Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 at 7:27 AM by Kimo Kuppe
I realize I’ve been doing the Forgotten Franchise articles a lot lately and I SWEAR I’ll talk about a game made within the last 20 years soon. I’d love to do a review on Darksiders 2 or something but while checking on my money I realized that I spent 400 bucks on the Steam Summer Sale. It was just so easy when it was several dozen 5 dollar games! Imagine my embarrassment. Anyway King’s Quest is a long franchise and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Last time I mentioned we hadn’t even made it out of the 80’s yet but fortunately the next game to cover was released in 1989.
King’s Quest 4: The Perils of Rosella was actually the second Kings Quest game I played, and it was also the few games at the time that featured a female protagonist. Looking back I wonder if this was part of my mom’s sinister plan to prevent me from assuming gender roles. After all, girls can be heroes too! The story in this one picks up immediately after where the third game ends. Spoiler alert Gwydion from 3 is one of King Graham’s two children. He escaped his enslavement, discovered his origin, sailed across the sea to rescue his sister and return home to his parents. However it was all cut short when Graham had a heart attack and collapsed. Everyone’s pretty bummed and Rosella goes off to cry alone. While sobbing the famed Magic Mirror is activated and a solution to save Graham is presented to Rosella: If she helps Genesta the Fairy Queen retrieve her lost amulet she may also find a rare fruit that will save Graham . Standing in her way is the Dark Fairy Lolotte and as always the cruel dangers of Sierra games.
Ok it’s not exactly the most masculine sounding of plots but you know Fantasy doesn’t always have to be The Witcher and Lord of the Rings damn it, there used to be room for whimsy! Besides, there are zombies. The graphics have been given quite a boost finally with this installment but the interface is still done by typing. This one also has a handful of notoriously annoying segments. I bet you never realized how hard it was to climb a whales tongue, or for that matter, find the required whale in the first place. Or make it through a trolls cave entirely by random chance. The game returns to the formula of the first 2 games by having you seek out 3 special items as the meat of the game, this time in the style of payment for Lolotte allowing you to live. All in all, it’s still a solid game and an enjoyable adventure. I think what makes it so good is that the villain is present throughout a large majority of the game, giving a sense of accomplishment at the end. It’s the last hurrah of the carefree days of old in the series, for the next game would become a thing of infamy…
It should come as no surprise to me that King’s Quest 5: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder has seen some popularity as of late with Let’s Plays and the mockery of them. King’s Quest 5 is presented on Sierras brand new SCI engine that has done away with typing in favor of 4-5 icons with which you will now interact with the world. Gone are the days of typing profanity and seeing if it gets you a comical Easter egg. Not only have the graphics been bumped and interface simplified, but the game now has ambiance sound, a musical score, and perhaps most damningly, it’s fully voiced. Voice acting these days has people assuming quality, but for Kings Quest 5 it means the art department was brought in to read some lines. I won’t pick on the voices and dialogue too much since that freak show has already been covered much more humorously by the likes of Retsupurae and JonTron.
What can’t be stressed enough is how stultifyingly difficult the game is to figure out. Sure the old ones took some strange thinking to finish but none were as bizarre and unforgiving as 5. Seemly minor occurrences early on have grave consequences later in the game. Did you notice the sled in town? I hope you got it because you can’t get through the mountains without it, AND you can’t go back to get it if you didn’t! Oh you got it? How did you get it? Did you buy it with the one gold coin you get in the game? I HOPE NOT BECAUSE THAT WILL BE REQUIRED TO BUY THE PIE! And don’t scoff at how important the pie is! What do you mean you fed the pie to the hungry eagle? NOW WHAT WILL YOU THROW AT THE YETI?!?! And don’t think that you can just avoid these situations, THERE ARE NO OPTIONAL SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS IN THIS GAME YOU WILL DO IT RIGHT OR NOT AT ALL! If the difficulty wasn’t enough the game is also buggy, as were all Sierra games at the time. Ah the halcyon days of early PC gaming! Thank god the internet came around and let people fix things themselves. At the time though, the flashy graphics, voice acting, and the fancy new CD-Rom disc were enough to win over quite a few people! (18 megabytes, how immense! Games will never exceed THAT size they said!)
Fortunately when Kings Quest 6: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow rolled around Sierra had gotten their act together again. Returning to the spotlight is Alexander/Gwydion from Kings Quest 3, having fully recovered from the events of the past 2 games Alexander fell in love with the last games antagonists slave girl who turned out to be a Princess herself. In a foolhardy act of a love-struck young man he sets of to her mysterious homeland in the Green Isles. Upon arrival he discovers that the Green Isles are in disarray and he in unable to talk to the Princess. With no means of leaving the island he runs amok and unravels the conspiracy behind everything.
Kings Quest 6 isn’t nearly as brutally unforgiving and bizarre as 5, and like the 4th game the villain is present throughout the game and the goal is so-close-yet-so-far. Solutions to problems make a bit more sense and the setting and hints are tied together well enough to let you figure things out yourself much easier. This could have been due to what was going on outside of Sierra, mainly that they were having competition. Lucasarts was churning out quality adventure games thanks to Tim Schafer and Myst was skyrocketing in popularity and redefining what adventure games were. Some of the Lucasarts games even had a feature where you couldn’t enter a no-win situation which made the games more accessible. Sierra took notice but not quite in the way expected.
Kings Quest 7: The Princeless Bride was almost a complete overhaul from previous games. The art style was lifted somewhat from Lucasarts games and instead of realism the games tried to look like an interactive Disney movie. If you’ve ever seen the Legend of Zelda CD-I games you’ll get the idea. Even the item interaction was done similar to Lucasarts, except without the 9 options for ways to interact. This game would bring back the star of Kings Quest 4, Princess Rosella, and for the first time her mother, Queen Valenice who had mostly been in the background of the previous games since 2. The game was divided into chapters and featuring short sequences switching off between the two protagonists.
Whoops, I forgot to mention the story. Like the previous game, the other child of King Graham sought love too, or rather to avoid being forced to marry at first. While arguing by a nearby lake after a peculiar musical number, they are whisked away by an evil witch/queen person to a fanciful realm not unlike Disneyland. Separated and confused, Valenice awakens in a strange desert temple with a rather large scorpion nearby. Rosella on the other hand is in the Kingdom of Trolls having been transformed into one herself. Of all the Kings Quest games this is the one I’ve played the least (8 doesn’t count but more on that later). Mostly because the art style and animation are fairly unlikable and while some aspects of Kings Quest are there the game feels seriously lacking. Maybe it’s the inconsistent and poorly made movements like the Clutch Cargo style mouth movements, or that EVERYONE at the time seemed to think that the CD-I style graphics were the greatest thing ever despite the gameplay suffering for it. For better or worse, the game wrapped things up for King Graham’s family. His kids were married and moved on and all was calm and peaceful without the previous games subtext being explored.
Sierra would churn out one more Kings Quest game that had very little to do with the previous titles. However, I wanted to save it and a few more games related to Kings Quest in the next and final installment. Don’t worry, I’m almost done milking this cow dry.
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