Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT VOODOO?sierra_001

In the 1980s, the adventure game was dominated by the puzzle. The Infocom text adventures were elaborate brain-teasers, often written by and for people with backgrounds in science and math. Even when Sierra popularised the genre, making it more accessible by adding graphics and animation, problem solving was still the point; story was secondary to puzzle and exploration; and characterisation almost non-existent; King Graham of Daventry or Roger Wilco were ciphers in whom one could not be expected to take any personal interest. (Neither really speaks in the EGA games.) They were an entry into the world of the game, a puppet the player could control and use to explore.

As technology progressed, so did what the adventure game was capable of. There were two main paths the adventure game went down: ‘adventure’ or ‘game’. LucasArts took the puzzle-driven approach of Infocom, and cloaked it in a more attractive, less drily mathematical guise; the problems became ever more baroque (notably Day of the Tentacle, with its time-travelling conundrums), while the writing and dialogue became cleverer and funnier. Sierra, on the other hand, placed the emphasis more on ‘adventure’, bringing the game closer to cinema. An average Sierra game of the 1990s has more emphasis on emotion and characterisation than a LucasArts game, with some downplaying puzzle solving, or subordinating it to the story (the Laura Bow and Conquests series, and to a degree Quest for Glory).

And then there is Gabriel Knight (1993).

Here, designer Jane Jensen took the genre’s growing interest in characterisation to its logical end: she gave players a character whose personality, as much as the adventure he appeared in, was the focus of the game.

Gabriel Knight, unsuccessful novelist and bookseller, is an anti-hero. Whereas the Sierra protagonist (with the exceptions of Manhunter and Leisure Suit Larry) was likeable—bumbling, naïve, yes, but likeable—Knight is not. For most of the game, Knight is an unengaging character: a womaniser, arrogant, and generally obnoxious. (The sexist comments and the byplay with Mosley – ‘you goddamn wiener’ – are particularly grating.) And the game is aware of this. sierra_025Indeed, the game is about Knight’s maturation: the Jungian process of individuation as adventure game, complete with monsters from the collective unconscious, dream sequences, symbolism and an entire ossuary in the family closet.

Knight investigates a mystery (a series of ‘Voodoo Murders’ in New Orleans), and ends up discovering his family history and himself: what sort of man he is, what sort of man he could be, and his purpose in life.

It’s tricky to pull off; making the protagonist downright unlikeable from the start, and then gradually humanising him. This is why a murder mystery is such a good choice. sierra_006A mystery is a ‘hook’: it has a strong structure, which a more open-ended adventure/quest story lacks. From the start, there are crime scenes to be searched, clues to be followed up, and witnesses to be interrogated. sierra_009

And voodoo and New Orleans are irresistible ingredients for a story, as John Dickson Carr (Papa Là-bas, not one of the old boy’s best) and the makers of Live and Let Die knew.  To its credit, the game largely avoids sensationalism; voodoo is treated as a serious religion, with distinctions made between various types (historical, current, hoodoo or black).  It never goes down the dubious path of equating voodoo with evil or superstition à la H.P. Lovecraft.  The cult is evil not because vodou is evil but because they worship a destructive loa.

And so the player’s focus is on investigating the mystery with Gabriel’s character an irritation; the connection between the Voodoo Murders and Knight himself is not apparent until a couple of days into the game.

Naturally, the gameplay is deep rather than broad; although Knight’s investigations take him to Bavaria and Benin, most of the game takes place in a few locations in New Orleans over ten days, with new events happening as the game progresses. (An approach which Sierra had used with success in the Laura Bow games, Quest for Glory, and Freddy Pharkas.) Gabriel Knight - BayouKnight’s investigations gradually reveal layers of the characters, who all react to his questions in different ways. Indeed, the game unfolds through character (talking and finding information), with puzzles as necessary to advance the story. There are some difficult puzzles (finding where the conclave is meeting in Bayou St John), but few have great neon signs saying ‘This Is A Puzzle’; rather, the puzzles are organic and integrated to the story, and the player wants to solve them to advance the story.

