Video Game: King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow is the sixth installment of the popular King's Quest series.Released in 1992, the game follows Alexander, son of Graham and prince of Daventry. Desperately in love with Princess Cassima of the Land of the Green Isles, Alexander journeys to her kingdom, but is shipwrecked en route. He wakes up in the Land of the Green Isles, a strange and magical archipelago with islands based off the Arabian Nights, Alice in Wonderland, Ancient Greece, and other settings. Alexander quickly learns the place is not as friendly as he thought, and evil forces conspire against him as he tries to contact Cassima. His quest to find her takes him all over the land— meeting strange characters, facing terrible perils, and making puns. Lots of puns.And dying, that happens a lot, too.KQ VI is largely considered the best of the King's Quest series, due to its intriguing story, intelligent puzzles, lavish setting, and high production values (which include a CG introductory "movie" and professional voice actors— novel concepts for a game rereleased for the PC CD-ROM back in 1993). This may be be because most of the design was done by Jane Jensen of Gabriel Knight fame, rather than series starter Roberta Williams.A companion guide, called "The Guidebook to the Land of the Green Isles," was packaged alongside the game; it acted as a security feature by providing clues to otherwise impossible puzzles and fleshed out story background, adding to the story's sense of depth. Now if only the guidebook didn't get lost so easily...
This game provides examples of:
Alcohol Hic: For genies (or to be more precise, for Shamir; the Backstory reveals that different genies have different weaknesses), peppermint acts like alcohol does for humans. Give Shamir Shamazel a peppermint and he suffers from hiccups, slurred speech, and disorientation.
And I Must Scream: The origin of the Lord of the Dead. A mortal human, he was chained to the throne in the Land of the Dead and forced to bear witness to all the horrors and tragedies of the deceased. It worked out okay for him, though: after the first few hundred years, he grew to be unfazed by it. Then Alexander uses the Mirror of Truth to remind him of what he has forgotten, and he cries for what he's lost.
Anthropomorphic Personification: Some rather specific examples are on The Isle of Wonder; as well as having a literal bookworm, the worm himself is friends to personifications of grammar. Then there's the garden, and the swamp...
Award Bait Song: "Girl in the Tower" (although Sierra actually got in trouble with some radio stations for trying to push them to play the song).
Awesome Moment of Crowning: Whichever path is taken, Alex and Cassima are crowned king and queen of the Land of the Green Isles at their wedding. Fully completing the long path makes this happen with both sides' parents' loving approval; King Caliphim is even the one to suggest it.
Back from the Dead: Justified in that Alexander goes on a long quest (fully a third of the game) to the Land of the Dead and defeats Samhain, Lord of the Dead in a challenge specifically so that the latter will resurrect Caliphim and Allaria from their ghostly selves and gives them a few more years of their mortality. It's implied that anyone can do this, but only one other person was crazy enough to try, and he died before reaching the River Styx.
Benevolent Genie: The guidebook includes a story about a kind genie, who was only as kind as his master. This is a hint on how to solve the game — if you manage to get Shamir's lamp during the last fight. Otherwise, Shamir is trying to kill you on his master's orders.
BFS: The Ceremonial Sword near the end of the game. And this fake sword is just so heavy to carry or even wield in a Sword Fight, except when Alexander does do something useful: to use the flat of the blade to knock Alhazred out unconscious while he is distracted by Cassima.
Big Damn Heroes: Caliphim and Allaria arrive to save Alexander from getting killed by Saladin on Cassima!Shamir's orders in the long path.
Bound and Gagged: Make that "Bound, but Not Gagged" — Lady Celeste, tied to the altar in the Catacombs, and later Cassima at the top of the tower near the end of the game (she will free herself, assuming that Alex gave her the dagger, of course).
This game has a unique example: The only way to know which lamp to get from the lamp trader is to watch a cutscene that Alexander doesn't witness. Later, when Alexander is asked by Jollo how he knew which lamp to take, he simply states, "Just intuition, I guess."
It also has a more "traditional" example elsewhere in the game: On the first screen of the Cliffs of Logic, if you misclick on the steps Alexander will simply land on the ground on his backside instead of dying from the fall. Do it enough times and he'll look right at the player and gripe that you should "Quit making me fall!"
Celestial Bureaucracy: "Ticket please... NEXT!" In the voiced version: "Tickets only! NEXT!" The Doormaster does say "Ticket please... NEXT!" in the voiced version, but this is only because Alex arrives at the underworld entrance alive, rather than every time he gets killed.
Continuity Nod: Alexander remembers the magic training that he received in the third game, and can cast spells if he has the right ingredients. Except that he didn't receive any magic training whatsoever; he just found a spellbook and followed step-by-step instructions - which is the same he's doing here.
