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Video Game / King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella
aka: Kings Quest IV

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King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella is the fourth game in the King's Quest series. Released in 1988, it was one of the first games to implement beyond-PC sound, improving overall sound quality, and the first Sierra game with high(er) resolution graphics with its newest game engine, the Sierra Creative Interpreter (SCI). It also has a largely-unknown version with the graphics and (lack of) music of the previous three games running on its earlier AGI engine, created because Sierra (wrongly) feared there were too many low-end computers on the market that wouldn't be able to run the high-quality version, making the AGI version quite the collector's item among King's Quest fans. Sierra's fears turned out to be unfounded, and the PC AGI version was withdrawn due to low sales, while the SCI release was a hit. An AGI version that used the SCI soundtrack was also released for the Apple IIgs, as well as a version for the IIe and IIc, making it the last King's Quest release to support the Apple II family.


In this game, you play as Rosella, the twin sister of Alexander and daughter of King Graham. Literally picking up where King's Quest III left off, Graham has just tossed his adventurer's cap to his children, but before they can catch it, Graham suddenly falls ill and is now on Death's door. His only hope is a magical fruit that grows in the island of Tamir. A good fairy named Genesta sends Rosella to this land, but her powers are weakened by the evil sorceress Lolotte, meaning the trip is one-way. To win the game, you must find the fruit, defeat Lolotte, and return Genesta's powers to her— all in the span of a single day.


This game provides examples of:

  • Always Check Behind the Chair: There's an island where you have to check behind a ship's detached front, which is lying in the sand. Rearward of the wreckage is a golden bridle that: 1) has no business being there; 2) is completely necessary to win the game. The island is only accessible at one point during play, and after leaving, you can't go back. Oh, and using “look” on the shipwreck only works when you're standing in exactly the right spot.
    • There is some justification behind this: you're put on the island after a complicated series of events, and the only other object you can find there does nothing but get you back to the mainland from the island. As per standard adventure game mind-think, there has to be something else there.
    • In later versions of the game, the narrator draws your attention to the gleam coming from inside the boat. You must be close enough to the boat to get additional clues.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Being the first game with the SCI game engine, typing with the text parser now pauses the game, giving you time to think when there's danger or the clock is ticking.
  • Artistic License – Marine Biology: The whale that swallows Rosella has teeth and a uvula, which Rosella has to tickle to get him to sneeze her out. Practically everything about the previous sentence is biologically inaccurate.
  • Awkward Kiss: You can try to kiss anything and anyone in the game, but the game usually doesn't let you, saying it's not a good idea, that the intended recipient is embarrassed, or that the target doesn't need a kiss. The only person you can kiss is the frog prince, as well as the unicorn.
  • Beautiful All Along: Edgar, if you know about King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride.
  • But Thou Must!: All your dealings with Lolotte, except for the last one.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: That you can only access in the form of a frog.
  • Chekhov's Skill: She was taught to play the organ in her youth and is as the game states "A Virtuoso" yet despite the fact you can discover this skill early on, it doesn't actually have a purpose until near the end.
  • Copy Protection: This game is notorious for this, as you can't even start the game unless you insert a keyword from the manual. Luckily all newer compilation manuals have all the keywords bunched in one section instead of having to painstakingly look up the third word of the second paragraph on page 8, etc...
  • Covers Always Lie: That picture of Rosella in her princess outfit riding a unicorn away from a winged goon is... not accurate. At one point in the game, Rosella does ride a unicorn, but (a) she's wearing a peasant's outfit at the time, and (b), she's riding it towards Lolotte's winged goons. And she isn't barefoot in the game.
  • Cupid's Arrow: Cupid leaves his bow and two arrows. The first arrow is used to make the unicorn trust Rosella. The second one is used to kill Lolotte at the end of the game.
  • Cutscene: That unskippable cutscene with the dwarves...
