King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella

1988 Sierra On-Line
Designed by Roberta Williams
Reviewed 1996 March 15

Rating -3 Linearity wide
Reasonability sporadic Connectivity moderate
Difficulty challenging Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned parser Real-time occasional

King Graham has a heart attack. You are his daughter, Rosella. Genesta, a fairy, offers to help you find a cure for Graham if you come to her land and help retrieve her talisman from the wicked witch Lolotte. You end up on three quests for sundry items, as well as another looking for Graham's cure. You'll meet a familiar bunch of storybook characters, and also an unlikely love interest.

The plot is little more than a scavenger hunt. The quests have an order, which provides some semblance of a story. The only interesting twist is the love interest, and even he is pretty much a cardboard character.

The challenges are mostly basic inventory problems. Most are are about remaining in character and exploring, rather than explicit problems. Almost all of these are reasonable, and a few are clever. Real-time challenges are pervasively and gratuitously mixed in. Navigating stairs and paths are among the more difficult challenges of the game. There is also some tedious monster dodging.

There are several dead-ends where you can be stuck in an unwinnable game and not know it. There are also some problems that aren't solvable unless you die first to learn something of the nature of the problem.

The interface is well done. You move Rosella via the arrow keys (or keypad), and a good text parser handles the other actions. The graphics wring the most out of the technology, creating a pleasant and easy to understand world. A MIDI score helps to set the mood, but is not overused.

King's Quest IV is a good program, but the game side falls flat. The spare story doesn't even try to compensate for the haphazard design. Walking up a flight of stairs is the toughest part of the game. This skill requirement could be forgiven if there was any element of fun associated with it, such as dodging goons or slaying dragons, but it's required instead for mundane, relatively safe tasks. What's the point?

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.