Tuesday 27 September 2016

King’s Quest review: Medieval revival

King’s Quest, Chapter 1: A Knight to Remember (XOne/PS4/PC/X360/PS3); rating: 8.5/10; age 12+

Published 20/08/2015 | 23:27

King’s Quest: Going back to the origins of how King Graham became a hero
King’s Quest: Going back to the origins of how King Graham became a hero

SEVENTEEN years after the last instalment of the revered series, King’s Quest reboots with an episodic adventure steeped in humour, puzzles and star voice acting.

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Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd and Toy Story’s Wallace Shawn are among those offering enthusiastic performances as King Graham recounts his early escapades while a knight questing in a medieval kingdom.

KQ was a pioneer in the genre for 20 years thanks to the success of its parent Sierra, once a household name in adventure gaming, now almost a forgotten footnote. But Activision has revived the defunct brand for this affectionate reboot created by the team who brought us the kooky puzzle-platformer The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom in 2010.

Knight to Remember shows a series taking many cues from Telltale, the new masters of adventure. Branching dialogue, “morality” decisions and even quick-time events have superseded the more simplistic point-and-click style of KQs gone by.

King’s Quest: It wouldn't be a medieval story without a troll
King’s Quest: It wouldn't be a medieval story without a troll

Yet the heart of Graham’s origin story remains an entertaining mix of sparky dialogue and lightly taxing puzzles solved as always with objects collected in your inventory. A gorgeous 3D world animated in a cartoonish style provides the eye candy to complement the fantastical story of dragons, hideous beasts and eccentric townsfolk.

Framed as a bedtime story told by Christopher Lloyd as King Graham in his dotage entertaining his granddaughter, there’s no penalty for failure even though instant death is an occasional hazard. Graham’s granddaughter merely says: “No, grandpa, that’s not how it happened…” and the game resets to just before the fatal event.

King’s Quest: Featuring the voice of Christopher Lloyd as the old king telling his granddaughter a story
King’s Quest: Featuring the voice of Christopher Lloyd as the old king telling his granddaughter a story

As the plot unfolds, the puzzles occasionally veer towards obscure solutions but never reach the heights of absurdity in similar adventures such as Ron Gilbert’s The Secret of Monkey Island.

This first episode of five (€10 for one, €40 for all) provides a generous five hours of adventuring, though at least some of the length can be attributed to the long loading times and tiresome schlepping to and from the locations.

Knight to Remember marks an entertaining return for a much-loved series, updated for a new generation with contextual one-button actions. Though sometimes a bit clumsy, it bodes well for the other chapters in this new instalment.

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