Whisper can do it!
I see you reading this summary before clicking. You don’t have to click, but you’ll miss one of the best gaming experiences in a long time. You may be thinking “I’m not really into adventure games, and I never played any of the original King’s Quest games.” You shouldwillmake an exception for at least one episode — just one — because this is one of the best gaming experiences many of you missed out on: King’s Quest Episode One: A Knight to Remember.
I don’t care if you choose to just watch it on YouTube, but get someone who does it justice. Dan and Ross on Steam Train have a good playthrough. Dan has the nostalgia for the old games, but even if you don’t and wouldn’t get all the references, it’s a hilarious and touching adventure in the truest sense. I didn’t get all the references as I never played the old games, but it’s still superb in its own right and respects the original games without obnoxious nostalgia pandering.
Listen real careful here though: the first ten minutes or so may deceive you, because it’s straightforward and even has an on-rails shooting section. But that is not at all what the rest of the game is like. Think Deadly Premonition, where the generic shooting intro puts many off before the game opens up into crazy-land.
Your journey is narrated by old Graham telling a story to his granddaughter of how he (you) enter into knighthood long before he became king. It’s the most cleverly used narration since Bastionas he directs you and passively argues with you about what happened. The more you resist him, the more hilarious the reactions become.
Old Graham is narrated by none other than Christopher Lloyd in a game full of all-star talent including Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), Richard White (Gaston), and Wallace Shawn (Vizzini in The Princess Bride). The characters are all superbly done and laugh-out-loud hilarious. I particularly love Richard White’s character, Whisper, who has become one of my favorite game characters of all time.
References to The Princess Bride (which is a classic movie you should watch at least once a year) don’t stop at Wallace Shawn, as much of the narrative is based around the story. It’s a nice homage to an excellent movie but doesn’t follow it so much that it becomes unoriginal.
The trials are very clever and puzzles make sense. It’s also fun to just try every item on every person and object at every point in the game, as there is alwaysunique dialogue from either Graham, the character you are using it on, or Old Graham and his daughter narrating.
There’s even a small moral system of kingliness, where you perform actions that are noble or king-like. It’s never expanded upon in the following episodes, but it feels more unique than just plain “good and bad” morality. I wish it developed into more of a system, but it’s cute here.
Unfortunately the rest of the episodes dip in quality, with repeating jokes that just don’t land as well as they do in episode one, changes to the gameplay formula that are ill-explained and not as fun, very little ancillary dialogue when using the wrong items, and story that is less tight. They’re still decent if you want to see it through to the end, but it never matches the high of the first episode. Yes, there may have been some controversy behind its development, but that doesn’t affect the quality of what has been created.
There are not a lot of games I would give a perfect score to, but this would have been one of them because it’s just that good. When you get someone cynical like me literally giggling and kicking my legs like a little school girl (I’m not exaggerating, I actually did), then you’ve made something special. And it’s a shame more people haven’t played this to see its magic. It’s only about three to four hours, but it will feel like 30 minutes by the time you’ve finished it.