A remake of the game was released in 2014. Although an interesting game, it does not hold a voodoo candle to the original. The problem is the graphics. The original game was in 256 colour VGA, and (as Richard Cobbett points out) those colours are used to great effect. The remake, like Jensen’s recent Gray Matter, is more photo-realistic, using 3D modelling. As a result, the game looks too bright and clean; much of the atmosphere is lost. output_gQLfSdThis is particularly true of the Snake Mound in Benin, one of the scariest places in an adventure game; the remake lacks the original’s sense of danger. The Voodoo houngan in the remake is more stylish; instead of the near-Star Trek bland corridors of the original, the corridors are decorated with African masks and statuary. (I’ve loved African art since I was a kid: afternoons in the Musée royal de l’Afrique centrale in Brussels, looking at exhibitions of witchcraft and initiation rituals; my parents’ books on African masks…)

Perhaps the game’s greatest descendant is not the two sequels that followed (werewolves and Wagner in Bavaria, with too much video footage of bad actors; and vampires and the Grail in France), but Revolution Software’s Broken Sword series, with a similar blend of historical mystery, modern day crime, and exotic locations. Unlike Gabriel, though, George Stobbart, the American abroad, is actually likeable.

Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter

Space Quest is a gleeful send-up of Saturday matinee / Star Wars-esque space swashbuckling adventures, with the hapless janitor Roger Wilco (that’s you) lurching from one exploit to another, and usually getting horribly killed in the process.

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SQI: The Sarien Encounter comes in two forms: EGA (16 colour text parser) and VGA (mouse driven).

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In both versions, you’re serving aboard the research ship Arcada when it’s boarded by the slimy Sariens, those bad boys of the galaxy, who massacre everyone aboard and steal the Star Generator.

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You escape in a pod,

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(Or not.)

crash on a desert world,

scidhuv_017 and eventually make your way to the Sariens’ ship.

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Groovy décor.

The game is influenced by Infocom’s Planetfall, in which the player is a lowly crewman who’s sweeping the floors when the ship is damaged, and crashes on a planet. What makes SQI different is the emphasis on action. Indeed, this was one of its selling points. As the 1987 manual proclaimed: ‘Arcade sequences to challenge and conquer. You will need more than quick wits to win this game!’ If Sierra games could do 3D, why not exploit that fact? So Roger travels to Ulence Flats in a skimmer, shoots Sariens, and there’s a countdown at both the start and end of the game.

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Whereas in later games (particularly beginning with SQII), the humour would be integral to the plot, here the story is fairly serious, and the humour subdued. There are a few hints of the direction the series would take (Roger can go to a bar and get drunk),

sierra_116but it lacks the sarcastic wit of later games. On the whole, it feels (to someone who grew up on the VGA version) like a rough sketch—the basic plot elements are there, the structure is there—but it’s not life as we know it, Jim.

Space Quest I VGA is unquestionably the superior version.

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The game is brilliant. There’s a confidence about the game, from the moment that rock score kicks in and a ‘spastic research droid’ whizzes by on the first screen.

scidhuv_011What makes it work is the designers’ warped sense of humour. Roger can explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and sniff, lick and nibble his way from one corner of the galaxy to another.

sq1corpse(This is even funnier if you think of it in Jimmy Stewart’s voice.)

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(A joke in poor taste?)

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Then there’s the Instant Death Replay.

So even though the game is short, and fairly easy to beat, it’s a joy to play.  Now for the other five…

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King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride

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The King’s Quest series has always been a “family” game, but this seems aimed at a younger audience than earlier games.  From the start, the series had always been influenced by fairy tales, but here it’s unmistakably Disneyesque.  Not only is it cartoony; it even opens with one heroine (Rosella) singing, and the villain is dressed in the “evil” colours of black and purple.  (The other heroine, Valanice, is, for some reason, modelled on Cinderella’s stepmother – all eyebrows and bouffant.)

Unfortunately, while it’s a beautiful game to look at—the animation is excellent: clear, crisp, brightly coloured; and critics understandably raved when it came out—it’s a different thing to play.  The game veers between being “twee”, downright childish, and often dull.  Rosella’s character has degenerated since KQIV.  In that game, she came across as competent and plucky.  Here, she’s downright irritating.  (Her ‘Oh noooh!’ is the sort of thing that sends shivers down the spine.  Nails and chalkboards spring to mind.)

The gameplay is frustrating.  The interface is simplistic: one cursor for everything (and a curse from the player). This removes the player’s ability to explore, the interactivity that was one of Sierra’s strengths. Since the player has less freedom, and less to do, the game feels pretty but empty.  Sierra has borrowed Lucasarts’ habit of having the player character comment on the action, rather than (which I prefer) an omniscient, rather sarky, narrator. There are no subtitles, or a text option, so one has to hear every conversation. One can’t save games—it didn’t help my enjoyment of the game that I had to replay Chapter 5 because the game “froze” when the black wind grabbed me.