You can find in one of the stores "Cat Cookie Mix: Prank your friends" Nuff' said.
Several times, Alexander mentions that he wasn't always a prince, especially during the Beauty quest. He also avoids the cookbook section, saying he swore that off after the cat cookie recipie.
Copy Protection: The Cliffs of Logic simply cannot be scaled without the "Guidebook to the Land of the Green Isles" manual or the King's Quest Companion Booklet. The re-release provides a copy of the former, but it doesn't have the genie story or the Land of the Dead section, probably because while they gave minor hints, they were more entertaining than useful. Also, the re-release combines the manuals for all 7 games into a single PDF file. The games are on one disc, and the manuals on the other, arguably as a subtle form of copy-protection, as first-timers are less likely to realize how ABSOLUTELY VITAL the manual is throughout the series.
Cypher Language: The Ancient Ones' alphabet, a set of pictographic-looking symbols which is really just a cipher of English, although each symbol is also given four conceptual meanings. Hand Waved as it being possibly a code the Ancient Ones used, or the ancestor of the current alphabet. Also a part of the Copy Protection.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: In most other SCI engine based adventure games by Sierra the icons on the interface are presented in this order: Walk, Look, Action, Talk, specific actions unique to some games, quick inventory item, inventory, menu, and help. King's Quest VI swapped the look and action icons, and it takes some time to get used to it.
Disney Death: Alexander, to Shamir and the Pawn Shop Owner. Of course, Alex is only faking it, so that only the Pawn Shop Owner can be surprised that Alex suddenly returns to life after the "Drink Me" potion's effects wear off.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: Alhazred's "marriage" to Shamir at the wedding... if one can see through his Cassima disguise. This is even planned beforehand by Alhazred in the long path mode when he tells Shamir to look "beautiful and pretty" at the wedding in the scene that occurs after Alexander has faked his own death.
Drama Queen: Or shall we say "Drama Prince"? Alexander sure acts like one while he is feigning suicide in front of Shamir Shamazel and the Pawn Shop Owner. Alex's sad eyebrows and frowning mouth in the Windows-enhanced version makes the drama acting more depressing, as if he were about to cry.
Alexander's reaction to the hunter's lamp bubbling and boiling for the perfection of the Make Rain Spell... while locked in a cage over the druids' bonfire!
A bit less obvious, but this also happens to Captain Saladin when you show the mirror of truth to Cassima!Shamir.
Fairy Tale: Although more inspired by other works, it wouldn't be a King's Quest game without a few fairy tale references — most obviously, to "Beauty and the Beast".
Fake Longevity: It's mild, but it's there: Alexander can have only one of the four pawn shoppe items with him at a time, necessitating some walking back and forth. Generally, though, if you know what you'll need in the future, you can swap items pretty quickly while doing other things.
In addition, when you do go back to swap items, there's generally something else going on nearby that you also need to take care of. Jollo's visits, the nightingale, and Beauty, to name a few.
Fission Mailed: In the Minotaur's lair, there are many rooms with deadly trap doors, and one with a not-so-deadly trap door. If you, like many, restored every time you started to fall, it took a long time to realize you had to fall into one of them. There was also the bottle that shows up on the Isle of Wonder. Take a swig, and it appears as though Alex drops dead. Seeing as your typical KQ game had Everything Trying to Kill You, this seems to be another trap... until Alex wakes up. Also, some of the places where you observe cutscenes of your demise (or failure) are visitable while you're alive later in the game, such as the underworld.
For the Evulz: Implied. Alhazred's stated motivation for stealing the treasures is to "make the other islands hate each other". There might be other reasons, but the game never really goes into it.
Genie in a Bottle: Shamir. An important puzzle involves getting his bottle, although in this case it isn't about finding his bottle, per se... Interestingly, the only way to get Shamir's bottle involves doing something so that you, the player, can find out what it looks like. When Alex passes the correct bottle to Jollo and is asked how he knew which one to get, he replies that he just had a feeling about it.
Glowing Eyes of Doom: Every time someone tells you to do something dangerous, they have sparkling gold eyes! Just like that genie! Isn't that weird?
Golden Ending: Taking the long path, which requires: stopping the feuding nations, going to the underworld to find Cassima's parents and facing Death himself to bring them back to the life, finding the missing relics of the feuding nations and freeing Shamir from Alhazred's grasp so his magic can't be used for evil. Do all of this and you'll gain a much happier fairy tale ending.
Guide Dang It: Well, obviously. It's a Sierra game. Several items in the game are small, easy to miss, and appear in a room you've already visited after an unrelated event some place else.
The first instance of this appears on the very first screen. Unless you can figure out that the piece of wood that looks exactly like any other piece of the shipwreck can be moved, you're more or less stuck.
