The adventure game genre has seen a resurgence in the past years due to the narrative subgenre created by Telltale Games with gems like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Tales From the Borderlands. In the shadow of that, the question becomes just how well a classic puzzle focused adventure game stacks up in the current landscape. And as it just so happens, in regards to the first chapter of King’s Quest, the answer is that it stacks up very well.
A reimagining of the long running point and click King’s Quest adventure games of the 80s and 90s the new episodic venture drops the point and click interface, embraces modern gaming trends, and delivers a beautiful, touching, fun tale of knights and kings.
“A Knight to Remember” opens in a Prince’s Bride style framed narrative, a grandfather (voiced by the outstanding Christopher Lloyd) telling his granddaughter a story about a young knight sent to claim a dragon’s treasure. As it turns out however, the grandfather is none other than the King Graham of Daventry, telling his granddaughter, Gwendolyn, the stories of his youth as a knight.
Using the framed narrative to fantastic effect, the first chapter of King’s Quest is not only charming, it is at times down-right hilarious, every death explained away with a unique, fun ‘just kidding’ quip between the grandfather and granddaughter. Beyond just being the classical, well-worn, hero’s journey and coming of a story of a young man proving himself, the framing also allows King’s Quest to touch on elements of family, the idea of legacy, and even the role of generational storytelling. If anything, I could have done with even more from Gwendolyn, her story intriguing me just as much as young Graham’s.
While the back and forth narration between King Graham and Gwendolyn provides the majority of the laughs and momentum early on, the chapter eventually opens up as young Graham fleshes out more as the central character, the framed narration still there just enough to maintain the fairytale, bedtime story feeling throughout.
From Christopher Lloyd’s fantastic pun-loving grandfather to the small, yet brilliant knight-hopeful Manny, portrayed by none other than Wallace Shawn (Prince’s Bride), the voice acting is spot on. In part to the great acting, but largely due to the writing, King’s Quest is absolutely brimming with personality, fascinating, hilariously bizarre characters popping up everywhere you turn. Even after spending hours exploring Daventry and meeting its inhabitants, I still am hungry for more, each character just putting a smile on my face.
All of this is only aided by the fact that the game itself is beautiful. Working with a crisp, painted art style, every environment is a joy to look at and wander through. Even more than that though, compared to the Telltale games for instance, the animations are smoother, the worlds more dynamic, and the landscape simply felt more alive.
As I said before, King’s Quest drops the point and click structure of its source material, allowing for a more free exploration of the environment. That said, it still stays true to the item-based puzzles, and that is in fact where it shines. “A Knight to Remember” doesn’t hold your hand, instead trusting you to explore and discover for yourself. While this does lead to a hefty bit of backtracking and experimentation, the interlinked puzzles and item combinations are clever and fun, linear enough to provide a through-line and structure to the experience, but obscure enough to allow the player to really feel like he or she is discovering it along the way.
A couple of the puzzles are a bit too obscure for my taste, something that could likely turn more than a few off from the game, but I never felt cheated by a puzzle. In the cases in which I got stuck it was because I had ignored or forgotten a pivotal clue from earlier on, and never because the game simply had kept a piece of information from me.
What makes King’s Quest standout the most however, is not simply its puzzles or its great writing, but how it takes these fundamentals and blends them with modern gaming trends. From a solid handful of action sequences, to quick-time events and even a couple on-rail bow-shooting segments, “A Knight to Remember” never feels dated or slow, even as it draws so heavily from older gaming designs. And best of all, these derivations in gameplay never feel forced or out of place, and never over stay their welcome, simply adding spice to the chapter here and there, keeping things exciting.
The first chapter of King’s Quest is a testament not only to why puzzle adventure games were so popular in the past, but also to why they can still hold their ground now. Beautiful art, great writing, strong voice acting, clever puzzles, and a world I honestly can’t wait to keep exploring come together in “A Knight to Remember” to create an outstanding first outing in a modern Daventry.
Though held back slightly by a few obscure puzzles, the first chapter of King’s Quest is a beautiful, funny, entertaining puzzle adventure game, and a great opening to the re-imagined series.