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King's Quest: A Knight to Remember review: An old classic gets a terrific new start

Hayden Dingman | July 29, 2015
"It was not exactly as I remembered it, but it wasn't all that different either," says old King Graham, early in the new King's Quest. It's something like the fifth line in the game, and you can almost see the writer sitting behind the screen, speaking directly to you.

And in King's Quest, doing so is invariably rewarded by Christopher Lloyd (as old King Graham) rasping out some new, hilarious line. Go on--blow the broken horn a half-dozen times. See what happens.

This approach--focusing on humor, on story, on adventure game tropes--is perfect for a game like King's Quest because it's (of necessity) not the series it once was. King's Quest in 2015 cannot be King's Quest in 1983. Or even 1998. It can't be a frustrating, puzzle-focused, logic-bending point-and-click that's seemingly obsessed with killing off the player at every turn. I mean, it could, but it wouldn't be received well.

So what we get is a game that still kills the player regularly, but then makes a joke about it and puts you back at a checkpoint. It's a game with puzzles, but one where there are multiple solutions to most problems and the game (I assume) will never end up in an unwinnable state. It's a game with the flavor and humor of a King's Quest mixed with something a bit more friendly--more like a Daedalic or Nordic game than the Sierra of old.

There's even a bit of Telltale, the creators of the Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us. King's Quest is significantly more of a traditional adventure game than anything Telltale's put out in the last few years, but you can see the influence of the "[Character] will remember that" style of branching stories. The first episode alone presents you with a handful of seemingly-significant choices and a veritable onslaught of minor ones--as minor as "When I borrowed' an item from this shop, did I leave money or not?"

Many of those choices then carry forward into the modern day, which is a significant portion of this new King's Quest. You're not just telling Gwendolyn a story--you're teaching her. You're her mentor and her idol as much as her grandfather, and when it comes time for Gwendolyn to forge a path and make her own stories, you just hope you've taught her the right lessons.

It's definitely Telltale-influenced, though you'll spend more time actually doing things in King's Quest (solving puzzles, exploring, et cetera) instead of spending time in dialogue trees. Not that Telltale's way of doing things is bad--I love those games too. King's Quest just takes a more active approach, with actions/reactions instead of you-spoke/they-remembered. And I'm already itching to replay A Knight to Remember to see how much it changes when I make different choices.

The voice acting deserves a special call-out here at the end. There have been plenty of games in the past that boasted stacked casts, from Dishonored to Broken Age. But damn, King's Quest is incredible. Christopher Lloyd is the obvious centerpiece, but everyone in A Knight to Remember is spot-on. I largely think of celebrity voice acting lineups as a gimmick, and King's Quest doesn't entirely dispel that--there's no reason old King Graham needed to be Christopher Lloyd instead of some other raspy old man, for instance. But excellent voice acting deserves a call-out regardless of source, and King's Quest is excellent.

 

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