King's Quest is the game that kicked off the golden age of graphical adventure games that launched Sierra into annuls of video game history. So, it only seems appropriate that the two should be revived together. The new King's Quest episodic adventures, developed by The Odd Gentleman, seeks to recapture the magic of the classic game using modern methods of storytelling. What that means is a game that more closely resembles the action of a Telltale game, like The Walking Dead, and less like the point-and-click hotspot finding of yesteryear. Despite being a reboot that bears similarities to other adventure games, King's Quest manages to gain an unique identity of its own.
The first of five chapters, titled A Knight to Remember, starts off strong. I'm very impressed with the game's visuals, which are light and cartoony without going overboard. Everything including Graham's flowing cape, his feathered cap, and the dragons lair decorated with clutter, put me in the mood for a lighthearted adventure. Oddly, there are plenty of ways to die (just like in the classic game), including a 50/50 chance decision right at the game's start. But the game simply resets you to the decision point with older Graham (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) saying something witty, like, "That's what would have happened if I made the wrong choice..."
Graham, who is an old man now, recounts tales from his youth to his young granddaughter Gwendolyn. In telling his stories, Graham recounts the decisions he made to help shape the kingdom of Daventry. Like the movie The Princess Bride, the young girl occasionally interjects during the conversation. In fact, there are a lot of Princess Bride references, including a duel of wits with a character voiced by Wallace Shawn. The humor and puzzles are generally family friendly, but still manages to remain challenging.
The main plot of A Knight to remember recounts how Graham first becomes a knight of Daventry, but he must compete with other potential knights to win the position. Furthermore, dragons, bridge trolls, and a list of other obstacles all stand in the way. It's up to the player to solve the puzzles, combine the right inventory items, and use their minds to see their way through to the end.
King's Quest does have some decision points, but not as many as you might find in a Telltale adventure. Some situations have multiple solutions, like how you decide to bring in the eye of an ugly beast. Options include hunting down an ugly creature, faking a creature's eye, or getting an eye through diplomacy. You decisions will impress upon the village's characters in different ways, and the lessons Gwendolyn learns from your story.
However, despite the excellent voice acting and fun story, there are points when the game can grind to a halt. As with the classic adventure games, there are places where I got stuck and couldn't figure out what to do next. The game offers occasional hints, but they're phrased as something you should do, like find an item, and generally don't include a how or where. However, these spots are few, and I managed to solve almost all the puzzles without assistance. The duels against the other knights can almost all be won through trial and error.
The one puzzle that truly got on my nerves is in the final scene, where you have to play a mini-game against the computer. It took me several tries, and the people of Daventry are more than willing to bend the rules to give you as many chances you need to win, but there's no option to skip the dialogue. I just wanted to get straight back into the mini-game without having to listen to the same few lines spoken over and over again. Kings' Quest manages to streamline the game in other areas, like skipping over walks through caves once you've figured out how to get through, so it's strange that there isn't an option to skip over repeat dialogue.
Even though I got a little frustrated while stumbling through some parts, I ended up liking the first episode of King's Quest very much. It's not perfect, but it has some great characters and some genuinely funny moments of self-awareness, like how there are way too many puns (a staple of the classic games). Then there are some wonderfully absurd scenes, like an army of cute squirrels that come out to impede your path. I look forward to the next chapter, to see how Graham grows from an adventurer to a king.