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Written by  :  Jayson Firestorm (156)
Written on  :  Aug 27, 2002
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Possibly my personal favourite of the King’s Quest series

The Good

Remember when you where a child, tucked up all cosy in your bed, and your mother / father would read you a bed-time fairy-tale story? Well, this game brings the atmosphere of all those cosy fairy tales to life.
Seven dwarfs, an ogre’s house, a hen that lays golden eggs, witches… it’s all there.

From the rather plain original, the series had really evolved, and in this instalment things really start to come alive and find their stride.
Each of the King’s Quest games were traditionally bigger than it’s predecessor, but KQ4 is much, MUCH bigger than any of the previous games, by far the largest and most complex game in the series up to this point.

The thing that really stands out with this adventure is purely the great atmosphere it has to it, really sucking the player in, and having a lot of good ideas and various areas to explore.
It’s also much more intelligent than the first couple of games, with the magical land of Tamir feeling much more like a “living” world.

One of the notable things about this game was it’s having a female lead, Princess Rosella. Not only a first for the King’s Quest series, but one of the firsts for PC gaming in general. (There are a couple of sections where this is used dubiously, though. For example, at one stage, to you have to wash and tidy the seven dwarfs house!!)

One of the best elements of the game - and once again, a first for the series - is that it has a day/night-time cycle, with night-time arriving after you’ve completed certain puzzles and mini-quests.
The night has a great effect as it makes everything look creepy, and it revolves mostly around a run-down haunted house, where you have to help some restless ghosts by retrieving various things from their grave, avoiding zombies in the cemetery along the way. It’s much spookier than anything previously seen in any of the previous KQ games, and quite probably stands out as my personal favourite sequence of play within any of the King’s Quest games.

It is the last game in the KQ series to have EGA graphics, and undoubtedly contains some of the best EGA graphics ever seen in a game, in my opinion. Far sharper and better looking than anything seen in any of the previous KQs (or for any other Sierra game of the time, for that matter), the game looks stunning considering it’s EGA limitations.

It’s also the first game in the series to support sound cards. Originally when I played it, I only had the standard PC speaker – and even on that it sounded good, but when I re-played the adventure recently, I heard the sound card-driven effects for the first time, and, considering their age, they sound great.

Also, the last KQ entry to have text interface – I’m one of those who feel the series really lost some of it’s involvement when it was replaced by point-and-click.

This was actually the first King’s Quest game I played (though I dutifully filled in playing the previous instalments afterwards), as it stands as one of my favourite Sierra adventures.

The Bad

There's little I didn’t like about this one; a few nit-picky points at most.

It uses Sierra’s (then) new updated text interface. On the whole it’s good, and the way it pauses the action as you type is handy, not meaning you don't have to frantically finish typing before something fatal happens as in previous adventures. But the way it automatically pops up a window in the centre of the screen is a little distracting – bottom of the screen (as in some other adventures to use the engine) would have been better.
But more annoying is that, is how it stops dead any sound as soon as you enter a single letter, spoiling any background tunes that are playing at the time.

As with the previous KQ games, things are somewhat random driven at times – for example, at one stage, you need to deliberately get swallowed by a whale, but it’s appearance is very random, and as you look for it you’re just as likely to get eaten by a shark

It’s also easy to miss something important, leaving the game unfinishable as a result. For example, at one stage, you find yourself washed up on a small island. A bridal that you need to harness a unicorn elsewhere is actually on the island, but it is actually obscurely located in the ‘V’ of a ship-wreck, and the game gives you no hint that it’s there. You wouldn’t know if you missed it, and worse, it's impossible to return back to this island once you’ve left it.

And of course, as with just about all Sierra adventures of the era, there are several screens that that will see you plummeting to your death if you step one pixel out of place - and there’s plenty of them in this game. Twisty paths, dark caves (with a deep chasm that appears with warning from nowhere)…
And as with most Sierra games of the era, saving your game regularly is vital. Sierra obviously seemed to think such screens were “fun” to play; I guess no-one had the heart to tell them that they weren’t!

Oh, one more thing – the ending just seemed to stop dead. On the closing scene, after King Graham’s life has been saved, the animated picture and music just loop around and around, not having the usual closing credits as with most Sierra games.

The Bottom Line

One of the very best of the ‘King’s Quest’ games, and quite possibly my personal favourite of the series (King’s Quest V being it’s closest rival, though I’ve never managed to get hold of KQ6 to date).
Much bigger, there’s much more to explore than do than the previous entries, with the night-time section of game-play particularly standing out.
In my opinion, if you only ever play one King’s Quest game, this should be the one. It has a real nostalgic feel to it, being a reminder of both Sierra adventures and King’s Quest games in their heyday, at their very best.