The seventh installment in the King’s Quest series gives us control over not one but TWO female protagonists. In The Princeless Bride you play half the game as Queen Valanice and the other half as Princess Rosella, alternating between the two after each chapter end. This makes for an interesting concept: both the queen and the princess are hurdled to opposite ends of the same land, and need to work their way towards each other to return home. Add in an evil sorceress who wants to destroy the world, and you have a really good start to this tale.
As usual, Sierra uses the King’s Quest series to showcase their technological advances and improvements. The game sports a new and streamlined interface (similar to the one they used in Phantasmagoria a year later) and the cursor gets the “one-click-does-all” treatment. Personally I feel that the ‘simplified’ cursor is an improvement, but of course that’s debatable.
The graphics for this game are outstanding in a way, and mediocre in another. The entire game consists of hand-drawn graphics with a style similar to that of Disney’s animated movies of that time. It makes the world vibrant and colourful, and it works really well. There are however a few restrictions to this: the use of only 256 colours leads to a lot of dithering (which hurts the appearance), and the movement speed of the characters is extremely slow (it sometimes takes ages for Queen Valanice or Princess Rosella to walk from one end of the screen to the other). But the abundance of different animations gives both characters (as well as most of the minor characters) a lot of personality, so the style does do its job.
It’s also apparent that LucasArts’ success at the time was having some influence on the Sierra games: as far as I can recall, The Princeless Bride is the very first Sierra game that features no dead ends whatsoever. All deaths - and there are quite a few of them, as befits a King’s Quest game - also return you to just a few seconds before they occured (so you no longer need to save all the time). For me personally, this takes care of all annoyances I had with the earlier Sierra games and I consider that a vast melioration.
While the game is fully voiced, there are no subtitles in it. Luckily for the non-native English speakers, the audio (as well as the pronunciation by the voice actors) is crystal clear and the game enjoys some good (though occasionally stiff) voice acting. The music, while not overly memorable, perfectly fits the different themes that are present in the game.
Unfortunately, after a really strong first three chapters, the writing in the game falters a bit. The objectives are not as clear anymore in chapters 4 and 5, and some of the more fantastical elements are taken way too far near the end of the game (especially regarding the floating land of Etheria). The more divine and powerful characters that are present later on in the game lack the same spirit that some of the earlier characters had. And the final chapter quizzes your knowledge of the earlier King’s Quest games by having a major character from King Quest IV make an unannounced appearance here. I feel that this “cameo” could’ve used more backstory.
The more completionist players can rejoice: some of the puzzles in the game have an alternate solution, and like its predecessor in the series, The Princeless Bride has two different endings: one bad and one good. Which ending you get only depends on your final action (or inaction) in the game, though. So there are no different story paths like there were in the sixth installment of the series…
Overall, the game has a great animation style (apart from the dithering), there are plenty of improvements made in terms of gameplay, and alternating between two protagonists adds a little extra. It’s a shame that the writing stumbles a bit later on in the game, otherwise The Princeless Bride could have been on equal footing with Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (which is by far the best game in the series)...
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Time Played: 10-20 hours
Difficulty: Just Right