Developers: The Odd Gentleman
Publishers: Sierra Entertainment
Plot: As his Great Grand-daughter prepares for a tournament, King Graham recounts his past adventures, about how he became the King of Daventry.
I have only a faint memory of King’s Quest. I remember the gameplay and vague dynamics. You played a character in a fantasy world and the structure mainly involved puzzle-solving. Usually, it was a case of finding objects and interacting with various characters, but being wise in the order you did so. Certain characters would refuse to allow you to progress, if you did something out of order. In essence, it was a nice little brain-teaser, rather than a Skyrim-esque adventure involving dragons. As a fan of the style of King’s Quest, but hazy with the actual nostalgia side of things, I was the ideal candidate to try out the rebooted version in 2015.
As far as I can tell, it is more or less the same style of game but with a fresher paint job. The character models are fantastic, able to express and emote all the feelings that we need to get across in the game. The hero, Graham, is more than a silent protagonist, but a ball of energy, tearing into the set-pieces with delicious ferocity. He expresses the puns, nails the essence of that youthful adventurer, who might come across as a bit of an idiot as the action kicks in, but his spirit and resourcefulness makes him a hard hero to rain down on. The same goes for the other characters, each one colourful and instantly recognisable. Even the two masked knights seen dotted around the kingdom have their own voices and quirks. It makes King’s Quest easier to get into, because even when the puzzles get a little alienating, you care enough about the world and its inhabitants. You want to see how everything turns out, what happened to specific characters. The story also refuses to drop anyone. For example, with this genre, each character has a job. You meet a troll that has an item you need to carry onto the next stage of the game or a shop clerk that you need to help with a task to earn an item. They perform these duties precisely how you expect them to. However, with other games of this genre, no one puts too much emotion into them, because as soon as their job in the game is fulfilled, they are usually written out of the plot. In King’s Quest, the writers find excuses to keep them around. Wandering around a new section of the map and the background references those group of guards that popped up at the start of the game. Clever references are buried into the map, like posters hinting at the wider character arc of certain people in the story. As the level runs to a close, there is a sweet little montage where you realise how much you have impacted the wider universe in your short time in this game and it is surprising how much you care.
The gameplay is not for everyone. As you enter a new map, suddenly the game transforming from a standard linear plot with the occasional puzzle to work out, to an open world full of clues and secrets, it is difficult to get your head around it. I missed out on several PS4 trophies, because I bumbled through things in an alternate order and used up all of my items before I really got to grips with them. While King’s Quest can theoretically be polished off in three hours, it will be the methodical, slower gamer that squeezes the most enjoyment out of it. Yes, I can spend my coin here and get this item, but if I hang back on my spending, is there another means of defeating this particular boss? At first, a new map can completely throw you, but the fun is in taking a moment to take in your surroundings and slowly let the world make sense to you. At first, the knitted booby traps dotted around look totally out of place, but the amazement will kick in, when you realise how cleverly crucial they become, once you have progressed to a stage where you can appreciate them. I also like how you can slightly mould your character via how you complete your challenge. At first, it is the simple things. You arrive in town and meet three people who can help you: the blacksmith, the baker or the alchemists. Who you turn to begins to suggest the type of role player you are to become? However, then there are intelligent alternative ways to overcome challenges. One scene sees you need to hunt down a monster. The game hints that you are to take on the Snarlax, a fabled creature lurking in a woods just out of reach. However, as you search for a suitable weapon to kill him with, as well as a snack to bribe your way into that area of the map, a new option might crop up that is a bit more interesting. It is impressive, attempting the game either way and seeing how each decision affects how the rest of the story unfolds. It is a small trick, but one that allows King’s Quest to seem endless in its play-through opportunities.
My one problem at the moment with King’s Quest is that it seems a little too charming, a little too adorable. It is becoming a little hard to imagine what the other four chapters are going to entail. Usually, as with Telltale or Life is Strange, the plot will thicken and the tone will begin to darken. I cannot see that happening with King’s Quest. Surely as the fifth and final chapter looms over the hill, it will lose its playful nature. However, that is a review for another day.
Final Verdict: It is hard not love King’s Quest’s re-imagining from the adorable characters and intricate plotting.