King’s Quest IV part 1: Grrl power!

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(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest IV. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

With the previously disappointing entry to the King’s Quest series behind me, I am really hoping that King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella redeems the franchise. I’ve heard good (but few) things about it, and generally applaud the fact that the main character here switches from a guy to a girl. When you look at the Sierra adventure line-up, it’s mostly guys in the main role. Roberta Williams’ hand in the series most definitely helped to buck this trend.

The only other thing I know about this 1988 game is that it takes place over a timed 24-hour period, and according to the box art, at some point I’ll be riding a freaked-out unicorn while sky-vampires attack me.

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Let’s get into it! King’s Quest IV starts just moments after the conclusion of King’s Quest III, but in those interval seconds a lot has happened. For starters, the game’s graphics have improved somewhat (although we haven’t reached the VGA era yet), there are better speech boxes, and the music actually is listenable and constant, like a real soundtrack.

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Also, King Graham dies. Or is dying. He collapses after he throws his hat to his kids and lies on death’s doorstep. Rosella is so distraught at this turn of events that she listens to the magic mirror, which is channeling a strange fairy who tells her that she has to come to a distant land to find a magic fruit on a tree that can cure her dad. Of course, there’s a catch — she’s also got to help the fairy when she gets there.

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This is what “stunningly beautiful” passed for in 1988. It’s like a renaissance faire sorority.

Rosella takes the fairy up on her offer and gets taken to the far-off land, where the fairy tells her that she (the fairy) is dying because a bad fairy took her magic amulet. The fairy only has 24 hours to live, and if Rosella can’t get the amulet, then there’s no way home — magic fruit or no magic fruit. At least the fairy helps Rosella by disguising her as a peasant girl… because that really matters? Couldn’t you give her an adventurer’s kit, with lockpicks, rope, a crossbow, and a fire extinguisher? That would mean a lot more than these lice-ridden rags.

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Yes, the graphics are most definitely better than the previous games. And this new land is actually filled with interesting landmarks, like this here haunted house. Rosella contemplates moving in permanently and establishing herself as the Queen of the Night.

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For those hoping that this house would be downright crawling in poltergeists or terrifying reveals, I’m sorry to disappoint you. It’s mostly just a mansion in disrepair, although it does have a bit of a creepy vibe to it. Perhaps the still-running clock or the portraits have something to do with that.

I find a book containing Shakespeare’s plays, which makes me wonder if we’re now in the real world or something. The King’s Quest games play loose and fast with history and fairy tale fiction.

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Cruising around this new land, Rosella bumps into a minstrel who plays her a little ditty. Seeing an opportunity to unload this heavy tome, she gives the minstrel the plays, and he gets super, super into them — so much so that he abandons his minstrel career on the spot to become an actor. Does he not know that those plays require more than one actor? Good luck finding a theater troupe, pal!

You know that game where you start with a paperclip and go around trading it for other stuff? Well, we got the book and traded it to this guy for a lute. Now we’re going to trade the lute for a flute. Ack, sorry, didn’t mean that to rhyme.

A nearby satyr is playing said flute, but when Rosella starts jamming out on her lute, he seems open to a trade. I suspect that all of this music biz is because the creators of the game were overjoyed to be able to use a proper soundcard for the first time. “WE GOT MUUUUUSICCC!”

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