King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride
When the first in the King's Quest series of adventures was released way back in the early '80s (in those days when you could buy a house worth 90 grand now for 60, mobile phones were those things kids pushed around with wheels on the bottom and the most familiar Gascoigne was Bamberit was designed to run on IBM's new machine which v. boasted a powerful 16-bit processor and an unheard of 256K of memory.
To promote its release, IBM wanted something special in the software to show off on their new ne-user machine that, they claimed, id "graphic and sound capabilities iheard of in the industry." They approached Ken and Roberta Williams to develop a game thatwould show the world how great their new machine was and offered to fund the whole project. A year later the original King's Quest adventure game was released and immediately became the industry's hottest game. The rest, as they say, is history.
Slow train coming
In the five years that followed, there were only minor changes in the technology underlying adventure games. Graphics got better and the stories behind the games improved dramatically. The musical scores also became a lot more competent and professional composers such as William Goldstein, were hired to perform the score as in King's Quest IV. However, many adventure games were let down by the lack of a user-friendly interface which only served to alienate the player and often interrupt gameplay. In 1989, Roberta Williams set about changing how a player communicated with an adventure game. "Too frequently players were wasting time trying to figure out what we called something rather than just enjoying the game," remarks husband Ken, "If there was a trunk in a room, we would try to recognise a player typing in 'look in the trunk, open chest, open case' etc., but invariably, someone would become frustrated because the computer couldn't understand something they felt was completely rational, like 'lift the lid off the box'."
It was a hurdle that many games designers had attempted to cross, some by including what seemed like an infinite number of possibilities that the adventurer might tap in (which used a ridiculous amount of memory), and others that attempted to guide the player by giving so few realistic options that the player could positively roar through the game. Consequently. efforts to involve the players furthe usually only served to alienate them, as gameplay and plot were sacrificed for huge vocabularies or fantastic visuals which attempted to sweep them along. "Roberta wanted to find a way to make the players feel more a part of the story by allowing them to manipulate objects in the world directly," maintains Ken, "In real life, if yot want to open a chest you just reach over and open it. That became her goal." In 1990, when King's Quest V was released it was the first graphic adventure to use th no-typing interface and it sold by the lorry load - over half a million copies.
So what's new?
King's Quest VI CD saw the adventure series being taken a stage further when it became Sierra' first game to use high-resolution graphics for the user interface and character close-ups. The game also included speech and a more advanced user interface. Gone was the traditional text parser, it being replaced by a more intuitive graphical cursor. By simply clicking the right mouse button, you cycle through actions: Walk, Talk, Look and Touch. Select the object to be acted upon and then press the left mouse button. Anyone who has used the interface before will slip comfortably into King's Quest VII. It uses the same easy-to-use commands as well as a hidden top-down menu, which offers control of inventory items and game controls like Save, Restore and Speed. It really is one ofthe most simple things to use and makes exploring the vast environment an absolute joy, leaving you free to concentrate on the plot of the game.
The fairy tale continues
Although the latest installment is, like the other adventures in the series, self-contained, it features many characters that King's Quest fans will recognise, whilst the plot faithfully carries on the legacy of the familiar Daventry folk.
We take up the plot shortly after King's Quest VI. Valanice and Rosella are walking in the woods, discussing Rosella's future and the benefits of marriage. Rosella thinks that she is not yet ready to make such a huge commitment, but her mother disagrees. As the discussion grinds to a halt, Rosella sits down by a pool, while Valanice sits on a nearby log. Rosella gazes deep into the pool while her mother continues her monologue on how her daughter should get hitched as soon as possible. As she gazes into the water, a door seems to appear at the bottom of the pool and Rosella begins to see beautiful visions of Fairyland. Her mind in a turmoil, she suddenly leaps up and jumps into the pool and disappears. Her mother, shocked at her daughter's behaviour, runs to the edge of the pool and plunges in after her.
Throughout the game the player gets to play each of the two characters, with the action flipping from Rosella to her mother, each "chapter" ending in a cliffhanger situation to maintain interest. There are eight massive chapters or sections to explore in all, as well as luxurious opening animation sequences to help set the scene and carry the story along.
King's Quest VII is approximately twice the size of the last romp, with a massive playing arena in which to lose yourself, spanning two cd-roms. Players will have to make their way through sun-baked deserts, troll-infested labyrinths and the wacky Rubber Jungle where they will meet the Troll King, jostle with the Headless ? Horseman and attempt to outwit the evil Malicia (all expertly rendered in beautiful high-res. silicon graphics) if they are to complete the adventure.
The first thing you're likely to notice about the new King's Quest is how "Disneyesque" it looks. "Is this a concerted effort to emulate the undisputed master of animation?" I find myself wondering. "It's all very inspired by Disney's Alladin," admits lead artist, Dennis Durrell, "What we've tried to do is make the latest King's Quest much more vibrant and colourful and lose the grey." Scattered over his desk lie numerous beautifully drawn backgrounds: a dusky desert scene, a blazing sunset and a dark and mysterious cavern, all ready for scanning. "Each one takes an artist about a week to complete from start to finish. At the moment we're using 12 in-house artists who each spend approximately a day or so sketching the scene out and then three or four days are spent painting it, depending on how complicated it is."
On the walls covering the small office are plastered sketches of some of the many characters, old and new, that will feature in King's Quest VII. They too could be right out of any Disney epic. "It's the biggest thing we've done in terms of sheer logistics," remarks Dennis as he casts his proud eye over the massive gallery of characters. "King's Quest VII is twice as big as King's Quest VI in terms of characters, playing areas and sheer playability. We've been working on it for just over seven months now and it's definitely the most labour-intensive project we've ever attempted. It's gonna be big, and I mean BIG!"
Big, beautiful and better than ever by the looks of things and bundled onto two, yes two cd-roms. Here's to King's Quest VIII!
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode