(This is part of my journey playing through King’s Quest. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)
After robbing the sleeping giant, I descend through the verrrrry long mountain staircase (but hey, it still beats that aggravating beanstalk any day of the week). With two of the three royal treasures in tow, I’m on track to get that last one and snag the throne before the king dies from old pixel disease.
I go back to the dragon cave and spot that “friendly” bird swooping around the place. Probably a friend of the elf, looking to pluck my eyeballs so that it can nourish its young. Oh well, might as well jump right into its talons and see what fate has in store.
The Lord of the Rings eagle drops me off at a previously inaccessible part of the map, where I scout around and find this lovely mushroom. Kids, if video games has taught me anything, it’s that you should eat any and every mushroom you find in the wild without a second thought. What’s the worst that could happen?
Anyway, I offer the rat the cheese from the witches house, which he takes and then (I kid you not) “magically merges” with the wall. I’ve heard of lazy game design, but I’ve never seen such a brazen excuse for “we just didn’t want to animate the rat eating the cheese” before.
Or I could play my fiddle, which makes my computer play 1983-era Turkey in the Straw whiel the fiddle floats int he air and the leprechauns sumersault off of the screen. At this point in the game, I think the devs just turned the design over to the resident intern who was high on the resident foliage.
That’s the kind of king you want leading your people: One that just runs away out of cowardice and forgets his ruling sceptre and SHIELD OF INVINCIBILITY. Dude, you really don’t have anything to be afraid of with me. I’ve killed one witch, one goat, and my dignity.
Oh well, now I have all of the things. To get out of the cave, I eat the mushroom to make me super-tiny (which is a small jumble of pixels with these graphics). Back to the castle! To my destiny!
I bow to the king and he gets his lazy old bones up and abdicates the throne to me. Then, in a genuinely shocking little ending, he up and dies on the spot. Like, falls down and becomes a corpse and everything. Then, after he’s dead, he talks to me because that’s what ghost kings do.
Thus begins the reign of King Syp the First.
The narrative was a bit thin, but it was there — and the kingdom fashioned of different fairy tale legends and creatures was pretty fun to explore. One of the most forward-thinking aspects of the game is its approach to puzzles. Almost all of them are straight-forward in terms of logic, with the necessary clues given not by the internet but by one’s knowledge of basic fairy tales. I’m also impressed that many puzzles had more than one solution. For example, instead of coaxing that goat to butt the troll off the bridge, I could’ve paid him off with a golden walnut. That’s pretty amazing for 1983, nevermind some adventure game designs today.
I cannot praise another part of the game enough, and that’s its ability to save and reload games in multiple spots lightning-fast. So many of these retro games vex me with annoying save conditions, but not this game. It made dying fun.
I was less pleased with the slow walking speed, the idiotic beanstalk navigation, and general lack of an ongoing story. I mean, “get three items and you get to be king” is about as basic as it gets for adventure games, but considering the age of this title and the fact that it spawned a whole series of games that got deeper, I’m willing to overlook it.
I had such a good time, in fact, that I’m going to press my luck and continue on with the series. Tomorrow, King’s Quest II!