King’s Quest II: A white wedding

(This is part of my journey playing through King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

door1It’s a long hike back through and from Dracula’s castle to the floating nesting doors, but I finally get there and — whilst regretting ever leaving my comfy throne to begin with — I unlock the final door.  What will this amazing world be like?  My mind literally cannot fathom the scope and vistas to come!

door2Oh, it’s… blue.  And purply.  Honestly?  My mind could have totally fathomed this if I had known in advance.  I’m feeling more than a little let down with a normal setting with “wacky” colors considering all of the effort I just went through to solve someone’s weird scavenger hunt.

door3There really isn’t much to do in this fantastic land of blue and purple.  There isn’t much to do other than go fishing, I mean.

So I cast a net I found again… and again… and again.  King’s Quest: Fishing Simulator, coming Spring 1985!

Eventually I land a large gasping fish and am perplexed as to what to do with it.  The game doesn’t let me kill it, scale it, eat it, make it into a hand puppet, or mount it on my wall.  So I have to throw it back into the sea, upon which the fish expresses its gratitude for saving its life by giving me a lift across the ocean.  Not to complain about a free ride, but wasn’t I also the one who endangered your life?

door4And thus, many hours after going through this game, I’m right back where I started: on a beach.  Bully.

door5I found this kind of amusing.  The second I walk onto this screen, the game all but points to the amulet on the sand and says “PICK IT UP, DUMMY.”  I guess the game is sensing that we’re almost to the end and it doesn’t want me to waste time doing a pixel hunt.

door6I find a tower in the middle of the island with another one of those very annoying King’s Quest II circular staircases.  I can imagine the desginers thought that this looked all 3D and cool, but it’s a pain to try to navigate because you can fall off if you don’t walk on a very specific path.  And then you die, of course.

door7Speaking of death, at the top of the stairs is a lion who is eager to kill me because no one is feeding the poor thing.  I got a laugh out of the death animation, which is less “the lion leaps up to ravage me” and much more “I do a flying headdive down the lion’s gullet.”

I have a choice to feed it with the ham I found or kill it with my snake-sword, and since I haven’t gotten to kill anything in this game so far, I take the more brutal route.  Now the internet’s going to hate me as a lion killer.

door8Somewhere in time, my 11-year-old self got a tingly feeling in his nether regions from reading the above paragraph.

door9It… was?  It was!  Thank you for telling me what to think!

door10Now that Valanice and I have spent an entire minute together, our relationship has progressed to the point where we can get married.  I ask her for her hand and she gives it to me, probably because she has no other way of getting off the island.  Then we magically appear back in the chapel, where the monk marries us in front of a crowd of everyone from the game — including a shark and the supposed-to-be-dead Dracula.  I like how Grandma and the wolf have decided to go to the wedding as a couple.  Good for them.

The game concludes with us returning to my castle and a popup with a cheap plug for King’s Quest III.  Stay classy, Sierra!

Final Thoughts

King’s Quest II is really an exercise in “more of the same.”  While it is larger and boasts more characters and animations, it really doesn’t offer much over the first installment.  The lack of any sort of narrative other than “find the girl, marry the girl” is disappointing, and some of the puzzles and game design is downright obtuse (the breakable rope bridge in particular).  And the mish-mash of fantasy tropes and settings made this new land just as bewilderingly ambiguous as the one from the first game.

I heard that players who agreed with the game’s shortcomings made a fan remake of the game with more story and puzzle improvements.

Still, I will say that it’s not a bad game overall.  The humor, when it comes in animation or text form, still has the ability to elicit a laugh or two.  Several obstacles have a couple of different solutions, which is great.

I think I’m going to put a bookmark in my King’s Quest journey right there and start a new poll for the next game of this playthrough series.  Thanks for reading!

Best of Bio Break 2013: MMOs

bestThe Best of Bio Break 2013 is a series of “end of the year” lists that talk about various forms of entertainment that I enjoyed this year.  They’re not awards, but they are ranked.  Each entry doesn’t have to be something that came out this year, but merely something I encountered this year.

TSW_Issue_6_insertSo let’s jaw about MMOs today whynot.  As I’ve mentioned a while back, it wasn’t the most thrilling year if you were just looking for majorly anticipated AAA releases.  We’re kind of in an “in-between” period marking the span from Guild Wars 2/Star Wars: The Old Republic and the upcoming crop of EverQuest Next/WildStar/The Elder Scrolls Online (among others).  This meant that 2013 saw generally smaller releases, but still a respectable number of updates and expansions.  Here’s what I enjoyed playing most over the year.

