Review of King's Quest by Marquillin

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Rating by Marquillin posted on Apr 11, 2013 | edit | delete

The gateway game to graphical adventure's golden age still has something specical

Light spoilers ahead.

For the record, this is based the Apple II version of the game (played on the emulator Kegs32).  I had no idea until recently that Mac users got the benefits of more advanced audio, and these oldies, that were mostly silent on the PC, actually had a few tracks going on for them, and even realistic sound effects!  (For examples see  So it turns out that Al Lowe actually developed some variety of themes, but I’ve never heard them till now.  I’ve only ever used the PCspeaker, which is better then nothing, but I didn’t even know about Tandy.  I probably can’t go back now, though the controls on Kegs32 are a bit weird.

I salute the pioneering that Ken and Roberta did for computer interactivity: so many new ideas that flew on their first attempt.  But I’ve got to review this and all games based on how they are to play in the present tense.  I lack the objectivity to know all the influences that were going on in the market at the time, so I don’t think it should enter the score if it can be helped. 

This is my first play of the original King’s Quest all the way through; I only played the 1990 remake shortly before AGDI/Tierra did their revamp, and after those two, I just didn’t want to deal with the slow speed walk and limited parser.  But in actuality, it’s a decent experience.  Frustrating, but decent.

The artwork is a bit give or take, there are large expanses of just green grass.  By the time of Black Cauldren, Sierra had a much better handle on how to make 16 colors become an engrossing world.  However, sometimes this felt congruent with the simple nature of the fable.  So Graham has Jaundice, who am I to judge?  And those wacky proportions of structures to objects; sometimes I’m in a mind to go with it, then sometimes it makes a solution to a puzzle seem not worth trying, like instead of cutting the bucket off while swimming far below it, I kept trying to figure out how to turn the crank instead.  Sorry, that’s too practical.

Much of the puzzle design was creative though, the multiple solutions remained a staple strong point through almost all of the series.  I even like that it often offers no clues besides recognizing the fairy tale situation.  I even like to think I could of figured out the gnomes name if I hadn’t already read the walkthrough long ago.  After all, he does say your on the right track once you guess the obvious.  And it’s not a dead end, in fact it’s actually is almost preferable to loose since then you can avoid…

That dratted Beanstalk…I think the game looses a point on this alone.  Nice reference perhaps, but first there’s finding the right place to plant the thing (I didn’t see any clues about the ground being fertile) and then it’s keyboard tap, restore, keyboard tap, restore, keyboard tap, restore, ad nauseam.

The story is nice despite being non-challenging, like Campbell’s tomato soup.  Especially if one reads the manual to get the real background dirt on the characters (though I can tell it’s a bit of a ret-con); here is a tale of a king who trusted the wrong people and selfishly bargained more then he could afford, and this sets you up as the one to do better once you set things right and take over.  Otherwise the game just gives you very bare bones story of: things are bad until you make them right by killing/outsmarting the baddies, stealing treasure (the king never says they used to be his during the game, so this could be viewed as an act of war against the Leprechaun nation; manipulating their baser natures to remove their means of defense), feeding the poor and excavating even more treasure.  BTW, I always thought the last part was a bit greedy of Sir Graham, he already has an endless supply of gold, and yet you get maximum points for hoarding the most gold acorns.  I always say “screw the score, I’ll give my extra treasure to the woodcutter”.  This game likely isn’t for over thinking though, which would normally be bad, but it also somehow hits the baser emotional beats anyway.

The animation is effective enough, much of it becoming staples of future games, and on top of that: the Ogre is scary the way it claws the air, Leprechauns dance with style, Graham’s bowing with the nice touch of dropping his hat, and the jumping and ducking are very fluid.  Simple animations, but effective.  Much of the rest was…meh…however.  And the walking animation looks like he’s dragging feet more then I remember in AGI games.

The fact that you can duck and jump whenever you want with specialized buttons is cool, and sort of a shame it was the only game to have them.  Right from the bat you’re wondering: when will I need these fancy moves, and when the witch does swoop in, you do have to think fast (and don’t hit the jump key), quite exciting.  It’s too bad you only get to use them for one purpose each.  The swim button, on the other hand, I think was really extraneous; it got annoying having to always tell Graham not to drown.  People who know how to swim, just do.

The choice and freedom about what to do next was mostly a great thing, but I have to say if you get the shield before the other treasure(s) then the game is suddenly much more boring, being invincible and all.  Guess that’s why they removed that freedom in the remake.

Though it was still rare, the music was a great mood setter.  Notable mentions go to the Dragon, the Giant (both quite creepy) and the title fanfare which was reminiscent of KQ5 and KQ1SCI.  The Sound effects were also amazingly on point with convincing splashes, growls, squaks and door squeaks.  I admit this one area saves much of the immersion effect for me.

So all things considered, Quest for the Crown gets a 2.5, with honors in sheer spunk.  Gotta set the bar high, cause the places story telling will go makes this game seem average.  Though I normally wouldn’t grab a game with that score, it’s not a big time commitment and it should be of interest to the game historian in us all.

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Time Played: 2-5 hours
Difficulty: Easy

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