Though I generally consider myself a fan of point-and-click adventure games, I’ve never been properly introduced to the King’s Quest franchise, one of the pioneers of graphic adventure games with some of the most beloved titles in the genre. Thankfully, developer The Odd Gentlemen have taken the task upon themselves to make a new King’s Quest that apparently re-imagines key events from some of the older instalments with more modern presentation and mechanics.
The game is being released in five episodic installments, with the first one being King’s Quest: Chapter 1 – A Knight to Remember, and while the initial entry can’t help but fall into some of the genre’s common shortcomings at some points, it also boasts some clever mechanics for certain sections of the story, charming presentation and a decent challenge for adventure game fans. Those are also the gamers who will probably get the most out of this new King’s Quest, as newcomers to the genre introduced through the likes of Telltale’s recent work may have trouble adjusting to this game’s more leisurely and open-ended pace.
A Knight to Remember is presented through the clever framing device of the elderly King Graham telling his curious granddaughter Gwendolyn stories of the adventures in his youth that led to him taking the throne, with all the actual gameplay taking place in the past. Young Graham starts his adventure by journeying to the kingdom of Daventry with hopes of becoming a noble knight, and soon learns that not only does he have some stiff competition, but he must prove his worth through various trials.
There is much more to Graham’s first adventure besides the trials themselves, as he’ll meet a varied and entertaining cast of supporting characters in a nearby village, in a trio of gigantic bridge trolls, and even form some interesting relationships with his competitors. After an introductory section detailing Graham stealing a mystical mirror from a subterranean dragon, the game really opens up and gives you a plethora of locations to explore, people to meet and items to collect and use to solve puzzles and progress the story.
While Graham is controlled directly rather than a cursor, the core mechanics of the game are tried and true, with an inventory of items accessible via a button press and context-sensitive elements that can be inspected or interacted with when approached. Players will need to put some thought into what to do with each item per adventure tradition, and this element may be what scares some people away from the game.
Though most of the puzzles aren’t extremely difficult, they’re also rarely obvious, meaning that it might take some experimentation to succeed. I do wish the overworld wasn’t quite so sprawling or that some sort of warp feature or at least a map had been included, because probably half my playtime was spent getting Graham from one point to another, sometimes not even remembering the way to a certain area.
The plus side to this is that, for a $9.99 downloadable episode, the playtime is surprisingly substantial compared to the likes of Telltale, clocking in at around 7 or 8 hours. And while some puzzles proved more frustrating than fun, there are some clever ones during each of Graham’s knighthood trials that I really enjoyed, with their own unique but easy to understand mechanics. Some sections also play like an on-rails first-person arrow shooting game, with easy controls so as not to feel too jarring. There’s also the occasional Quick Time Event where players have to push specified buttons within a certain amount of time, but people who hate those shouldn’t despair, as they’re pretty uncommon.
Another element that the game pulls off nicely is its presentation. While I found the overall color scheme a bit too dark and muted, the cel shading-like graphical approach to the characters and environments still looks lovely, and they best Telltale’s work in the framerate department with a consistent 60 FPS on the PS4 version of the game. The voice work is provided by both professional voice actors like Tom Kenny of Spongebob Squarepants fame and Hollywood talent like Christopher Lloyd as the elderly Graham, and there’s not a bad performance in the bunch.
Also, while the core story is admittedly simple, there are a good variety of jokes that provide some solid laughs, and a more heartfelt moment midway through that genuinely worked for me. On the less favorable side of performance, A Knight to Remember completely froze on me and required a restart no less than three times, something that will hopefully be patched out when additional chapters arrive.
King’s Quest: Chapter 1 – A Knight to Remember isn’t without its flaws and frustrating moments, due to how open-ended its world and vague its puzzle solutions can feel, but the more unique gameplay sections and an appealing presentation help soften those blows. It will be interesting to see where the remaining four chapters go, and though it’s still a game that will appeal more to seasoned adventure fans than casual players, it fills that role quite nicely.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which was provided to us.
King's Quest: Chapter 1 - A Knight To Remember is a traditional adventure title through and through, presenting some of the positives and negatives that games of its ilk can provide.