1. The Secret World

No big surprise here, right?  I’ve been playing TSW non-stop since launch and its unique approach to MMOs and compelling setting have made it irresistable for me.  I love the adventures of our Monday evening crew as well as my own journey through the game.  I feel like I’m coming out of the year with a much better grasp of the game’s intricacies, and I really can’t wait for Tokyo to release.

I don’t think there’s ever been another MMO that’s both frustrated and delighted me on the scale that TSW has, and I’ll take that conflicting experience over safe, predictable titles any day.

2. Guild Wars 2

While right now I’m on a sabbatical from Tyria, I’m not going to ignore the fact that I spent a gob of time in GW2 over the year.  It’s still one of the best jump-in-and-jump-out games on the market, not to mention one of the most beautiful.  I’m still of a somewhat negative opinion of its living story approach, but the rest of the game provided me with hours and hours of fun.  Big thumbs up to some of the feature additions, such as LFG, the achievement panel, and the currency wallet.

3. Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO didn’t begin the year well with me at all.  I very nearly burned out on this game about five or six times, especially toward the final months of Wildermore.  However, the expansion has been a great ride so far and rejuvenated my interest in the game, so I’m heading into 2014 with my horse head held high.


RIFT, I think, will be one of those games I’ll keep coming back to over and over again.  There’s so much to like here, yet it’s still lacking that “sticky” element to keep me around for more than a couple months in a row.  Great F2P transition, I must say — one of the best out there.  I’m glad that it won’t cost anything to visit again.  I did enjoy going through Storm Legion on my Cleric, although I felt it was a little too long and missing some of the distinctiveness of the earlier zones.

5. Neverwinter

This has been a very strange title for me.  I was looking forward to it a lot — so much so that I had a bi-weekly column for it at Massively for a while — but my interest crashed about a month after launch.  However, news of module 2 got me back, and I’ve been playing it very regularly for a month now.  For what it is, this game is a pretty fun ride — an MMO without a lot of the baggage that I see elsewhere.

Other mentions:

  • Star Trek Online got me back for a little while around its expansion launch, but I wasn’t feeling it this time around.  Not that the changes were bad or anything; quite the opposite.
  • Fallen Earth was pleasant to revisit and part of me really wishes I had the proper time to devote to this game.  But I’m just not going to play it halfway, so to my recycle bin it went.
  • Marvel Heroes is a pretty good Diablo clone that’s still floating around on my desktop.  I even logged in the other week to play Rocket Raccoon, because what other game lets me dual wield pistols with a garbage-eating pest?
  • World of Warcraft got a time-limited trial revisit or two, but… yeah, it just reaffirmed that I’m done with this game.  And that’s OK, we’ll always have the Deadmines.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic tempted me back with the expansion, but man this game wore out its welcome with me.  As good as the stories are, when you hate the classes and the combat mechanics, it’s not worth the pain.

King’s Quest II: Enter… the DRACULA

(This is part of my journey playing through King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

asd1Two doors down, one to go!  Geez, why is everything in video games always about the threes?

So it’s time to face my destiny, and by that I mean “cross the poisoned lake by any means necessary.”  Fortunately, I have my magic carpet which… no, that’s gone.  Hm.  Well, at least I have the favor of a winged steed who owes me a big… what?  He left?  But couldn’t King Neptune… no?  Fine.  I’ll pay this stupid boatman.  Hey Death, how’s it hanging?

Actually, in a happy twist, the cloak-and-ring combo I’m sporting has “fooled” the boatman into thinking I’m “someone else.”  Uh… who exactly?  A renaissance fair groupie?  Whatever, he gives me a free ride across the lake to the castle in the yonder distance there.

asd2Poison!  My one weakness!  Oh King’s Quest II, you are a clever one.

But will your cleverness be able to withstand… MY MAGICAL SUGAR CUBE?

No, I think not.  I’ll be passing these brambles now, thank you.

asd3“This situation looks bad” is my middle name.  My last name is Jones.  So, to recap, Graham This Situation Looks Bad Jones.  That’s me!