  • Darker and Edgier: Along with King's Quest VI, this is considered to be the scariest game in the series. Despite coming from King's Quest III to this, III becomes notably lighter once you leave Manannan's tower.
  • Developer's Room: At one point, if you type "Beam Me Up, Scotty!" you get sent to a secret room full of Sierra's game developers. This only works in the AGI version.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • Averted, in that this is the first Sierra game to feature the infamous "oops, you tried something we didn't think of" error message, after which the game terminates.
    • There's a tomb with a mummy that is destroyed by the talisman. It's probably not possible to enter that room without the undead-repelling item, except by using the teleport cheat, but the mummy is still programmed to kill you if you don't have it, complete with a death message asking how you got there. Although this is averted in at least one version, where the mummy was simply programmed to be repelled, full-stop. Even cheat-teleporting straight into the room without having the item produces the same animation.
  • Downer Beginning: The royal family just had their Big Damn Reunion after Alexander's absence for 17 years and the evil three-headed dragon has been slain. Then, the story begins with King Graham having a stroke.
  • Dreadful Musician: The stupid minstrel.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Rosella definitely does. So does Edgar - even though it takes several games for it to happen.
  • Easter Egg: Aside from the aforementioned Developer's Room, there's "rap kq".
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: The cemetery and manor house become infested with zombies after dark. One touch should result in Rosella turning into a zombie, but this is unlikely to happen: zombies don't show up until night falls, and night won't fall for 12 hours of real-life time or once you get the item that protects Rosella from zombies. The zombies end up being a little pointless, even. The final Fetch Quest of the game even requires Rosella to venture into a tomb where a mummy tries to attack her, but it's repelled by the protective item! What a waste of a puzzle!
  • Expy: Judging from their designs, Genesta and Lolotte are clearly based on Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. In fact, Lolotte's death at the end of the game directly references the famous "I'm melting, melting!" line from the movie.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Rosella's many meetings with Lolotte.
  • Fainting: When Rosella is forced to marry Edgar, she faints after kissing him. The thought of Rosella's father dying, failing to save Genesta, being stranded in Tamir, being forcibly married to an ugly hunchback, having Lolotte as her mother-in-law and dooming the world by giving Lolotte Pandora's box probably took its emotional toll on the poor girl.
  • Falling Damage: Sierra is famous for this. It's obvious that Rosella wiill die by falling from a tall height, but Rosella can die by falling from a three-foot tall cliff onto a sandy beach. That's how bad Sierra was. Because of this, Sierra game veterans learned to save whenever encountering stairs or high places. Genesta's palace is the only place in the game where staircases have guardrails. Heavenly, heavenly guardrails.
  • Fairy Tale: Standard for the series. Unless you know your Grimm, you have no reason to start cleaning the Dwarf house you come across.
  • "Far Side" Island: A far side island becomes an actual walkable terrain and part of the story.
  • Fetch Quest: Of course. Finding the fruit, finding the three treasures to get close to Lolotte, and about half a dozen smaller ones involved in each of those. A little weirdly you have to deliberately undo the ones for Lolotte to achieve total victory, instead of everything just being all better with her demise.
  • Game-Over Man: Every time you die, you are greeted with a pixelated portrait of Roberta Williams smiling at you. Though whether the player sees this smile as friendly, or mocking, depends on who is playing, and how frustrating the puzzle is that killed him/her.
  • Genre Blindness: The Frog Prince is too oblivious to realize that Rosella's kiss outright proves that she can't be anything other than a Princess.
  • Good Hurts Evil: Lolotte dies when Cupid's bow forces her to experience the pure emotion of love, which is like poison to her evil self.
  • Grave Humor: The gravestones outside the mansion have pun-filled messages. Remember which are the few whose epitaphs are dead-serious. They're important.
  • Gorgeous Garment Generation: Inverted at first when Genesta changes Rosella's gown into peasant clothing. Played straight with Rosella and Edgar at the end.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: All the winged goons are asleep when they should have been staying up all night guarding the castle's corridors.
