King’s Quest Chapter Four: Snow Place Like Home has finally hit, and boy was it a big one. There’s so much that happens in the first twenty minutes I had a hard time keeping up. The scene opens up with our hero Graham, his wife, and pair of twin babies (a boy and a girl), both crying. Graham has to calm down the twins while his wife catches up on her beauty sleep, and we get to see the domestic side of his new life.
While attempting to quiet the crying infants, the dastardly Manny invades the castle. Using some flashy magic tricks Manny takes out the royal guards and kidnaps one of the twins right from under the parent’s noses. Graham goes on a desperate search for his infant son, but to no avail. Flash forward eighteen years later: Graham’s long-lost son appears on his doorstep as a young man ready to meet his equally long-lost father. Hijinks ensue as the two get to know each other, get captured by a sphinx, and learn to work together to figure out how to escape a labyrinth and get back home.
The version I played (PC) had controls that are well thought out and intuitive. Navigating from Graham’s inventory to the environment is very smooth and takes no time at all. Even when his younger self dies during an episode, the older version explains it away perfectly as just being another part of the ‘story’ he’s telling. It’s a great premise for the character to ‘respawn’ so the player can try to tackle an obstacle again, without breaking the immersion of the story.
The storyline is pretty linear for the majority of the series, but this one in particular doesn’t let the player stray too far. While the King’s Quest series never really gives the player much in the way of personal choices, Snow Place Like still felt a little light in this department. To give the game credit, however, the choices I did have to make in past episodes did feel as if they carried a lot of weight that would affect future episodes.
I’ve noticed a pattern in King’s Quest in that each episode seems to be focused on a slightly different style of gameplay. Snow Place Like was a very, very puzzle heavy. The majority of the them were simply different variations of the same thing and after a while they felt repetitive. If there was some variety offered up front in terms of solving the puzzles perhaps I would have tolerated them more, but as it stands I had a hard time even getting through the episode.
Despite some minor drawbacks, the episode itself has a strong beginning and end. The middle is pretty mellow except for some family drama, but once again I did get a sense of the characters really struggling to work with each other and trying to get along. There’s a strong emphasis on accepting people for who they are instead of what a person has pictured in their head, which I personally enjoyed.
While this episode lacked a lot of the tongue-n-cheek humor I’ve come to expect from King’s Quest, the rest holds up pretty well. The voice acting, as always, is superb, capturing the emotion of each character perfectly. The relationship between Grandfather Graham and his granddaughter Gwendolyn feels genuine with every interaction. During my brief time spent with these two characters I truly felt as if I was sitting in on an intimate scene between a grandfather and granddaughter as he tells her stories from his younger days.
King’s Quest has a lot going for it that makes it hard not to love from beginning to end. Despite the lackluster excitement in this episode, the somber atmosphere made sense by the time I reached the ending. The artwork is gorgeous as always, with hints of watercolor used throughout the series I just happened to notice in passing. It truly felt as if I was playing through a storybook rather than a game, and I fell in love with the art style within five minutes of playing.
I did love the design of the sphinx, who has a smooth voice and elegant quality to her. While she’s talking I had a real sense this was an intelligent, ancient being that truly enjoyed puzzles. She gained immense pleasure from seeing people below her high level of intellect attempt to solve the challenges she set before them and more than a few times even comments on their attempts to find a solution.
King’s Quest is a solid series, and while some episodes may not be as strong as others, overall I’m in LOVE with it from start to finish. The artwork is amazing with hints of water color and storybook elements that’s easy to spot from the very beginning. The soft, earthy tones inspire a sense of a childhood wonder and nostalgia. There’s also a strong element of real adventure going on from episode to episode, and creates a sense of urgency.
King’s Quest Chapter Four: Snow Place Like Home continues this winning tradition, despite its lesser moments, and there’s no reason why fans who’ve made the journey thus far shouldn’t keep pace. Somehow King’s Quest is able to find the balance between comedy, emotion, story, and art all rolled up into one, with a constant theme of making fun of common fairytale tropes while the game still manages to stand as its own entity. Very few stories, let alone episodic games, are able to pull this off so beautifully and effortlessly.