Here we go again. Where were we? Oh yes….there was an old man telling his grandchild a story of his glory days of when he was a young adventurer looking for…well…adventure. He stumbles across a tournament to become King, which he enters, and after happening upon some dragons, trolls and riding a knight like a horse, he becomes King Graham. Then, bored with being King, he goes out again and gets kidnapped by goblins that hold him as their slave. He has to choose which one of his friends to save and which should die. Then there’s some rope, a slipper, some magic plant growing stuff and the return of a nemesis, all appearing before escaping back to his kingdom. All clear? Good that brings us all up to date and you can now relax.
I had high hopes for this new chapter of King’s Quest, after the brilliant opener was followed by a slightly underwhelming chapter two. The good news is the magic is still there, with a very enjoyable journey and all that you might expect from this very entertaining franchise. This time around we see King Graham a little bit older and very buffed up. He keeps showing off his new muscles to anyone who mentions them. The problem he has now in this new stage of his life is loneliness. He only has his loyal knights as friends to keep him company plus his giant hamster. He even resorts to imagining dinner companions out of broom handles and pictures taped onto a bucket. So when his magic mirror shows him that his one true love lies in a huge tower in another realm, he’s off before you can say Walt Disney. But instead of one true love, there are two true loves and he has to work out which one is the right one.
I am writing this review in mind of those who have played the first two chapters. If you haven’t played them, I would advise you to stop reading this right now and get them played. Done? Good. I’ll carry on.
Gameplay wise it’s all very much the same as before, where by you move around the level, pointing and clicking away. You make decisions in dialogue trees that affect this chapter and indeed the next ones to come. Objects are found, and need to be combined with others or used in interesting ways to progress through the story. There are puzzles with a decent sense of difficulty to solve, but you’ll never find anything horrible enough to make you throw your console through the window.
The action sequences range from QTE’s, a simple one which has you preparing to dance for a ball, a climb up a tower which plays out as a very tight affair or a fun ‘shooting goblins’ section. These are mixed agreeably with the entertaining puzzle solving that you have to do throughout the chapter. The puzzles here range from ‘place this item on top of that one’ to ‘make this and hey presto something magical happens’. There are also some very good game conundrums with tetris style blocks, a brilliantly devised game of consequences that helps you find your true partner and a nicely paced time travel sequence at the beginning.
Once Upon a Climb really delivers much more than that found in its predecessor and I’m trying to work out why. I think the gloomy underground caves of said chapter really didn’t show of the imagined world the creators have devised. This chapter though does it in spades. The introduction of new characters and areas really move the bigger story along, so much so that I am now waiting with baited breath for the next episode. The locations are varied, colourful and there just seems to be a hell of a lot of things thrown into the pot. I just hope they haven’t played their best hand too early.
The storytelling and writing for this episode is as always of a very high standard. Like a Disney movie coming to life, it’s witty, self-knowing, fast paced and bounces along nicely. The introduction of new characters, as well as returning heroes and villains all play their part to perfection. The princesses in the towers and the witch that holds them are extremely well thought out and developed. The voice actors for these parts really help sell the characters while making them three dimensional and very interesting to interact with and watch.
In regards the visual style, the game is still as strong as everything found in the other chapters, but the new worlds show what the game’s graphics engines can really do. A brilliant early sequence shows Graham journeying to the tower and it shows off the engine nicely. The sound effects and the score are excellent and complement the story well with their little flourishes and bags of atmosphere.
Overall this is the best episode so far in the new King’s Quest franchise. It’s made the game fresh again, with a wonderful tale of love and comedy. It can all be done in about three and half hours, but it’s always fun and will always put a smile on your face. It’s much more linear as well, which I personally prefer.
So hurry up guys, I want more of King’s Quest. Please be quick about it.