  • Have a Nice Death: Standard practice for a King's Quest game, but there are a few unique situations. You can open Pandora's Box, fail to sneak through Lolotte's castle, and many more.
  • Haunted House: Whatley Manor (Yes, it IS named for what you think), complete with zombies running about the grounds and ghosts a-plenty at night.
  • Heroic Dolphin: Well, a helpful one at least. It gets you off the deserted island.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • The ogres and their dog.
    • Also the witches in the skull cave.
  • Immediate Sequel: This game picks up the second King's Quest III ends, starting from its final scene.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: You only have a day to get the fruit and save Genesta, plus some tasks have to be completed at night. Fortunately, night normally won't fall until you need it to fall, and dawn won't come until you reach the end of the game. Night will fall on its own if you wait long enough, at which point you end up getting killed by zombies pretty quick. Fortunately, the time it takes is literally hours of Real Time, and if you do the event that causes night to fall earlier then the zombies aren't a problem.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Edgar...poor Edgar.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The manor ghosts. The miser is a very literal case.
  • Jump Scare: If you try to go into the mansion at night without protection a zombie leaps from the bushes and bites Rosella, turning her immediately into a zombie.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Notably averted in that you normally get rewarded for averting this: most people will give you stuff if you ask or give them something they need, and outright stealing is strongly discouraged as a result (in fact, you have to try to give something back to a character that forgot about it. You'll keep the item and they'll give you another one as well).
    • There is two instances where you must steal something to progress: you must steal the axe from the Ogre to get through the forest, and you must steal the eye from the three witches in the cave. The witches then bargain with you to get their eye back, giving you an item that you need (and then trying to kill you afterwards because they're still evil).
  • Kill 'Em All: You can type "kill (thing/person here)", but the game doesn't let you. The game will say "You are NOT a violent person, Rosella!" It's possible to type "kill door" and get the above message. It's only possible to kill Lolotte, and Rosella didn't know the love arrow would kill her. Rosella does, however, have to swing an ax at the living trees in the forest, to intimidate them. (Otherwise, they'll grab her if she gets too close, resulting in death.)
  • King Incognito: Rosella is a princess in disguise, dressed that way to avoid the suspicion of the evil Lolotte. It doesn't really work, as Lolotte nonetheless suspects that Rosella is something more than she seems because she doesn't look stupid enough to approach the castle by mistake.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: If a certain living tree grabs Rosella, the animation shows one of her shoes falling off while she struggles in vain.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Navigating the damn cave and avoiding the troll. The troll can appear from any of the room entrances, at any time, and kills you instantly if it touches you. And it moves faster than you. And it will always show up. You have no defense other than running away, and you can't even do that. And you have to navigate the dark cave twice and will fall a lot. Sierra is very unforgiving about falling.
  • Luminescent Blush: Edgar blushes many times when he sees Rosella.
  • MacGuffin: Early in the game, Rosella is captured by Lolotte and is tasked with bringing her various items to earn her mercy: a unicorn, the hen that lays golden eggs, and Pandora's box. The items have no significance to the story aside from being wanted by Lolotte and allowing Rosella to earn her trust.
  • The Maze: The maze of caverns behind the waterfall, which you have to navigate in the dark. Well, you do have a lantern, but it doesn't give off any light note . Oh, and there's a troll in the cave trying to eat you.
    • It's not really a maze: it is four rooms arranged in a square.
  • Mercy Rewarded: You should be nice to Edgar. Not that you have much of a choice...
  • Message in a Bottle: Rosella finds one containing ads for the previous games.
  • Modest Royalty: Justified - Rosella is intentionally disguised as a peasant girl.
  • Multiple Endings: It's quite easy to get through the game and forget to look for the Magic Fruit - which is the main reason you traveled to Tamir in the first place!
    • Fortunately, you can do that particular quest at almost any point of the game (after you get the crown, the lantern, the board and the flute). Even the ending, when you really should be getting to Genesta as quickly as possible.
