The initial Activision announcement of a King’s Quest reboot to be put together by The Odd Gentlemen was met with quite a bit of cynicism. Of course Activision is simply seeing Telltale raking in the dough with their modern take on adventure games and wanted a piece of the pie. With Activision’s reputation for jumping to the easy money, it was easy to write this one off as a crass cash grab. Whatever Activision’s intentions were with resurrecting the Sierra brand and creating this, The Odd Gentlemen have turned out an entertaining adventure in the first chapter, A Knight To Remember.
The story is told in flashback form, with an elderly King Graham (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) telling tales of his youth to his impressed granddaughter, Gwendolyn. It begins with Graham telling of how he managed to procure a magic mirror from narcoleptic ravenous dragon. This part serves a tutorial for the various gameplay functions that will be the adventure’s bread and butter: puzzles solved in the environment and with inventory and quick time events. Truthfully, these simple concepts do not require a tutorial as they are quite common in gaming. It almost seems as though the designers were trying to entice lapsed gamers who remember this fondly to give this one a try.
Fortunately, even the basics can remain entertaining for the experienced player. The lush, gorgeous graphics manage to create the feel of playing a cartoon. Just the initial cavern yields moments that are more striking than a AAA title with a budget more bloated than Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote. This eye for quality visuals can be found throughout the entire game. The character designs are very distinct, having an almost Disney style to their look and animation, and the backgrounds are just gorgeous. This game is a wonder to behold.
Painterly visuals would mean nothing if the interactions were dull. Fortunately, the script is up to snuff. The story is simply bulging from the seams with humor. There is quite a bit of referential humor, though. Some may not like the “hey, remember this!” style from which many of the jokes stem. There are jibes about skipping leg day and Christopher Lloyd slips in a Back to the Future reference. Wallace Shawn of The Princess Bride fame is also inconceivably included, and it could be argued that he was there simply so the wine glass gag could be reused. However, this is not the only thing in the script’s bag of tricks. It manages to run the gamut of fantastic sight gags, clever “outwitting the dimwit” style situations, and glorious, glorious puns.
The best script ever made would mean nothing if the delivery was lacking. Fortunately, everyone here delivers their lines with gusto. One gets the impression that the voice actors had the time of their lives recording their lines. Everyone has so much personality, so that even the most one dimensional characters manage to have some depth. In fact, the most shallow seeming of them all, Whisper (or Sir Ten of Himself), manages to illicit an unexpected feeling in the player after his defeat: guilt. Kudos to Richard White for that one.
The experience does falter slightly in some of its puzzles, though. While this game might not exist were it not for the popularity of the Telltale games, it does hew more closely to the roots of adventure games. It does not include the “staple this thing to that thing” type of inventory head-scratchers, but many other old-school styles are included. Conundrums like trying to figure out which item to use where and what new thing got added to a location that can be exploited are common. Imagine a more modern take on the Monkey Island titles… or don’t, since Telltale did that, too.
All in all, the challenges here are not groundbreaking in the least. This would be fine, but it could have used some concessions to players who just recently discovered this genre. For example, while the game world is small, a fast travel system would have alleviated the annoyances found here, making for a more streamlined, entertaining title.
It can be argued that the actual “game” parts of King’s Quest- Chapter 1: A Knight To Remember can be lackluster. Figuring out solutions to most of these don’t bring forth a feeling of intelligence from the player, just one of “that part is done, on to the next.” Despite this, the experience to be had here is absolutely enjoyable. With a perfect visual style and enjoyable dialogue, this is a perfect game to play with loved ones of all ages. And anything that uses Wallace Shawn should automatically be supported.