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Kings Quest hold a lot of nostalgic value to me, especially the fifth game. It was my first Adventure Game, my first game with voice acting, and dominated my third grade year more than any console game could. Granted, I could never get past that fucking desert as a kid, but I still loved it. Years later, I finally track down all the games, play through each one..., and, with few exceptions, most of them have simply aged very, very poorly.
I'm just gonna take it on a per-game basis, cause really, that's the only way to sum up my feelings.
King's Quest I-II: Both of these are simply horrible. The moon logic is significantly worse than anything that came out afterward, the parser is nearly unworkable, and the small shreds of plot are utterly insignificant.
King's Quest III: Actually rather fun. The strict time limit is frustrating at first, but the game actually makes sense to an extent, the magic system is creative, and the plot is...pretty nice. It still has the parser issues, but they could be worked around this time.
King's Quest IV: The parser works much better, while keeping up the improvements of III. Probably the best of the early entries. The ending also serves as a Crowning Moment Of Funny (unless you forgot one item, where things get a whole lot worse.
King's Quest V: Probably the saddest part of this review. As mentioned before, the game holds a lot of nostalgic appeal to me, but now...it's one of the most frustrating games I have ever, EVER played. Everything that makes Sierra games infamous (Unwinnable By Design, Guide Dang It, Copy Protection) is in full force here. The voice acting is So Bad Its Horrible, as is the script. The game's VGA graphics are just okay, even by 1992 standards.
King's Quest VI: The best in the series, bar none. Everything that was good about the first four games, while fixing the issues in V.
King's Quest VII: A bit too Disneyesque for my taste, especially the artwork. It was also a bit on the easy side, especially after VI. Still, a pretty good game overall.
King's Quest VIII: It never happened.
You can get the first seven as part on the King's Quest Collection, for all two of you that still want to try any of these.
With the recent addition to these games to the Good Old Games catalogue, I felt it a good time to talk about them.
These are classical games. Yet, they are classical in the same way that bloodletting and leeches are classic medicine. So many things these games do was being done for the first time, which can explain many of the oddities in the interface, the limited-vocabulary parsers. There's almost no puzzle in the parser games that truly merits the use of a parser; there's large tracts of Fake Difficulty, where things that aren't a reasonable danger to a child will quite easily get you killed (falling out of a tree, not noticing you're straying near a crocodile) or render the game unwinnable (choose the right food item, with no actual guidance to do so) that Save Scumming is the only natural learned response.
The thing is... that's actually fun. I mean, there are gamers who remember these games with a certain fondness. If you're the kind of gamer who feels that the point-and-click genre is too easy because you just wander around applying objects to other objects until you find the byzantine process that the original game designers conceived to pull you through the plot, then this is probably the game series for you. Your protaganists are rarely all that powerful, you don't get to do much ass-kicking, and there are lots of ways to die.
Provided you go into the games knowing what to expect, remember to save and acknowledge that most of the skill in the games is taken through the medium of patience rather than the virtue of innovative, clever thinking, they can be a pleasant roam through storybook settings; a classic. To be appreciated for what it taught us about what not to do, these games merit respect that it's sad to say, they probably do not truly receive.
Thank god the load times are low these days, though.
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