Fortunately, the game is somewhat forgiving in this regard: items will only show up in rooms that you have to pass through to complete some kind of delivery or item exchange in order to progress. And all important items either glow or otherwise draw attention to themselves by standing out. Except the tiny potion that appears in the cabbage garden at a random moment, and the one book you can actually pick up in the bookstore.
Additionally, the game allows you to re-enter either floor of the labyrinth at any time except when you're in the Land of the Dead.
Hero Antagonist: Captain Saladin and his guard dogs, due to Alhazred tricking them. Jollo also qualifies if the player misses initially meeting him in the bookshop and then meets up with him in the castle towards the end.
Hoist by His Own Petard: If you give the peppermint to Shamir in the final battle, he will get too drunk on mints to concentrate on killing Alexander and accidentally use his own magic on himself, ending his own life.
Lampshaded Double Entendre: Black Widow says that she's a Femme Fatale, "if you know what I mean." And in her charming, sexy voice too. As you know, she is also very dangerous to those who try to touch her web.
Live Item: The Dangling Participle, Rotten Tomato, and Hole In the Wall.
Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: A minor-key variation of Lohengrin plays for Abdul's wedding to the fake Cassima ("Oh no, it's wedding music!"). When Alexander weds the real Cassima, Lohengrin and Mendelssohn are played as usual.
Lost Forever: It wouldn't be a Sierra game without it being possible to lose a few key items. If you have Alexander throw the rotten tomato at the stick in the mud himself, he'll never get the swamp ooze he needs for the magic ink spell.
Lucky Rabbit's Foot: An out-of-work ferryman has a rabbit's foot, which he notes isn't doing him any good. With the right prompting, he will give it to Alexander, who can use it to save his skin later. At no point does it noticeably improve anyone's luck.
Magic Map: The magic map, so named because it allows you to teleport, also reveals the location of the mysterious Isle of Mist after a certain point in the game, a hidden island which is rumoured to change locations. The map isn't altered by anybody to show the island; it appears on its own.
The Maze: The Minotaur's labyrinth, with the added annoyance of death traps and death pits. "Alexander gets a funny feeling about this room..."
Meaningful Name: Most of the names are this, at least the ones that aren't referencing whatever mythology is relevant. Special mention goes to Shamir Shamazel, a corruption of the Yiddish "schlemiel" and "schlimazel", roughly meaning "unlucky screw-up". Considering how bad he is at his job and how unlucky he is to have Alhazered for a master, it fits.
Celeste's name means "heavenly", since she's the princess of the Winged Ones.
Mood Whiplash: The gate of the Land of the Dead is an eerie place, with creepy, atmospheric music and strange undead guards. Then you play a swinging xylophone tune to make them dance.
Multiple Endings: There are two endings, the "short" path and "long" path. The short path is, well, shorter, won't give you 100% Completion, and taunts you when you "win." The long path is more rewarding. Aside from the two branching paths, there can be some minor variations along the way, such as not recovering the insignia ring from the pawn shop, or not recovering the island treasures in the long path.
Mundane Made Awesome: Sort of: In the Windows-enhanced version, if you look closely at the portrait of the speaking Arch-Druid, the jaguar he is wearing blinks its eyes at the same time that the Arch-Druid blinks his. It's creepy!
Musical Spoiler: Beauty (in the mansion on the Isle of the Crown) and the Beast (in his garden, on the Isle of the Beast) have the same Leitmotif. As do the Bookworm's area and the Dangling Participle (when you meet him on the Isle of the Beast).
My Master, Right or Wrong: Everyone who serves Alhazred feels this way, with only fear, loyalty to the Crown or ownership of their lamp binding them to him.
Mythology Gag: Looking at the back wall of the pawn shop cycles through a list of many items that would have been very helpful to players of previous King's Quest games.
Neutral Female: Subverted by Cassima, who could save herself, if only she had a weapon...
No Endor Holocaust: There was no possible way that Alexander's crew could've survived the shipwreck, yet he hopes in his internal monologue that they did, as they "got to the lifeboats". The end of the game in the long route confirms that they did in fact survive which might've been due to help from the Genie Alexander controls.
Non-Indicative Name: The Dangling Participle does speak strangely. Listening closely to his speech, however, no actual dangling participles are evident.
Non-Lethal Bottomless Pits: There's one in the Labyrinth, surrounded by, and indistinguishable from, lethal ones. You must go through it to get through the maze.
Non-Standard Game Over: The standard game over is when Alexander dies: he shows up in the Land of the Dead as a ghost and passes into the afterlife. If he doesn't die, then the game over is different, such as if he ends up in the dungeons unable to prevent the the Vizier's sham marriage to Cassima, or if the Beast's curse turns him into a beast. Uniquely, if he dies in the Land of the Dead after passing the doors that lead to the River Styx, he suffers a fate worse than death as he simply ceases to exist.
