By – Jarrett Riddle

King’s Quest

King’s Quest, the series that brought ye olde text adventure to life, is finally back. The Odd Gentleman has resurrected the much beloved franchise in the form of easily accessible, chapter-driven installments. Gone are the days of pointing, clicking, and dying halfway through the game from failure to pick up an item at the beginning. What we have here is a colorful, whimsical world with dragons, trolls, and walnut strudel just ripe for exploring. Does this newest addition live up to the established legacy, or are you better off sticking with the golden oldies?

Young up-and-comer Graham, clad in his trusty feathered hat, has come to Daventry to seek glory and honor as a mighty knight of the land. Unfortunately, he’s not alone in his ambition. A downright wacky cast of characters join our protagonist, aiming to win the upcoming tournament with the promise of knighthood as the prize. With contests of strength, speed, and wits, Graham will have to pull out all the stops if he wants his dream to come true.

But who are these ne’er-do-wells that stand as obstacles for Graham? There’s Acorn the giant, who’s sure to give the hero a run for his money at the muscle competition. Achaka, an archery master who speaks an unknown foreign language. Manny, a sneaky runt hoping to forge an alliance to advance in the tournament. And then there’s Whisper, who can run like the wind but sadly lets his ego get the best of him too often. There’s more to these brave souls than meets the eye, and our skinny wanderer will get to know, and possibly even befriend them in his quest to serve.

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“I want to hear more about dragons!” exclaims an inquisitive young girl. It’s at this point that it becomes apparent that this chapter is but a story told by an aging Graham to his granddaughter. This narration, voiced by the ever-talented Christopher Lloyd, is only the beginning of a long line of The Princess Bride references. If you’re not especially fond of that movie, or aren’t familiar with it, first of all: Shame on you! Secondly: Fret not, as there’s plenty of original content within the game, and nods toward the Cary Elwes classic are often subtle, sure to make those in the know grin in merriment.

King’s Quest attempts to modernize its adventuring roots and succeeds by keeping gameplay simple while supplying hints and retries upon failure to accomplish certain sections. In addition to the expected genre staples, such as inventory usage and dialogue choices, some quick-time events show up as well. While these could easily disrupt action sequences, I find that they didn’t hamper the fun, and served to be more of an excitement enhancer than a mechanic actually designed for challenge. They only become annoying if mistakes are continually made, which usually results in the event restarting.

One negative area of note is unskippable dialogue and cut scenes. I’m quite surprised that a game made in 2015 doesn’t allow the player to jump past these sequences, even if they have already been triggered before. Combined with the aforementioned quick-time events, a recipe for frustration is potentially in the making. Also, while everyone has some funny things to say, it can get irritating hearing them repeat the same phrases. This becomes most apparent when characters are chattering in the background while Graham makes his way through town or is figuring out what to do next.

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Pacing is a peculiar issue in King’s Quest. Given the storybook narrative, one may expect the general flow of the game to proceed like any good book; with a slow build-up, an overarching problem for the protagonist rearing its head, the climax or solution to the threat, and a conclusion. Instead there’s a mish-mash of a large amount of scenes that range from slowly paced to exciting, with the player never knowing which of the two is coming. You may be forced to sit through a lengthy, unskippable talking session, plod leisurely through some woods, and solve a few simple inventory-based puzzles. Then suddenly, you’re thrust into a long bout of life-or-death platforming and problem solving sections, before being hurled once again into a casual stroll through the meadows. The gameplay at large isn’t affected, but I can’t help it makes the storytelling aspect feel a touch odd.

Though I’ve highlighted some of the darker corners of the game, all is not lost. King’s Quest’s setting of Daventry never loses its charm, and the host of zany characters, Graham included, is enough to keep most anyone itching to see what happens next. During your quest for knighthood, interactions with your fellow competitors prove to be engaging and memorable, with Graham learning from and utilizing skills the other would-be knights possess. Puzzles of all kinds can be found lurking on nearly every screen, ranging from clever memorization to board game-based contraptions. Some of the more complex set pieces are brilliantly thought out and require considerable time to understand and progress through. Often when it seems like an event, such as a horse race, should be a simple point A to B exercise, it winds up being a much more involved and fun process.

The toy-like, cell shaded appearance of people and animals in King’s Quest isn’t something that hasn’t been done before. However, never has the style been so attractively fused with a lively, colorful landscape. Each new area traversed, from a gleaming hilltop to a dangerous, wolf-infested cave, is lovingly crafted and a joy to behold. Being an avid in-game photographer for most things I play, the screenshot button was pressed frequently during my playthrough. Animations are no joke, either; our hero runs, climbs, shimmies, shoots arrows, and falls off cliffs with fantastic believability. Even bit players such as wandering knights are an eyeful, patrolling in a comically proud march and emoting in exaggerated body mannerisms. Thankfully, the developers kept different computer setups in mind and included options for all mainstream resolutions, full-screen/windowed toggle, texture detail, and subtitles.

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But what is a fairy-tale world without lighthearted, adventurous music? There’s no shortage of whimsical tunes to aid you in your journey through various obstacles. This isn’t to say that there’s no room for a dramatic score here and there as cut scenes call for it. Better yet, however, is the incredible range of voice-acting talent that really brings everything together. Doc “1.21 gigawatts” Brown has already been named, but several other notable actors are also easily distinguished. To keep from spoiling all the surprises, I’ll just again say that anyone familiar with The Princess Bride should instantly recognize some of the character portrayals.

King’s Quest is easily playable using either a keyboard and mouse or 360 controller configuration. Strangely, it didn’t respond to my gamepad at first, but after reconnecting the pad and restarting the game everything worked fine. Though navigation and actions are smoothly performed using either input device, I feel as though a controller is the developers’ preferred method. This especially seems true during the quick-time button pressing events, as doing these with a keyboard just feels weird to me.

Bugs are to be found in almost every title, but here they are fortunately sparse. Though it’s merely nitpicking, I’ll admit to a couple of small things that keep character movement from being perfect at times. The first is when Graham occasionally gets trapped on an object while trying to use an item from the inventory with it; after doing a fast-paced walk back and forth against the obstacle for a few seconds, he’ll finally come to his senses and perform the desired action. Another oddity is a rare camera stall that leaves you running around outside the view, unable to tell where you’re going. In my experience, this only lasts a few seconds but it’s something I remember getting in the way on a few occasions.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

A Knight to Remember is the first chapter of five in an episodic reboot of King’s Quest. At a completion time of 6 hours, the game offers exploration, action, brain-teasing, and top-notch storytelling in a fun filled package that doesn’t overstay its welcome. King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember is a hilarious adventure suitable for all ages that is well worth $9.99. Future chapters are planned to be released for the same price, or all can be pre-purchased for $39.99. Whichever pricing model you choose, it’s sure to be a worthwhile endeavor. Just don’t forget your feathered hat.

King’s Quest Technical Summary:

King's Quest Review Sum

  • Time Played – 6 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Few
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • System Specs – 3.7 GHz AMD A10-6700, 768MB Radeon 8670D, 8GB RAM
  • Control Scheme – M/KB, Xbox 360 Gamepad (Partial)
  • Saved Game Location – SteamApps\common\King’s Quest\GrahamsGame
  • Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam
  • Demo – No
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