Sierra Returns with Fun King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember

 

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While such a disclosure may force a number of gamers to dismiss my opinion in future reviews, I feel like I need to reveal that I grew up playing Sierra games. The company was one of the most formative in my youth, alongside breakthrough organizations like Infocom (“Zork”), Atari, and, of course, Nintendo. In fact, even if you don’t know the company, Sierra has been important for you as well. Back when they were known as On-Line Systems in 1980, they released “Mystery House,” often cited as the first computer game with graphics.

The game was crude and unrefined, but it paved the road that led to “King’s Quest” in 1984, easily one of the most important games of all time. The witty adventure game spawned a franchise and led to others for the company like “Space Quest,” “Leisure Suit Larry,” “Quest For Glory,” “Police Quest,” and “Gabriel Knight”…I played them ALL. The rise of home game consoles killed Sierra, but it was a business deal, a sale after which the company was restructured, that really ended it in the mid-‘90s. They tried to rise from the ashes a few times in the ‘00s (new “Leisure Suit Larry” games, “The Hobbit”), but it fell apart beyond a few Xbox Live Arcade games. It was sold to Activision in 2008 as a part of the Vivendi merge and that was that. Until 2015. Sierra and “King’s Quest” are back. And it’s like they never left.After decades of trying to resurrect the “King’s Quest” series, Activision/Sierra has finally arrived at the perfect time in the gaming world to do so, as games like “Life is Strange,” “Game of Thrones,” and “The Walking Dead” have proven that episodic gaming has a loyal audience and plenty of routes to creativity.

And so “King’s Quest” will be released in six chapters via the PSN. Although this game will very clearly end up MUCH longer than the Telltale Games’ series. Games like “Tales From the Borderlands” are broken up into roughly two-hour episodes. The first episode of “King’s Quest,” “A Knight to Remember,” is about 4 hours long. I was surprised as it kept going and going and going. This thing is almost as long as “The Order 1886” for God’s sake.

So you definitely get your money’s worth in terms of time, but what about gameplay? It’s a mixed bag, as one might expect from a company that is essentially a new player in the modern gaming world. They’re shaking off a few of the cobwebs. For the most part, “King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember” works. It’s effective and entertaining in the departments that many developers miss like witty dialogue, great voice work, and creative puzzle design. In fact, the biggest problem with “A Knight to Remember” is one that arguably hints at the age of the series: pacing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m the LAST person who needs breakneck pacing in my adventure games—I love the time taken for emotions in “Life is Strange,” for example—but “A Knight to Remember” sags a bit too often, especially in lengthy dialogue scenes and a few puzzles that require one too many fetch quests to complete.

I’m getting ahead of myself. “A Knight to Remember” is not a remake of “Kings’ Quest.” It’s a reboot like the new “Fantastic Four,” but, you know, not awful. The developers present the narrative as a story an old man (voiced perfectly by Christopher Lloyd) is telling his adventurous granddaughter. Much like the story-within-a-story of “The Princess Bride” (and Wallace Shawn even shows up here too), the child interrupts the storyteller and Lloyd gets to add tons of comical flavor. Advice: if you don’t like puns, stay away. The storyteller recounts his young days as a future King, and the developers reimagine many of the puzzles from the series, including the dragon in the well from the first game. Eventually, the story settles on a tournament to become a vaunted Knight that centers on strength, speed, and intelligence. And, of course, trolls.

“King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember” could be about 20 minutes shorter, but when it works, it really works. This downloadable adventure includes some of the most purely enjoyable puzzle-solving of the year to date, buoyed by cartoonish, fun graphics. The visuals recall the original series from the ‘80s without looking dated. Some of the backgrounds are a little flat and recycled but the characters are expertly designed. It’s a fun aesthetic for a fun game. And that’s what Sierra always was to me growing up: Fun. I can’t believe, three decades later, I’m counting the days until another Sierra release again.