King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow

sierra_105(This is going to be a very short write up of a game.  Put it down to the fact that I played it a couple of months ago.)

King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow is the best regarded game in the series – and one of the mos highly regarded games ever made.  VGA graphics!  Professional voice actors!  CD-ROM!  Lip-synching!  3D animation!  Jane Jensen!

But is it the be-all and end-all of adventure gaming that it’s made out to be?

KQVI is an ambitious game. It’s a “plot”-driven game in a way that the earlier games, focused on exploration and adventuring, weren’t. Where KQV was broad (mountains, forests, deserts, islands), KQVI is deep. The situation may be archetypal—handsome prince, girl in the tower, evil vizier (named Abdul Alhazred)—but there’s more emphasis on characterisation, plots and sub-plots than in any previous game. Instead of the usual fairy tales, the game draws on Classical, Celtic and Arabian myths, Perrault, and Lewis Carroll.

So why do I like KQV more?

Like Monkey Island 2 (which may be the most over-rated adventure game ever), going back and forth between the islands rapidly becomes a chore. Moreover, although the plot is well thought out, it’s very talky. Now, I’m not against talking in adventure games per se; The Dagger of Amon-Ra, the Quest for Glory series, The Last Express, and Sam & Max are all games in which the story is propelled by, and much of the atmosphere comes from, character interactions. But KQVI gets bogged down in conversation, most of which is either serious or not as funny as it’s intended to be.

Above all, although KQVI is an excellent game, it’s also a self-important one. There’s a sense that this is not just a game, this is Art. But is it…fun?

King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!

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If King’s Quest IV was big, King’s Quest V was revolutionary.  This was the game which got rid of typing, and replaced the parser that had been a mainstay of the adventure game genre since Will Crowther’s Colossal Cave Adventure and Infocom’s Zork with an iconographic interface.  This was the game which introduced 256 colour VGA graphics.  It sold 500,000 copies, and was the best-selling computer game (in any genre) for the next five years.  It was rapturously received by the critics (1991 Software Publishing Association Excellence in Software Award for Best Fantasy Role-Playing/Adventure Program; Computer Gaming World’s 1991 Adventure Game of the Year; Best Multimedia Fantasy/Adventure Game).  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

It may also be the single most widely criticised game Sierra ever made.  (Codename: ICEMAN and Manhunter are hated, but they’re too obscure to be hated widely.)

These criticisms can be summarised thus: the game is technologically advanced but the game design is primitive, because you can die, you can get stuck, and the puzzles are illogical.  (It also suffers from Cedric, possibly the most detested sidekick in the genre, and, in the CD-ROM version, amateur voice acting.  Simple solution: play the DOS version.)

King’s Quest V is not (as its critics suggest) a triumph of style over substance, a technologically advanced engine and pretty graphics disguising antiquated gameplay.  Instead, King’s Quest V is arguably a summing up of the genre thus far.  It was produced in 1990, the year of Sierra’s decennary, a time when the company would naturally both celebrate and consider its place in computer history.  What is more fitting than that King’s Quest V—the fifth game in the company’s flagship series, the most celebrated series in adventure gaming—should both look forward technologically, with its abolition of the traditional typing interface, and cast a glance backwards, to the early days of the company and its Hi-Res Adventures?  Just as The Colonel’s Bequest was a revision of Williams’s first game, Mystery House, so King’s Quest V is a reworking of her second, The Wizard and the Princess.  Both games are set in Serenia, and involve a snake blocking a path, a desert, a journey by boat (with a hole in it), islands, and a wizard’s maze.

The game may be seen as an attempt to create the ultimate adventure game.  As I’ve suggested elsewhere, Sierra’s concept of the adventure game is experiential (story-driven, and with an emphasis on the player’s immersion in the story, as in a good movie), unlike the intellectual approach of Infocom and LucasArts, which emphasize problem-solving.  Indeed, KQV was seen at the time as a relatively easy game.  The puzzles are relatively straightforward (find object and give it to person / use it on thing), and lack the baroque ingenuity of Day of the Tentacle or Discworld, or the MENSA-type conundrums of Zork III or Spellbreaker.  But it has an epic scale, a sense of scope, not before seen in a graphic adventure game.  King Graham’s quest to rescue his family and castle from the wizard Mordack takes him from the picturesque valley of Serenia,

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through a desert infested by bandits and with a temple straight out of the Arabian Nights or Indiana Jones,

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and a dark forest with a wicked witch,

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over mountains,

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where he kills a Yeti and escapes from a roc,

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across the sea, to the island of the harpies,

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and finally to Mordack’s castle.

