Imagine you go out on a blind date with that special someone. The date is a huge success, it’s much better then you ever imagined and you really are having the best of times. Then the next day comes and you hear nothing; the date doesn’t ring back, text or communicate in any bloody way what so ever. A week passes, a month passes and you’ve forgotten all about them, until six months later you bump into them at Tesco’s, they wink at you, and you forget the last six months of waiting to jump straight back into the adventure. I’m mixing a lot of metaphors there but that’s exactly how I feel after the lengthy wait between chapters one and two of Kings Quest.
It was one of my games of the year in 2015, but with so much else around to occupy my eyes during a busy video games period, I almost forgot about this five part series, which by its current rate, will take around three years to complete!
So does it live up to love at first sight? Or is the passion already starting to wane?
Narrative wise we find the older Graham still alive and well, haunted by his past, telling his grandchildren another adventure from his past glory days. When the story ended in Chapter one, there has been a bit of a plot jump and the younger Graham is now king of the realm. He is struggling with the mundane jobs of ruling an empire, when suddenly he is kidnapped by the goblin King and his pesky goblins. ‘Rubble Without A Cause’ then takes you underground to the goblin lair, from which you have to try and escape as well as rescue your friends who are also being held prisoner.
The main niggle this chapter has in comparison to the first is in this narrative set up. In the first chapter the world seemed fresh, epic and diverse. In contrast the subterranean levels in this get pretty similar and a bit dreary. Even though graphically everything is still of a very high standard, you will immediately be missing the colour of the outside world. Alongside this, the path you take this time around is very much focused on solving the problems in front of you, rather than exploration – something which I felt was ‘A Knight To Remember’s’ greatest asset.
The gameplay however is where it does get interesting. It still has the mixture of both the usual point and click and a ‘grab this object and use it with this thing’ mechanic, all with a mixture of entertaining puzzles, dialogue trees and some QTE action sequences. But the consequences and stakes are much deadlier this time around. You see you wander about the goblin prison doing certain things and talking to people, but you have to go back to your cell to sleep every day. The next day, certain things will happen overnight to make the journey of your quest possible (my vagueness here is so I don’t spoil anything for you). However your friends are starving to death and you need to do things in a certain way in order to save them.
Like before, this system of making the right decision is maddening and at the same time bordering on genius. You feel constantly like you are doing the wrong thing and you are forever nearly starting the game again from scratch, but DON’T because there are many different paths and I promise that you will come out of it…somehow. Also there’s a feature when you can skip cut scenes if you have to repeat certain sections which is very useful. I actually think there should be a law that all game developers have to add this feature to their games so credit goes out to The Odd Gentlemen and Sierra for that.
I found the first half of this second chapter a bit disappointing, especially after witnessing the amazing start in chapter one. But as King’s Quest progresses the smile on my face starts to come back, until by the end I am grinning again from ear to ear. The story telling and writing is again top notch with a carefully balanced story within a story format used to perfection. The characters are well rounded, even though there wasn’t anyone new to meet from the first chapter – except the goblins, but they just talk gibberish and have rocks on their heads. The dialogue is sharp, funny and nicely paced.
Voice work is once again of a standard you might get from a Pixar/Disney animated feature film. Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future’s Doc Brown) is the most famous of the said voices but the others are all veterans of stage and screen. The sound score and effects are brilliant, and as I said earlier, graphically the quality is excellent. The devil is in the detail and the animator’s love, adding little flairs and touches that make the whole experience, is such a joy to view. However there seems to be a lot of jerking around in the frame rate this time around, and this is a shame because in amongst the nature and quality of what you’re seeing, a stutter or glitch really stands out.
‘Rubble Without A Cause’ will take you around three to four hours to complete, although it may come in a little shorter if you can work the puzzles out quicker than me. This experience is definitely shorter then the first chapter and like all other episodic games such as the Telltale stories told in The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, some episodes will obviously feel like filler.
Therefore this one can only be truly judged when held aloft with all its sister chapters and within the overall story arc. I just hope I might just get to see them all before I retire.