The King’s Quest Adventure, Part 1

Well, the nostalgia train continues here at Film Cannon. This time, I’m staying in the Sierra games family, but switching to the kiddie games with The King’s Quest series.

I don’t remember what my first Sierra On-Line game was; the memory’s gotten a bit foggy over the years, but it was most likely “King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder,” which to this day is my favorite of the series (even if I recognize that it’s not a *great* game).

But getting that one game was enough to turn me on to the loveable (not to mention frustrating) world of Sierra games. From there, I played every “Gabriel Knight,” sampled the “Quest for Glory” series, and even convinced my mother to buy me all seven “King’s Quest” games (I got the eighth one later on).

Now, I have played a lot of these games, but it’s been a long time since I delved into this childhood love of mine, mainly because these games are a lot of fun, but they are also unbelievably frustrating (especially if you play the versions that require typing…shudder).

But it’s summertime, and it’s just miserable weather, so what better time to turn on the air conditioning and see just what was behind all the glory.

Let’s get to it.


King’s Quest 1: Quest for the Crown

Sierra was kind of an evil game maker back in the day, and I can think of no finer example than this game. This time around, I played the remake (which eliminates the typing and seriously overhauls the graphics), but I’ve played (and beaten) the original, and yikes, that was rough.

The puzzles are hard, it’s very, very easy (but very funny) to accidentally kill yourself, and it’s also easy to get yourself stuck to the point where you might have to start over from the beginning.

But despite that, even now, I find myself getting sucked into the story of this family. Here, we meet Sir Graham, who has been sent by his dying king to retrieve the lost treasures of their kingdom. He (spoiler!) succeeds, gets the crown and sets the stage for seven more games.

It’s a little story, and if you’re like me and cheat without shame, it’s a short game, but it’s one piece, the first piece, of a family saga. The first entry might not be epic, but the whole series certainly qualifies.


King’s Quest II: Romancing the Stones (Throne)

Just, wow. Like last time, I played the remake rather than the original, and really, “wow” is what I was thinking through most of the game. I’ve played and beaten the original, and I remember it being a lot like the first game. Figure out this puzzle, give this to person X, get this to give to person Z, etc.

It’s not fair to judge an older game (especially one this old; King’s Quest II came out in 1985!), but it’s a really simple game with a lot of filler added to the gameplay. But say good-bye to that thinking in the remake.

While the remake of the first game was basically the same game as you could have bought in 1984 (with better graphics and sound and no typing), the game makers at www.agdinteractive.com really stepped things up. They kept the basic template of this game and switched things around to create what really amounts to a satisfying experience.

The puzzles are more connected to the plot, the storylines aren’t afraid to go a bit deeper (and quite a bit darker!) and the game makers were not afraid to switch things up to tell a better story (or sneak in some foreshadowing for upcoming games, remakes or not), which only serves to make this game something to cherish. The remake is on par with the best the original writers had to offer, and if you love the series, give this one a shot (and hey, it’s free!).

King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human

Man oh man, I hate timed games.

Games are supposed to be fun, and all I can feel is hurried and stressed and it just makes a game seem like ‘work,’ which is the exact opposite of what should be happening.

Since KQ3 starts out like that, I was never really able to get into the game (also, I kept running out of time). For this write up, I dived into one of the fan remakes (amazingly, there are two) which keeps the timed element but adds in some safe guards so it’s not too brutal on this stressed gamer.

And what do you know, the story line, about a young slave named Gwydion who discovers his master is planning to kill him and finds a way to fight back and get back to his parents (Graham and Valanice) and his kingdom, is quite the winner. Like all KQ games, he meets some fairy tale creatures, helps some while hindering others and manages to save the day.

“Redux” is a lot closer to the original story than the “Romancing the Stones,” which turned out to be a good call. There is enough meat in the original story to stick with it, and adding better graphics and sound and voice talents only add to the game.

But as much as I want to praise this game, I keep going back to the frustrating and limiting structure the timer puts on the game play…and I just can’t do it. It’s a fine game, but I’m not never going to love it or want to revisit it. Shame on me.

King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella

There is a good game in here. Not unlike the remakes I’ve just finished, ‘Rosella’ manages to integrate the puzzles in to the story, and it manages to be a pretty good story with some pretty unconventional takes.

King Graham has fallen deathly ill, and after a messenger appears in the mirror for Rosella, she’s whisked away to a mysterious island where, if she can complete a set of tasks within 24 hours, she’ll be able to save her father’s life.

Pretty standard stuff…for a male protagonist, but I bet that was a huge risk for the Sierra folks back in 1988. And while Rosella is a princess, she doesn’t behave like an entitled brat; she’s accepts her mission and she saves the day through her own pluck and ingenuity (and even manages to earn love in the process).

But…and this is a big but…so far, there is no remake for this game. It’s still the game folks had to play back in 1988..with the typing…and the horrible graphics…and the super limited controls. There is a lot to love here, but I can honestly say I never want to play this version again (although a remake would certainly be worth the trip).  Hopefully, some talented folks out there can give this game the upgrade it really deserves.

Check back next time for the the back half (games IV-VIII) of the King’s Quest Adventure.

If you’re interested in playing the original versions, all of them are available for legal purchase at gog.com. If you have the games already but can’t play them on a modern machine, you can download installers for free here. And if you want to play, but can’t deal with the older versions (believe me, I share your pain there), the remakes I played can be downloaded for free here.