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Even 25 years later, the hand-painted graphics are extraordinary: visually rich, with lots of detail.

 

The accusation that the game is unfair and frustrating because you can die, you can get stuck, and the puzzles are illogical can be simplified: it’s challenging, and it’s not LucasArts.  Now, while Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and Fate of Atlantis are brilliant games, LucasArts’ approach should not be seen as a universal standard, the formula against which all other games either fall or stand.  Sierra’s design sensibility is different from LucasArts; it should not be penalised for this any more than Infocom should be. The adventure game genre is (or should be) broad enough for different approaches.

Let us consider some of the most criticized puzzles in detail:

The cat.

kq5cat  See the crown by Graham’s leg?  That’s the HOLD icon.

sierra_065This means that there’s some action you can take.  If the cat eats the mouse, it’s obvious that you did something wrong.  What do you have in your inventory?

 

Throwing the custard pie at the Yeti

sierra_073This is called lateral thinking.  Large hairy monster rushing towards you.  What do you do?  You don’t have any weapons – but you could (if you were clever) think of temporarily blinding it with a custard pie, so that it falls to its doom off that whopping great cliff in front of you.

You don’t have a pie, you say?  You’ve eaten it already?  Oh dear. If you ate the custard pie in the mountains, you should look at your diet.  You’re in the middle of the mountains, in the freezing cold; your body is craving fuel; and you stick a piece of sweet pastry in your gob.  ‘I eat a healthy balanced diet of sugar, carbs, artificial coloring and flavors, and weigh 600 stone.’  Next course: elephant au gratin, a little fried hippopotamus, and cement pudding.

What, you ate it before climbing the mountains?  This is an adventure game.  Do you get points for eating the pie?  No.  Does eating the pie do anything useful?  No.  This is like eating the porridge in King’s Quest III or the magic fruit in King’s Quest IV, and then complaining that the game is unfair.

 

The mazes

sierra_066Mazes were a standard of the early adventure game.  The best of these—e.g., the Glass Maze in Infocom’s Sorcerer—were ingenious and intriguingIn the average maze, each room had the same description (“You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”), and the rooms weren’t connected  For instance, you would go north from Room 1 into Room 2, go south from Room 2 into Room 6, go east from Room 6 into Room 1, go west from Room 1 into Room 2, and go east from Room 2 into Room 7.  If you were unlucky, you would have a timer, so if you spent too long stumbling around the maze, you’d die of coal gas poisoning or be eaten by a grue.  You solved them by dropping an object in each room (to identify it) and trying all the points of the compass.  If you were very unlucky, the game expected you to do all the above, but didn’t give you enough inventory items to map the area properly.  (See The Wizard and the Princess.)

Mordack’s labyrinth is, as mazes go, one of the better ones.  It is a maze in the old school tradition; the way in which the perspective changes every time Graham moves in a different direction is clever.

The desert is fairly simple to map, but (as Scorpia in Computer Gaming World argued) would be better with boundaries, so you’re not stumbling across 130 screens.

 

 

Mouseholes and glinting things

Small objects (e.g., the coin, the key, crystal, the fish hook, the conch shell) all shine, so you should be able to tell that there’s something interesting there.

As for finding the cheese:

kq5beastkq5cell‘Nuff said, really.

 

King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella

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From the flourish of horns in the opening bars to the nearly ten minute opening there’s a sense of something big about King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella (1988).  You think you know what a computer can do?  Look at the graphics!  (This was the first game to use Sierra’s Creative Interpreter, or SCI, an advance over the old AGI engine.)  Listen to the 40 minute score, written by Hollywood composer William Goldstein!  (This was the first PC game to support a sound card.)  Move the mouse cursor!  (This was the first Sierra game to support the mouse.)  This isn’t just a computer game, Sierra proclaims; this is a new form of storytelling: interactive cinema, with an emotional impact on the player: “Can a computer game make you cry?”

The game is set in the distant land of Tamir, over a period of 24 hours.  Princess Rosella of Daventry (one of the first heroines in adventure gaming) must find the magic fruit that will save her dying father King Graham, and the talisman of the good fairy Genesta (stolen by the evil fairy Lolotte).  If she fails to accomplish either of these quests, both Graham and Genesta will die.

In an interesting twist, Rosella does the bidding of the forces of evil.  ‘Bring me a unicorn!’ shrieks Lolotte.  ‘Bring me the hen that lays the golden eggs!’  ‘Bring me Pandora’s Box, the most evil artefact in the entire world, which I shall use to usher in an age of terror the world has never known!’

