King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember Review (PC)
As one of the first games published under Activision's revitalization of Sierra, the two-man, California-based development studio, The Odd Gentlemen, have brought back King Graham in a re-imagined version of King's Quest. While Sierra has tried to bring back the King's Quest series plenty times in the past (including a cancelled version of King's Quest IX by the adventure game gurus at Telltale Games), this marks the first new title of the series in over 17 years.
While Graham's adventures have utilized text-based and point-and-click interfaces, this marks the series' jump to more conventional forms of gameplay and storytelling. Graham may have slain many monsters in his day and fumbled through plenty of dangerous predicaments in the past, but the first episode of this new take on King's Quest should appease both series veterans and adventure title enthusiasts alike.
The first thing that stands out in King's Quest are its gorgeous, cel-shaded graphics. While some players may immediately compare King's Quest's aesthetics to Telltale Games' adventure titles, King's Quest's graphics are almost unrivaled in adventure gaming. Screenshots don't do this title justice, as its visuals in motion are stunning. The unorthodox but vibrant approach to its colors and characters results in graphics similar to the 1978 Lord of the Rings film. There's a ton of delight and charm to be found while everything is moving, as this title features some excellent model animations. First and foremost, there's Graham. His thin, weak and lanky body flails like Jack Sparrow (but even funnier) when he's running for his life. Knights patrolling castle walls walk in exaggerated, silly manners that would make the Monty Python crew proud. This comedic approach makes King's Quest feel like a Disney animated feature, but in a good way.
Akin to its visuals, the sounds and songs of King's Quest are just as good. As you'd expect, there are heavy strings and horn sequences playing during Graham's adventures. While these songs are never as grand or as catchy as the similar-sounding tunes from The Witcher 3, Skyrim or Dragon Age: Inquisition, the soundtrack provides an adequate backdrop for an engaging tale. It's also great to hear drums and symbols crash according to the sound effects onscreen, especially when Graham is colliding into things. The framed narrative style of King's Quest features an elderly version of King Graham describing his previous accolades and exploits to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn. While it breaks my heart to hear Christopher Lloyd sound so old, his performance was amazing, incorporating comedy, aged wisdom and a kind heart to his role as both storyteller and grandfather to Maggie Elizabeth Jones' Gwen. Likewise, Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants' lead), Wallace Shawn (T-Rex from Toy Story), Zelda Williams (Kuvira from The Legend of Korra) offer their iconic voices to the supporting cast as well.
King's Quest drops the point-and-click formula for a gameplay method that is much friendlier to controllers. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of adventure game tropes and mechanics you'll have to adhere to in order to get things done. This first episode features Grandpa Graham telling his tales in a Tarantino-esque sequence of events (mainly due to him rambling as an old man and going all over the place as he tells his stories). There's a traditional inventory system in play here where you'll have to use items to solve puzzle-based mechanisms and advance the linear story (despite all the narrative shuffling), but there's much more logic in the item usages here than in Grim Fandango and LucasArts' more obscure puzzles.
The out-of-order story means Graham has some unexplained items in his inventory early in the episode that he doesn't actually acquire until later on, and there are some light gags to be gained from trying to use them. Graham can run around until the action icon changes onscreen, indicating something of importance or a possible action to be done at that location. There are some excellent high points with the gameplay, such as the yarn-pulling Duel of Strength sequence, where the controller-oriented format works well quite well.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of faults in Graham's spelunking and questing. There were simply far too many times where I had to walk across every point on a screen to make sure I didn't miss any of the small details in order to proceed to the next part of the story. These sequences left me wishing for point-and-click icons to indicate where to go so the time spent searching for these small details wouldn't be nearly as bad as it is here. The Odd Gentlemen did excellent work with the game's presentation and story, but there is still a lot to be improved on the actual gameplay. Most of the action sequences were comprised of horrendous QTE events that just felt overly repetitive and forced. While you can make a few dialogue choices in your adventure, they result in just a few alternate lines of script as opposed to really changing anything. The voice acting and script itself were awesome, but there were far too many repeated lines of dialogue that you can't even skip, which deals a heavy blow for anyone wanting to replay the episode.
Acting as both sequel and remake through the use of Grandpa Graham's reminiscing, "A Knight to Remember" offers a fresh take on a classic franchise with some profound production quality. Unfortunately, King's Quest's gameplay isn't as spot-on as it should be, especially when compared to its contemporaries in the adventure game format. There's enough charm, comedy (sometimes feeling a bit too shoehorned into the game) and entertainment to keep you going, but I hope The Odd Gentlemen will be able to rectify these detriments going into the game's second episode. Even more, I hope to see Gwendolyn or Old Man Graham get their own entire episode towards the end of this series, but there's still plenty to iron-out in the meantime. Just as "A Knight to Remember" tells us the tale of a young, plucky and foolhardy Graham on his way to becoming the hero and ruler that we know he'll become, King's Quest feels like an adventure game that is on its way to becoming a classic, but there are still quite a few more trials that I hope The Odd Gentlemen will be able to overcome going into its future episodes.
This review was completed using a download code of King's Quest: A Knight to Remember provided by the publisher for PC.