, for the most part, wondering if there was some kind of private joke here that I was missing.

Sommeril is a game devoid of hints - never a good point as people will get stuck in even the easiest of games and lack of hints is generally one of the things that encourages them to give up. In many places, the unhelpfulness of the game becomes all too apparent. In a tavern, I came across a SORROWFUL SEA CAPTAIN and a RAVING SEA CAPTAIN (yes, the names were in capitals for a reason I never could quite fathom out, as were the names of many - though not all - items) and I wasn't able to refer to either of them as 'captain' but instead had to type out the entire description. This made for some tremendously tedious gameplay while I tried, without any success, to figure out just what I needed to do with them. In truth, interaction with the NPCs in the game, of which there are a fairly reasonable amount, is often awkward and frustrating. The simple "talk to [name]" command doesn't work and instead the writer has gone for the more difficult "ask [name] about [subject]" with the result being that while there are a lot of NPCs in the game, finding a subject you can ask them about is an almost impossible struggle. A few pointers as to what they could be asked about would have been a blessing.

Bugs? A particularly odd one with the pile of dust had me baffled for a while. Examine the dust and you see there's a ring there. Try to take the ring and you're told you can't. Why? Beats me. But examining the dust again now lets you take it. Odd to say the least, and as the ring is required to finish the game it's a little disappointing that the writer didn't notice this glaring bug.

I'm sorry to say that it didn't take long before I was reduced to looking in the walkthrough. Not to imply that Sommeril is a difficult game - it isn't, it's remarkably easy if you just have the patience to stick with it - but that I rapidly tired of it and felt like giving up. For me, bizarre games only work if the bizarreness is intriguing. In Heal Butcher's The Wheels Must Turn, the bizarreness works well because the player is never really sure just what is 
going on and the setting, which actually comprises the interior of a hamster cage for the most part, is described so strangely and vividly that you have to keep playing just to see what happens next. I didn't experience any of that when playing Sommeril, I'm afraid. The setting is strange and unusual, but also not very interesting. The descriptions, while adequate, never really bring the locations to life. Most of the time spent playing I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing and seemed to wander from place to place with the vague hope that I might stumble across something that would shed some light onto matters. Unfortunately I didn't. I just became more confused.

It's difficult guessing what the writer was going for with Sommeril as it seems to be an uneasy mix of fantasy, horror and the downright bizarre. It doesn't succeed at any one genre especially well and while competently written, it left me with the feeling that bizarre for the sake of bizarre just doesn't work.

4 out of 10

Reviewed by David Welbourn (11 Nov 2005)

Haunting and mysterious, Sommeril is a village between the borders of dream and death. Somehow you have fallen here, naked and alone, the pages of your book scattered. Explore this strange town that resonates with your hidden fears and desires, and hints at unpleasant truths.

Although there are puzzles to solve, a way to win and some ways to die, the main focus is on Sommeril itself and its strange imagery, derived in part from the author's personal experiences. Most of the puzzles in the game are completely optional.

Two criticisms: The spelling, sentence structures, and paragraph structures aren't as polished as they could be. And the game usually requires the player to type the full names of objects, such as "rat-chewed page", to refer to them. Annoying, yes, but you should still try this game anyway.

Rating: ***

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