In terms of gameplay, it’s not too different from the earlier games.  The player explores a regular-shaped landscape (a grid of screens 6 by 5), inhabited by creatures from myth and fairytale. Most of these want to eat you.  These include:

Trolls

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What is that sound? Those crunching noises pervading the air!

Ogres

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Round these parts, we eat door to door salespeople.

Witches

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Zombies

kq4zombiesAnd Lolotte’s bat-winged henchmen.

kq4goonsEven the trees are dangerous.

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“Wooden harm a fly?”

Frankly, there aren’t many things in Tamir that don’t want to eat you.  There are the dwarves and the fisherman and his wife – they’re just rude, until you oblige.  There’s the minstrel, who’s only too happy to inflict his out of tune renditions of the Beatles on you.

There’s the unicorn, which is tamed by Rosella.

sciv_074  And frogs.

kq4frogLet’s not read too much into this.

Most of the puzzles are clever.  The one puzzle that gets criticised is finding the golden bridle.  It’s solvable, but it’s rather an obtuse solution.

(SPOILERS)  You have to travel to Genesta’s island.  (You should be able to guess that there’s an island in the sea, since a) it’s mentioned a couple of times in the introduction, and b) Genesta and her fairies fly off to the west.)  You then have to swim into the ocean, and get eaten by a whale.  (Which admittedly takes luck.)  Trying to escape from the whale has been known to make strong men weak at the knees, and drive hardened gamers to the demon drink.

sciv_066It’s actually not that bad a puzzle – the issue is that it’s an action puzzle (climbing around on the whale’s tongue without falling off, and without being overcome by the mephitic halitosis fumes), rather than a logical puzzle.  There’s nothing wrong per se with puzzles that rely on physical skills or dexterity: navigating staircases, mountain paths, rock mazes, whale tongues and all.  Even the old text adventures had action sequences – in Zork, for instance, you had to kill a couple of monsters to win the game.  But as adventure games became more “point-and-click” (and cerebral), action sequences vanished.

Then Rosella (with a subtle yet unmistakable aroma of ambergris) is washed up on an island.  On this island is a bridle.  Several commentators have complained that you can’t see the bridle, and so the puzzle is unfair.  Is it?

kq4bridleNow, in modern adventure games, everything has a hotspot.  In practice, this often means that the backdrops are pretty but static.  Since you can tell with a sweep of the mouse or a press of the spacebar what you can interact with, you can ignore the scenery.

Sierra games don’t work like that. Indeed, the third “Tip for New Adventure Players” is to:

“BE OBSERVANT.  Look at and examine everything you can.  When you enter a  new location type LOOK AROUND.  When you open a box type OPEN THE BOX.  If you want to see the contents of the box type LOOK IN THE BOX.  When you want to talk to a fisherman type TALK TO THE FISHERMAN.  The descriptions and close-ups offered may provide valuable clues.”

Because there aren’t any hotspots, the environment teems with hidden possibilities.  From being a pretty picture, it becomes something to explore.

Let’s look at the screen above.  Can you do anything to the pelican: talk to it, feed it, eat it?  Can you climb the tree, or chop it down to make a boat?  What’s that black thing near the island on the lower right?  Can you do anything with the boat sticking out of the water?  Can you drink the seawater?  Wandering through the forest, you don’t know what’s lying under a rock or up a tree.

It’s more fun that way.

King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human

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King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human (1987) is the most difficult game in the series.  While the first two games were (as Roberta Williams described them) “treasure hunts with lots of simple goals (you go from here to there) and fun puzzles to add challenge”, KQIII is a tricky bastard.

sierra_004Talking of bastards: see that bearded cove with the bristly eyebrows and the menacing gaze?  That’s Manannan.  He’s a wizard.  And you’re his slave.

Yes, you’re no longer brave Sir Graham  merrily setting forth on a bright spring day to find three treasures or three keys.  You’re a 17 year old named Gwydion, and your first task is to feed the wizard, feed his chickens, clean his study, clean his kitchen, or (if you’re very unlucky) empty the wizard’s chamber pot.  Put one foot out of line, and you’ll be punished.  Possibly fatally.

Want to go down the mountain, and explore the land of Llewdor?

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Fail to do one of your chores?

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Get caught with a magical item?