Please, gentle readers, do not be frightened by the terrifying images above.  Hold my hand and we’ll get through it… together.  I guess my disguise fools them too, because they go away. Drat.  Thought there was going to be an awesome Ghostbusters easter egg here.

asd4So here I am, just kickin’ it up in Dracula’s castle.  Because, really, why wouldn’t Dracula be neighbors with a Christian monk, Red Riding Hood, and King Neptune?  WHY ISN’T SOMEBODY MAKING A SITCOM OUT OF THIS GAME?

asd5I’m going to fast-forward through some of the more boring adventure game bits in Dracula’s castle, such as navigating a circular staircase, finding a candle, lighting the candle, going down more stairs, stealing ham, etc.  Long story short, here’s Dracula.  He’s sleeping.  I’m going to kill him ten ways from Sunday.

asd6Woo!  I am the champion… of the wooooorld!  Buffy has nothing on me.

Here’s where the game gets tricky.  I grab that key, but I have to look back into the coffin, take out the pillow, and find yet another key.  Two keys here.  I can’t imagine just grabbing one and then wandering around the game like a fool with no idea where the other one is.

I’m really not a fan of Dracula’s castle.  For one thing, there are just way too many stairs going on here, and you can fall off of just about all of them.  Before I leave, I climb up to another tower, unlock a chest, and find… a tiara.

A tiara?

A tiara!

Sorry, that had to be done.

Best of Bio Break 2013: Blogging and podcasting community shout-outs


The Best of Bio Break 2013 is a series of “end of the year” lists that talk about various forms of entertainment that I enjoyed this year.  They’re not awards, but they are ranked.  Each entry doesn’t have to be something that came out this year, but merely something I encountered this year.

I hate giving out individual awards or recognition in lists like these to blogs and podcasts, because then it becomes a game of favorites where the not-chosen might feel personally snubbed.  The truth is that I follow a LOT of people and have a very full RSS reader (and you can check those out on the right-hand side of the page.  Still, I want to give a few significant shout-outs to folks who went above and beyond in excellence this year.

1. Contains Moderate Peril and T.R. Red Skies for their work with the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2

These two sites elected to take over the NBI this year and did a phenomenal job with it, inviting new bloggers into the fold and bringing the community closer together.

2. Casual Stroll to Mordor for a lifetime achievement award

CSTM was one of the best examples of a fan site being awesome, servicing the LOTRO community for many years with excellent guides, podcasts, and commentary.  CSTM semi-retired (or at least changed focus) this year, but the crew deserves an award for their excellent work that was enjoyed by so many players.

3. I Have Touched The Sky for epic re-tweeting

Rowan of I Have Touched The Sky is one of those guys who’s constantly pointing and linking to other bloggers that you should check out.  It’s very selfless the way he does it, and I thought he deserved a shout-out in return.

4. Werit for last WAR blogger standing

There’s a lot of us that got started MMO blogging with Warhammer Online, and while most of us either stopped or transitioned to other games, Werit remained the faithful WAR blogger to the very end.  I thought he deserved a nod for that.

5. and for awesome guides

I don’t know how these people find the time to research and write up these very detailed guides, but I’m so glad they do because they saved me a lot of wasted time in games.  I go to these two sites all the time and admire the thoroughness of their work.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Best of Bio Break 2013: Retro games

bestThe Best of Bio Break 2013 is a series of “end of the year” lists that talk about various forms of entertainment that I enjoyed this year.  They’re not awards, but they are ranked.  Each entry doesn’t have to be something that came out this year, but merely something I encountered this year.

torment2013 will go down as the year in which I really invested in my PC retro games library.  Thanks to a couple of great sales, I beefed up my collection to around 50 or 60 games — and then realized that if I didn’t give myself a good reason to play them, I might succumb to the “Steam syndrome” where I was buying just to collect titles but not use them.  So I started a journey through this collection with my retro playthrough series, and here are the top games that I enjoyed so far.

1. Planescape: Torment

It took me just shy of forever to get through, but I had a blast coming back to Torment from start to finish.  Even with the worst box art of all time and a creaky game engine, it was still an engrossing experience that was more adventure game than RPG at times.

2. Master of Orion

My strategy was pretty flawed as I returned to this old favorite, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t having a great time.  It was simply fun to make up a story of a grand intergalactic space conquest and have it play out over a few weeks.

3. King’s Quest

It was one of the shortest runs through a complete game playthrough I did this year, but it was a terrific experience from start to finish.  This is one of those titles that holds up well even after 20 years.