Oh, No... Not Again!: Alexander says "Not again!" when he gets caught by the druids on his second trip to the Isle of the Mists. This "Not again!" quote marks the second time that he's been captured (the first time was by the Winged Ones).
This Ominous Pipe Organ music plays a grotesque version of Lohengrin's Bridal Chorus near the end of the game when the Grand Wazir Alhazred is getting married to Cassima!Shamir... but in pretense! Give it a listen here!
Our Gnomes Are Weirder: There are five rhyming Sense Gnomes in one of the islands that can kill any human who sets foot on the island. And their naming features are based on the five senses (with their names in parentheses): The Gnome with the Jumbo Nose (Smell; Old Tom Trow), the Gnome with the Monumental Ears (Hearing; Hark Grovernor), the Gnome with the Gigantic Mouth (Taste; Grump-Frump), the Gnome with the Huge Hands (Touch; Trilly-Dilly), and the Gnome with the Enormous Eyes (Sight; Old Billy Batter).
Pixel Hunt: There is exactly one, right at the beginning of the game when you open the chest. There's a copper coin in there that flashes, but rarely. Everything else in the game that would otherwise be small or hard to see flashes.
Point of No Return: You have a choice on whether you want to go the long route or the short route after you help the Beast, but after you've made your choice, you're stuck with it. Also, the Underworld is entirely like this.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Saladin. He is incredibly distrustful of Alexander, who, to be fair, shows up out of the blue and acts like...well, a prince, but as soon as Alexander shows him evidence of Alhazred's treachery, he doesn't immediately believe him, but rather goes to confront the Vizier and still takes care of Alexander if you're not quick to point out the falsehood. He's reasonable in that he's willing and able to listen to reason, but he still doesn't trust a stranger.
Schmuck Bait: All those people with ominous glowing eyes keep giving you all these really easy ways to solve puzzles — like swimming to the next island (forget the deadly ocean currents!); learning to fly by eating nightshade (not that poisonous, really!); and passing through a gate with a stone archer about to shoot you (he's harmless!).
Story Branch Favoritism: The game has a branching storyline. Although there are many variables that dictate who shows up at the finale wedding, the choice of taking the "short path" or the "long path" is the most important. As the "long path" is happier, just about everyone (and the official novelization for that matter) chooses that as the "real" one. See the entry at Golden Ending.
Super Drowning Skills: Justified, as the Land of the Green Isles is surrounded by extremely dangerous currents that will pull Alexander out to sea if he steps out far enough to be caught by the undertow (or gets tossed in by the gnomes at the Isle of Wonder.) Plus, the game warns you about the sea's pull.
Supernatural Gold Eyes: For some reason, lots of people in the Land of the Green Isles have sparkling gold eyes! And these are the people who always try to get you to do dangerous things! How totally coincidental!
Tears from a Stone: The Lord of the Dead's challenge: "Make me cry." The peanut gallery remarks that it would be easier to turn sea to stone, or fire to ice. Alexander succeeds.
Through a Face Full of Fur: Though not depicted visually, this happens when you give Captain Saladin Cassima's note in one of the story routes:
Narrator: Alexander watches the guard dog's noble face darken with rage.
Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Used literally: you can defy The Lord of the Dead by showing him a dead knight's gauntlet that is specifically made to challenge Death. The knight you get it from didn't get quite as far into the Underworld as Alexander does.
Unfinished Business: The reason Cassima's parents can't move on in the Land of the Dead — you have to bring them back so they can finish it.
Ungrateful Bitch: Lady Celeste. After all the time it took Alexander to save her from the Minotaur, too.
Unwinnable: It wouldn't be a Sierra game without them, although this one did cut down on them a bit. Mainly things become Unwinnable when you pass a Point of No Return and forget to get something. A notable one is with Swamp Ooze, which is necessary for the long path, but is possible to get Lost Forever, and you won't know the game can't be won until long after the fact,]that path consumes the item that gives you access to the short path.
Verbal Tic: The Doormaster skeleton saying "NEXT!" whenever he asks you for a ticket and you give it to him. This is especially weirder in the Game Over screen every time you die.
Voiceover Letter: Alhazred does this while composing a letter to Shadrack, which lets Alexander overhear his true plans for Cassima.
Was Once a Man: The Lord of the Dead was a mortal human once, bound to his throne in the underworld where centuries of hearing the tales of the dead slowly transformed him into what he is now. That's the only clue you get on how to defeat him.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: The Genie is sent all the time to trick you, but never to actually attack or kill you, except in the penultimate scene. Justified in that, even with an evil master, the Genie really abhors violence, and it requires considerable pressure from Abdul to push him that far.