King’s Quest V part 8: Mordack the Magnificent


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

I never understood why you’d want to be an evil wizard/lord/whatever in a fantasy setting if it meant that you would end up living all alone in a completely depressing and oppressive setting. I mean, I feel bad for Mordack here. His island is less “tropical paradise” and more “10th ring of Hell” in tone.

Upon arrival (crashing) upon Mordack’s island, Graham does what he does best: pick up a dead fish. Yes, this makes twice now for King’s Quest V that Graham has stashed a rotting fish in his pockets, so the man clearly has a problem.


“Too bad,” the narrator snarks. “It looks like the EYES have it.”

Ughhh… it’s like going on a road trip with your dad in the back seat making snarky puns at everything you do.

At the entrance — which is locked, naturally — Cedric chips in once again to say that we should just give up and go back. I like that even game Graham here is sick of this attitude: “Come ON, Cedric!”


Adventure game creators always look to provide that “something special” kick to the groin right before the end. Something super-frustrating, made more so because victory is almost in your grasp. King’s Quest V’s answer to this is a maze, presented in a pseudo-3-D perspective that moves depending on where you’re facing.


To get out of the maze, you have to please this weird monster, Dink, by giving it a tambourine. Because if you’re a maze monster, your avenues for entertainment are probably pretty limited and therefore you’re liable to be charmed by even the simplest of kid toys.


Even desperate to save his family and running out of time, Graham pauses to flirt with an enslaved princess working as a scullery maid. Apparently Mordack wanted to marry her, she said no, so he thought (and backs his reasoning up here) that imprisoning her until she agreed to the marriage would be the most romantic option at hand. Can’t tell you how many of my wives started out as basement kidnapees.


Graham gets captured (again). While we wait for the usual, I’m loving the design of this gothic organ room. Easily some of the best art in the game, and a neat isometric perspective to boot.

The princess comes and rescues him from his cell, making for a neat moment of role reversal.


Also on Graham’s to-do list for today is to torment cats. This here is Mannanan, who you might recall was that crusty evil wizard from King’s Quest III. It’s curious to me how Mordack is so good at magic that he can shrink and transport an entire castle, yet he can’t un-catify his brother. While Graham contemplates that, he throws the cat in a bag, ties it up, and leaves Mannanan for dead.


Be honest here — you would totally go over to the evil side if it meant you could have a wicked-looking library like this one.

Mordack shows up in his bedroom and goes to sleep, so Graham casually wanders over and murders him in the face steals his wand.


While I haven’t really talked about it much during this playthrough series, King’s Quest V’s item puzzle logic is notorious for its levels of abstract reasoning and limited time opportunities. There are many, many points during the game where you could effectively create a no-win situation — and then not find this out until much later. If I didn’t save Cedric on the island? I’d lose here. If I didn’t rescue the mouse from the cat early on? I would have died later in the inn basement. And if I didn’t happen to notice a small mouse hole in the dungeon that contained moldy cheese, I would be looking at a game over screen here.

Yes, this is one of the more infamous adventure game puzzles. You have to use this machine to de-power Mordack’s wand and empower the good wizard’s wand, but the only thing that will make this happen is by tossing in a small bit of moldy cheese. Why moldy cheese? IT IS NEVER EXPLAINED. Just because it was out of the way and without a guide most people would have never noticed it. Thanks, Sierra.


When Mordack shows up and grabs his limp wand, Cedric does his ONE and ONLY useful action of the game: He flies in the window and accidentally gets hit by the first blast from Mordack’s wand. I have no words. Oh wait, yes I do. Good riddance.


This is it! The big showdown between Graham and Mordack, which takes place in the form of transforming into various creatures as a move-countermove type of thing. Tiger versus… weird flying bug-thing.


My favorite moment is when you counter a dragon with an adorable little bunny rabbit. Finally, Mordack turns into a ring of fire and Graham puts the fire out with a rain spell. Win!


The good wizard shows up, all deus ex machina, to un-shrink Graham’s family and the castle. He also resurrects Cedric because there is no such thing as a happy ending.

Alexander gets a look at Princess Cassandra’s skimpy outfit and declares that he’s going on vacation to her country. At least Graham gets to go home without Cedric, so there is that.

Overall, King’s Quest V was a fine if not overly remarkable adventure game. I just learned that this was the best-selling PC game of all time for about four years in the early 90s (before Myst came along), which slightly baffles me. I guess the brand name and the high production values helped, along with the newfangled CD-ROM voiceovers.

The visuals do hold up wonderfully, although the music and voices not so much. And the weird puzzle difficulty and the aggravation of Cedric drag KQV down into mock-worthy territory. But hey, another King’s Quest game under my belt, so no more complaining!



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