King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember – Review
PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
I think that I have to admit right upfront that I’m a big fan of the old Sierra adventure games. I grew up with them. From the first quest in glorious CGA graphics with crazy text interpreters, to the slightly more modern VGA, fully voiced point and click adventures, I played all (well, most) of them.
I think developers, The Odd Gentlemen, took on a big responsibility bringing such a beloved title to a new, and old audience. Based on some of their developer diaries, they are also huge fans of the series and seem genuinely excited to bringing a refreshed King’s Quest story to a new generation.
So what is King’s Quest about? The original games tell of the trials and (dare I say it) quests of the king’s knight, Graham, as he first saves the kingdom, becomes king and then saves it again. Later games star various members of Graham’s family. The games were known for mixing in fairy tale lore and fantastic creatures in the story telling and puzzles.
So let’s get right into this new adventure. King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember is the first (punny) episode in a five chapter series. The game is narrated in flashbacks by King Graham, brilliantly voiced by veteran actor, Christopher Lloyd, as Graham tells stories to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn. Players are thrown right into the prelude story, where Graham is tasked with retrieving a magical mirror. After the prologue, and a brief interlude with old King Graham and Gwendolyn, the main story for the chapter starts. This tale tells how Graham arrived in the land of Daventry to enter a tournament to win a position as knight in the current monarch’s (King Edward’s) court.
This new King’s Quest is not really a point and click adventure. The mouse is used to select between conversation options, inventory and to aim in archery mini-games, but movement is performed using the WASD keys on the Pc. Icons appear when actions can be taken by pressing the spacebar. I think this was to allow easy cross platform development on consoles.
I did find the movement a little awkward, but not too bad on the whole. There are few action sequences and QuickTime events, but they don’t need ninja-like reflexes. They’re also used sparingly and most of the game proceeds at a dreamy pace. I did find there was a lot of walking and backtracking to be done King’s Quest. It did make some parts of the game seem a little tedious. Luckily though, the environments look quite beautiful and the hand painted artwork combined with scattered background animations really help to bring out the game’s charm. The character design really is great. The oddball characters Graham meets just look right. The animation is really good too, particularly the expressions on Graham’s face.
The original Sierra adventure games had to make do with chirpy midi sound (although they did a damn good job of it) and then later games introduced voice one sound cards came of age. While voice work and game music play an important part of any game, they really seem to stand out when adventure games get them wrong. King’s Quest does a really fine job with the score and the voice work. Character all have their own little themes which suite them and the music swells with action and accentuates the peace of some forest scenes and the danger of others. On the whole, the voice cast is brilliant and they really bring all the quirky characters to life. Some of the comedy is a bit heavy on the puns, but whatever floats your boat… (sorry). Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, Christopher Lloyd is a standout, but they also have veteran actor Wallace Shawn (you’ll recognise him when you hear him) among the talent. One slight drawback… you can’t skip the dialogue that you’ve triggered before, but it’s a small niggle.
The meat of an adventure game lies in its puzzles, but King’s Quest doesn’t really tax the old grey matter. Most puzzles generally involve finding the right objects in the land and applying them to the solutions, though a few require some logical thinking and classic puzzle solving. This game does introduce a few light moral choices. Your choices will define whether Graham approaches his tasks with bravery, cunning or heart. A few of the consequences play out in this episode, but I hope the choices have further reaching effects in later episodes along with any cumulative choices in future chapters.
Before starting this game, I was worried that my fond memories of time spent in past King’s Quest games could be tarnished. I did take a little while to warm to the new adventure game structure, and did find myself tiring a bit of the backtracking round Daventry, but on the whole I enjoyed this adventure. I even gave it a second play through to make some different choices. I am looking forward to the future episodes. If I had to choose one word to try sum up the game, it would be “charming”. I also think this would be a nice game to play with young children, as long as you’re certain they won’t be scared of the dragon or cartoon violence (the game is rated PG). Finally, if you’re an adventure game fan, particularly a King’s Quest fan of old, well, just know that The Odd Gentlemen and their team did a good job.
Joel Guttenberg hearkens from the motherland in deepest, darkest southern Africa, but now calls Australia home. His interest in games led to a career in IT, both of which continue to this day. He occasionally wrangles electrons into stories that are hopefully fit for (e)print and never, ever, sleeps on the job.