It’s been five months since the first chapter of King’s Quest came out, and though it maintains the same charm, abundance of character, and clever puzzles of the previous chapter, “Rubble Without a Cause” does little to justify the long wait. Still told in a framed narrative, the aging king of Daventry telling stories of his youth to his granddaughter, the story he is telling skips ahead a few years (I assume). Where chapter one ended with Graham securing his place as a knight, chapter two picks up shortly after he is appointed king for some reason. This disconnect is likely the weakest part of the episode as a whole.
While there is nothing wrong with King’s Quest wanting to tell stand-alone stories set in the same world as, and inspired by, the original games, knowing those original games should not be a prerequisite for being able to follow the new story. King’s Quest needs to be able to stand on its own, along with also being a call back to the previous titles. As it is however, it just feels like there was an important part of the story missing, something that I would have enjoyed being able to hear about and play through.
In much the same way, while it was great seeing many of the characters return from the first chapter, none of my choices in that first chapter felt as if they mattered all that much. A few references to past events here and there was nice, but overall, “Rubble Without a Cause” was a separate experience from “A Knight to Remember,” a step back given that the first episode’s strength came from how well it mixed modern trends with old-school puzzle adventure game mechanics.
This step backwards from that perfect mixture is actually what characterized a lot of “Rubble Without a Cause.” Running about three hours, around half the time of chapter one for me, chapter two tells the story of how Graham and all of his subjects were kidnapped by goblins. The entirety revolves around Graham’s escape, a much smaller, more laser focused story that only ever let’s you explore the inside of the goblin caves with a singular goal, a far cry from the multitude of settings and things to do in the previous chapter.
While doing something radically different, laying a resource/ time management system on top of the already clever puzzle design, “Rubble Without a Cause” unfortunately didn’t feel quite like the adventuresome quest of the first chapter, and more a single puzzle room to break out from. Add on to this an uncharacteristically dark punishment for failure, and I found myself agonizing over the puzzles at times, instead of simply enjoying them. The sense of discovery and challenge is still there, as it was a true joy to figure out how to break out of the goblin prison, but the lack of fun lightheartedness did leave something to be desired.
It’s important to remember that none of these shortcomings made “Rubble Without a Cause” particularly bad. The second episode of King’s Quest is still absolutely gorgeous, even the dark goblin caves made to look beautiful in the game’s painting-like art style. The puzzles are still complex and fun. The characters are still endearing and sweet. It is really just in comparison to the stellar first chapter that “Rubble Without a Cause” doesn’t measure up.
In most every way, I did enjoy Graham’s second outing, a smile on my face throughout. But I can’t help feeling the episode was more stationed as pleasing filler, than an actual, meaty continuation of the first chapter that I loved so much. The chapter tries out some new ideas, which is of course welcome, but in the end leaves me wanting more than I can be entirely happy with.