King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown

1984 Sierra On-Line
Designed by Roberta Williams
Reviewed 1996 February 1

Rating -1 Linearity wide, branching
Reasonability sporadic Connectivity moderate
Difficulty challenging Relevance moderate
Interface 3rd paned parser Real-time minor

You are Sir Graham, the best knight in a declining kingdom. The old king sends you on a quest to gather three magic items to restore the kingdom's fortunes. If you succeed, he will make you heir to the throne.

There's little plot to King's Quest, and only a weak back-story. The game is set in a land combining elements of many common fairy tales. The way the game plays with them is humourous and fun, and it works well with the limited graphics of the day.

The puzzle of the game is flexible. There is a simple, reasonable solution that wins the game, but it doesn't score full points. Getting full points is much more difficult and occasionally silly. As a result, some objects are used for one solution but not others. This spices the game up a bit, since red herrings are not always red. It also gives you a reason to replay the game. The three tasks can be pursued independently of each other, but, as you play, it's not always clear which quest particular actions advance.

You move your character around the screen in real-time. This would be fun, but the game also requires you to be careful when doing so. For example, when walking along some stairs you have to be careful not to walk off the edge and fall to your death. This is boring as an arcade challenge but requires tedious attention for an adventure game where you expect to win by your wits. Similarly, there are monsters that will attack you in certain areas, and your main defense is to leave the area: again, too easy to be fun but tedious enough to be annoying.

King's Quest has a charming feel to it. The overall game has a good architecture, but there are lapses in reason in some specifics. The scaled difficulty (i.e., winning with various amounts of points) is a nice idea to make the game accessible to beginners but still challenging for seasoned adventurers.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Solution by me.

Related reviews:

  • The King's Quest Series
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.