4. Master of Might and Magic III

Winner of “the most bang for your buck” award, MoMM3 holds up very well due to its colorful sprite graphics and strategy-RPG gameplay.  I was fumbling all over the place getting my footing, but in the end it was quite worthwhile to do so.

5. Wasteland

I hadn’t played this classic RPG since I was a wee kid back in 1988, but the fascination that it imbued in me with the post-apocalyptic genre continues to this day.  I would still choose Fallout over this game for mechanics and graphics alone, but at the time it was pretty mind-blowing to experience.

Battle Bards Episode 18: Vanguard

For their final podcast (of the year), the Battle Bards are singing the saga of heroes.  If that’s too vague, we’ll just be up-front.  It’s Vanguard.  We’re talking Vanguard’s OST.  It was a difficult soundtrack to review because it contained a paradox.  What is that paradox?  Listen, we’re not going to spoil everything here — just listen to the show!

Episode 18 show notes

  • Introduction (including “Main Theme”)
  • “Brightwood Dells”
  • “Celestial Hills”
  • “Steppes of the Sunset”
  • “Grotto of the Sea Hags”
  • “Kaon Mage School”
  • “Falgarholm”
  • “Bamboo Forest”
  • Which one was our favorite?
  • Outro (“Bamboo Forest Combat”)

Listen to episode 18 now!

Special thanks to Tesh for the Battle Bards logo!

King’s Quest II: Because that would be too simple

(This is part of my journey playing through King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

qwe1Well, at least I’m CUTE.  That’s of some consolation.

Thus begins another King’s Quest II play session, in which the game shows me that this world has no internal logic and that everyone is out to eat me or steal from me or turn me into amphibians.  No mirror wife is worth this, let me tell you.

qwe2“Yes, can you explain why you’re operating a modern-looking antique store with lamps and other trappings that don’t make any sense for a fantasy setting?  Also, do you have any old NES cartridges?”

Finding an antique store in this game makes as much sense as anything else, I guess, but it’s really jarring.  What fairy tale is this from?  There is a genie lamp nearby, which the old lady says she’ll sell to me if I go retrieve her pet bird that the witch stole.  So… back to the batcave I guess?

A little side note: I really like how the game portrays the interior of houses with these cutaway graphics.  It’s… cool.

Getting the bird is kind of annoying.  First of all, you have to avoid the witch popping out in and around the cave.  I had the fairy’s protection spell on me so that was good.  Second, the bird starts chirping really loudly when you pick it up, so you’re forced to find something to keep it quiet.  That something is a cloth that is discovered in a bottle on the beach.   Long story short, I get the bird, give it to the lady, and get the lamp.  GET LAMP.  Now I’m in an adventure game!

qwe3Ooh, time to rub my lamp!  Hush you dirty people.  It’s a perfectly acceptable public activity.  A genie pops out and grants me — no, not three wishes — three items.  I get a magic carpet, a sword with a snake carved on it, and a magical bridle.  Man, everything’s magical in this place!

qwe4flying through the air so fancy free, my carpet my magic carpet and meeeee

qwe5Oh noes, there’s a poisonous snake!  [Puts on professor glasses]  Actually, King’s Quest II, the snake is venomous, not poisonous.  It’s an important distinction.  Please remember it for the future.  [Takes off professor glasses and promptly dies from the “poison”]

So.  Here’s the thing.  There’s a snake here.  I have a sword with a snake carved on it.  It’s like the game is telling me in BIG NEON COLORS to kill the snake with the sword.  But does it let me?  No, it does not.  Because that would make sense.

Instead — and I’m still facepalming over this puzzle solution — I have to throw the bridle onto the snake.  Because the snake is really a magical winged horse.  Of course, of course.


Seriously, King’s Quest II?  How does… why would you… I just… WHAT???!?

qwe7This particular paragraph has left me speechless.  All I know is that I’d want this idiocy to be engraved on my tombstone some day so that future generations would be able to suffer.

In short:

  • Enchanter + winged horse = “poisonous” snake
  • Sugar cube + poisonous brambles = safety

Also, why is everything in this country poisonous?  The lake, the brambles, the snakes… man.

qwe8Aaaall the way back to the magic floating door(s), and I unlock the second to find a third.  I’m starting to suspect that there are infinite doors.  Someone at Sierra has a sadistic black heart, no doubt.  This better be it, I don’t think that rope bridge can last much longer!