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This game may have been single-handedly responsible for LucasArts’ game design policy: “We believe that you buy our games to be entertained, not to be whacked over the head every time you make a mistake.”  Now, great though many of LucasArts’ games were, this has of late been raised to the level of an axiom.  Player deaths and dead ends are out, verboten.  Any game in which the player can die is axiomatically a bad game.  The player can die in a Sierra game, therefore a Sierra game is a bad game.

The problem is that there are two aesthetic approaches here.  LucasArts focuses on the puzzle; as a result, as L.B. Jeffries points out, their approach is primarily cerebral, and most of the games are comedies.  Sierra focuses on the story; as a result, the games range widely in tone and mood, and any technique which involves the player – including his death – is not only legitimate, but effective.  This is, after all, an adventure game, not just an exercise in clever lateral thinking skills.  Deaths may be frustrating, but they also create tension; and tension draws the player into the game. Would King’s Quest III be as tense if you weren’t racing against the clock, trying to climb up mountain paths and lock up laboratories before the wizard came home from a journey and caught you in the act?  Would you get the same sense of satisfaction at defeating Manannan if he just patted you on the head, and chided you in a fatherly way, rather than blasting you into a thousand smoking pieces of feathery white bone ash?

NO.

Although an excellent game in many respects, KQIII does have its longueurs.  Too much of the game is spent hanging around waiting for the wizard to leave, or (in a later part of the game) for the pirate ship to reach shore.  This is the problem with a time-driven game – too much of it is spent waiting for time to pass.  This is improved in King’s Quest IV, which is also a timed game, running on a 24-hour cycle; however, night is triggered when the player has done everything that needs to be done in the day.  It is more effective for the player’s own actions to advance the narrative, rather than the clock.  As it is, the section on the pirate ship seems like a squandered opportunity; the player doesn’t do anything except retrieve his inventory from the captain’s cabin, and then wait in the hold for the ship to get to shore.  sierra_024If you admire Sartre because he does a splendid job of conveying dreariness and ennui, you might claim that Williams has instilled a sense of Gwydion’s frustration and boredom in the player, and that the game is an Existentialist allegory about freedom and autonomy, in which Gwydion must earn his independence through vanquishing the wizard, discover his true identity, and endure hours of boredom, powerlessness and captivity, before coming into his own.  Otherwise, it’s tempting here to read a book, walk the dog, or pour yourself a stiff drink – all of which take you out of the game.  (AGDI’s King’s Quest III Redux introduces a sub-quest here, which breaks the monotony.)

More than any other game, King’s Quest III lends itself to a psychoanalytical reading.  From a Jungian perspective, Gwydion’s quest of self-discovery is an allegory for the process of individuation.  Although he is thwarted in his efforts at psychological integration by a negative form of the Wise Old Man (both wizard and devouring father), his trauma is overcome, and his childhood memories and sense of self restored, with the help of the Wise Old Woman, in the guise of the Oracle.

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From a Freudian perspective, the game is obviously about the Oedipus complex.  Manannan is the powerful father figure, who must be defeated by the young male.  He is both the repressive superego to Gwydion’s rebellious id, and  the archetypal anal-retentive personality, who tries to prevent Gwydion from reaching the phallic stage.  He kills young men on their eighteenth birthday, the day when they become adult males.  His power (virility) lies in his magic wand; and Gwydion is punished if he is caught handling his wand.  (Obvious castration anxiety.)  Manannan is defeated by being effectively emasculated; his wand is taken away, and he is turned into a cat.  (Do I even need to point out that another word for “cat” is “pussy”?)  However, in the absence of a mother figure, young Gwydion has been unable to develop a healthy Oedipus complex.  Instead, he has a deviant Oedipus complex, which is fixated on his sister.

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“Die bräutliche Schwester befreite der Bruder; zertrümmert liegt, was je sie getrennt: jauchzend grüsst sich das junge Paar: vereint sind Liebe und Lenz!”

We will pass over the significance of the pirates; worse things have happened at sea.

For our next game, we will analyze King’s Quest IV: The Penis of Rosella* in terms of the Hero’s Journey (with Rosella literally in the Belly of the Whale), the Elektra complex (Rosella kills the mother-in-law figure, an obvious mother substitute, and chooses her father over her suitor), and the phallic significance of the serpent.  All serpents are phallic.  Everything is phallic.  Indeed, as Umberto Eco stated, “the penis is nothing but a phallic symbol”.  Thank you, Dr. Freud.

*: This is a Freudian slip.  Also available are Freudian knickers and Freudian bras.

There are two remakes of the game available: Infamous Adventures’ King’s Quest III, and AGDI’s King’s Quest III Redux.  Both are recommended.