    • Even worse, you can go to all the trouble of getting the fruit— and then eat the damn thing yourself. What the Hell, Hero?!
    • Worst of all, since the game is on a 24hr clock you can end the game without getting either the fruit or the talisman leading to the ultimate Downer Ending.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: Places where the undead (zombies and ghosts) can be found are fairly safe to enter during the day. At night the undead come out and attack the living. In order to be safe, you need some kind of protection against them.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: You never exactly see what the troll in the cave looks like since there's no light. You can only make out his silhouette and glowing green eyes.
    • In the mansion at night, you're only given text notifications of the sounds that the ghosts make. Somehow, this manages to be creepier than if you could hear the sounds. It doesn't help that there's no music in the mansion, either during the day or at night.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The stairs you have to climb up in the mansion have no railings. You wouldn't think this would be a problem, but it's a spiral staircase, which means you have to use the north-south-east-west keyboard controls carefully. (Fortunately, you can also point and click in the SCI version.) And one wrong step will kill you. And then, when you finally make it to the top and complete the puzzle up therenote , you have to go back down.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Played with: you can fall from small heights and just feel dazed, but if you're attacked at all you still die.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: There's an Ogre and an Ogress living in a house with their over-sized dog.
  • Overly Generous Time Limit: One day, as in 24 hours. As the game is much shorter than that and restoring a saved game also restores the clock, players are unlikely to ever notice there is a time limit. A certain event advances time to nightfall because otherwise you'd have to idle for 10 - 11 hours to reach night.
  • Prince Charmless: The unnamed obnoxious prince you save from being a frog. Also, Edgar at least until he meets Genesta.
  • Princess Protagonist: Princess Rosella is the heroine of the game.
  • The Power of Love: With which Rosella kills the fairy witch Lolotte.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Pandora's box is the third and final MacGuffin you have to give to Lolotte.
  • Quieting the Unquiet Dead: Rosella explores an old house with its own cemetery. In the attic, she's visited by various ghosts, who all require some trinket to lie quietly. The third or fourth of these ghosts is a small boy, who requires a toy. Once he's gotten it, he'll open a compartment which contains sheet music that's essential to win the game.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Even in braids, Rosella's golden tresses reach her bottom.
  • Real Time: With the exception of a couple of Time Skips, every minute in real life is a minute in-game. You can even check the time using the clock in the haunted mansion.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Lolotte's eyes are red and they glow whenever her evilness is amplified.
  • Red Herring: Turns out neither of Graham's kids gets his Cool Hat.
  • Royal Brat: The Frog Prince, who is rude to you because you're a "peasant girl".
  • Rule of Three: Lolotte sends Rosella on three Fetch Quests.
  • Scenery Porn: Genesta's palace is easily the most beautiful place of the game with a beautiful garden, exotic birds and a sandy beach.
  • Schmuck Bait: Go ahead. Open Pandora's Box. It's probably fine.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Pandora's box. Opening it will cause demons to emerge from box. They will kill Rosella and doom the entire world.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The second ghost is chained to moneyboxes and safes, just like Jacob Marley.
    • The music playing in Lolotte's storage room is taken from Police Quest, specifically, the song that plays when the cops put a chicken on the sergeant's desk. The same tune would later be used as the theme to Astro Chicken in Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon.
    • Genesta and Lolotte are the names of fairies from two obscure fairy tales that appear in Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book. Genesta is named after the good fairy from Heart of Ice while Lolotte is named after the fairy from Prince Vivien and the Princess Placida (interestingly enough, unlike her namesake, the Lolotte in Prince Vivien and the Princess Placida is not evil). Rosella and her mother Valanice are named after Rosanella and her mother Balanice from Rosanella, another story in the same book. All three stories were originally written in the 18th century by the Comte de Caylus.
    • One of of the companion gamebooks mentions Mannikin, the protagonist of Heart of Ice, saying that long ago Genesta raised him and assisted him on his travels.
