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King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella



Sierra On-Line 1988



Fourth chapter in the long running King's Quest series by adventure game masters Sierra Online (now Sierra Entertainment.) This particular chapter focuses around Princess Rosella as she's transported to a far away county in a search for a way to save the ailing King Graham of Daventry. This game was unique as it was one of the first computer games (or game in general for that matter) to feature a female protagonist. This game is also noteworthy as it has the distinction of being the first PC game to support a sound card.

In the game Rosella makes a deal to defeat this evil fairy person in exchange for some magic fruit that will save her father, and is thus transported to a far away land called Tarnia by stepping through a magic mirror. The land is pretty well rendered, with detailed backgrounds that are relevant to the story, a few of them have bits of animation going on. There seems to be a lot of references to various fairy tales throughout the game (apparently this was a convention of the King's Quest series.) Rosella meets cupid, tames a unicorn, kisses a frog, gets swallowed by a whale, etc. True to adventure game rules it's a good idea to take everything in the game that isn't nailed down because most of the puzzles involve you using a particular inventory item (I've always liked how in these games you seem to have bottomless pockets.) However this step-n'-fetchit gameplay can get a little irritating. Half of the "rooms" it seems are merely there for you to obtain one type of item or so. Some of the puzzles are truly obscure, with no hint as to how to proceed, but for the most part if you know your Mother Goose and Has Christian Anderson tales you should be able to figure out what to do.

This game came out before a mouse-only interface became the standard for adventure games, thus it relies on text parsing. Which means that the game might not recognize a word you type in, i.e. "Pick up rock" doesn't work while "pick up stone" does. This leads to situations where you think an object in a room is something you can interact with when it really isn't and you waste a lot of time trying to pick it up or use it when it's just a part of the background scenery. In later adventure games this problem was solved with the use of descriptive hotspots but here it's something you still need to be aware of. Generally if you can't "look" at something then it isn't an object you need to worry about.

As this is a Sierra game you can die and will die often, a lot, in nearly every room. Sierra games back in the day seemed to take sadistic pleasure in figuring out new ways of killing you. Some of these deaths are logical (such as drowning in the ocean or getting eaten by sharks) but a few of them seem to come out of left field. There is a part where you're walking blind in this dark cave, then all of the sudden from out of nowhere you fall to your death into a chasm. Thing is the chasm is in an area of the screen that is completely black, so of course everyone is going to fall into it the first time they venture into the screen. They could have made the chasm visible - they didn't. They wanted to kill you. Later you find a piece of wood to lay across the chasm, but since it's so dark you can't see it, which means you have to inch forward and attempt to lay the board, inch forward then try again, all without falling in. I suppose thats the "game" but there's no reason to make it this frustrating.

The problem with the game actually is that it's a bit girly. I know the main character is female. Still the computer game demographic at the time were older men and teenagers, however the subject matter is clearly aimed at the 8-12 year old market. I guess what I mean to say is just because the main character is a woman doesn't mean she automatically has to be running around with fairies and unicorns and crap.

Overall the game isn't too tough, there are a lot of cheap deaths and such and some of the later puzzles can be confusing, but even me as a 12 year old was able to complete it without a hint book. A version of this game has been re-released in a King's Quest compilation in 2004

Graphics: Graphically the game is pretty decent although it's primitive by today's standards. It looks better than anything that was available on console systems at the time. The characters are small but clearly rendered with bright colors. Apparently there's two versions of the game that use different graphics systems with the more primitive AGS version being the more rare.

Sound: As the first game to offer soundcard support there's some decent music. Once again compared to today's standards it's nothing special, but to other games at the time that relied solely on the PC speaker this was revolutionary.

Gameplay: Pick up everything, walk everywhere, and die a thousand deaths. This is a lot more fun than it sounds.

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