  • Standard Hero Reward: Nastily subverted, in that after bringing her three treasures, the evil witch Lolotte offers to marry you to her ugly son. And promptly locks you up to have this carried out. That's a Non-Standard Game Over if you don't escape in time.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Near the end of the game, you have to sneak through Lolotte's castle.
  • Suddenly Suitable Suitor: Rosella's suddenly a lot more interested in Edgar after Genesta transforms him.
  • Swallowed Whole: While swimming out in the vast ocean, Rosella gets swallowed up by an enormous whale. She must escape or share the fate of the skeletal remains of a man inside who she affectionately calls "James". The whale is too massive to escape via brute force. You have to climb back up to the mouth and tickle its uvula with a feather to make it sneeze Rosella out. This is arguably the most annoying part of the game, not only because escaping the whale by climbing out its throat often results in you sliding back down, but you also have to escape before Rosella passes out from lack of fresh air.
  • Swans A-Swimming: There is a swan swimming around in a pond on Genesta's island. It doesn't affect the game in any way, but it's certainly very pretty.
  • Tech Demo Game: The game was marketed as a showcase for sound cards, namely the Ad-lib and Roland MT-32. Sierra even hired an outside composer for the time, William Goldstein, to create the score.
  • Timed Mission:
    • Although you'll never notice it in actual gameplay, you really do have exactly twenty-four hours to save Genesta and Graham.
    • You have to escape the whale's mouth fast otherwise the fumes will get to you.
    • You have to escape the deserted island or the thirst and overexposure to the sun will kill you.
  • Toilet Humor: If you type "fart" the game says "You were raised better than that!"
  • Threatening Sharks: There's a shark to dodge off Tamir's coast, and a whale that you'll also have to escape.
  • Turn Undead: The magic amulet you get from the witches, which will save you from the zombies that walk the graveyard where you'll be solving puzzles to get the third treasure.
  • Unfinished Business: The ghosts at the manor.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The bratty Prince who treats you like crap because of your clothes, stating that you're not a princess but "a ragged commoner". He could at least be thankful regardless.
  • Unicorn: The first MacGuffin Lolotte demands. It's widely agreed that getting to befriend and ride the unicorn is one of the best parts in the game. It's too bad it didn't want to still be your friend longer than a day (at least you can kiss its nose while it's "tame"!) Given that you handed it over to Lolotte, it's not surprising that it doesn't like you after that.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Eating or forgetting the magic fruit you were supposed to use to save your father's life. If you saved Genesta, she'll return you home in time to watch your father pass away.
  • Updated Re-release: The primary SCI release was updated in 1989 and featured some enhancements, such as a faster default walk speed for Rosella. More significant, however, were the many backgrounds modified to give the game a more streamlined art style, and also to allow one background to serve as both the night and day screen, with a starry sky overlay placed over the daytime sky. (The original 1988 release had completely separate files for the day and night screens and thus took up more disk space.)
    • The Amiga port, based on the 1989 update, also came with digital sound effects, something no other release had.
  • Uvula Escape Route: There's a puzzle in which Rosella is swallowed by a whale, and must use a peacock feather to tickle its uvula in order to escape.
  • Wandering Minstrel: Rosella meets one who is absolutely terrible at his job. She gives him a copy of "The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare" [sic], so he can go off and become an absolutely terrible actor.
    • His official name is Frankie of Avalon.note 
  • When Trees Attack: The forest surrounding the three witches' cave has trees with ominous glowing eyes. If you get to close, well...don't get too close. You need to show them that you're a threat before you can pass through the forest safely.
  • Wicked Witch: Lolotte, the game's villain, is an evil, green-skinned magic user. There's also a trio of evil witches who live in a skull-shaped cave and have to share a single glass eye to see, clearly inspired by the Graeae sisters of Greek Mythology.

Alternative Title(s): Kings Quest IV