Friday, 18 May 2012

Game 18: King's Quest IV - Grand Theft Arrow

Rosella Journal Entry 2: “Oh I hope I’ve done the right thing! After accidentally coming across Lolotte’s castle, I was captured by her winged demons and imprisoned in a cell. I thought that I’d failed in my quest and therefore ended any chance of either my father or Genesta surviving. I was extremely surprised when Lolotte decided to release me, but of course there was a condition for her leniency. She demanded I bring her the unicorn I’d seen in the meadows to prove my innocence! With no other option available to me (I need Genesta’s talisman that Lolotte has), I set out trying to capture the unicorn. This turned out to be extremely difficult and involved stealing Cupid’s bow and arrow to charm the unicorn and finding a bridle on a deserted island to ride it. I feel terrible about it, but I’ve given the unicorn to Lolotte now. It’s such a beautiful creature and I fear for its safety, but I could see no other choice. To make matters worse, the evil fairy has merely followed up her demand with another. Now I must retrieve the hen that lays golden eggs from a terrifying giant! Oh…I never knew how hard this adventuring thing was for my father and brother!”


My main quest at the end of my last post

Seriously, King’s Quest IV is hard! Much harder than I expected! At the end of my last post, I’d finished mapping out the screens and collecting items, and solved some of the more obvious puzzles (got the fishing pole from the fisherman, the crown from the frog, the lute from the guy in the meadow and the flute from Pan). I wasn't particularly worried, but I was wondering what on earth I was going to do next. Many readers left comments, but I wanted to give the game my all before resorting to hints. So it was that I wandered around Tamir trying to find something I’d missed. I tried playing the flute just about everywhere, I tried getting through the waterfall, I tried to get past the creepy trees in the groves, I tried all sorts of things with the swimming pool and in the cemetery, but I couldn’t get anywhere.


There doesn't seem to be anything to do here...yet.

In the end, I decided to try swimming off the beach, hoping to find another piece of land to explore. Clearly I was missing something! Previous King’s Quest games had taught me that swimming out to sea would likely end in my death, but you never know if you never go! I started swimming directly out to sea from a random beach screen. Within a couple of screens I was attacked and killed by a shark. Hmmm…not looking good! I had another go and this time managed to get another screen further before the shark attacked me. I quickly avoided him by going down to the next screen and to my absolute elation found land ahead of me! I gave myself a deserved “facepalm” for not trying this earlier, but then it did seem like a futile thing to try. There were no hints on the mainland that there might be an island out to sea, unless I simply missed them.


I wonder how many King's Quest IV players never found this island

My excitement at finding a whole new area to explore didn’t last long however. The island was made up of only a handful of screens, with Genesta’s palace being the central focus. The only item I found in the palace’s surroundings was a peacock feather, which I didn’t feel I would be able to apply to any of the screens on the mainland. Entering the palace led me up a flight of stairs to Genesta’s bedroom, where she lays ill in her bed surrounded by small flying fairies. She wouldn’t respond to me in any way, nor would the fairies or the leopard resting in the corner of the room. Basically, despite putting quite a bit of thought into it, I could see nothing that I could do in Genesta’s Palace, and was therefore forced to head back to the mainland with only a feather to show for my discovery.


I'm curious as to why all the fairies are small and unable to speak while Genesta and Lolotte are human size

I did take a brief swim around to see whether there was anything else out at sea, but other than seeing a whale in the distance that I didn’t seem to be able to reach, nothing came of it. Since Rosella can only swim for around three screens before drowning, it seemed safe to assume the island was the only place of interest off the mainland. I hit the mainland right near the pier, and decided that I would spend some more time fishing. My previous attempts to catch a fish with the pole and worm had failed, but why else would I have a fishing pole and a worm if not to catch something with it? I cast out again and once again was met with disappointment. I tried again and the same thing happened. I tried one last time and…I caught a fish!!!!!!!


Bass Quest is Sierra's most realistic fishing simulator thus far!

I’ve done my share of fishing over the years. It’s not something I do regularly, but I’ve done it enough to know that catching a fish isn’t easy. You have to be patient and prepared to cast out many times before having any success. With this in mind, King’s Quest IV works quite well as a fishing simulator, but surely realism doesn’t play a role in a puzzle based adventure game! Particularly not in one based entirely on fantasy. I watched the fisherman fish with no success. He then gave me his pole and I tried fishing, with no success. I then found a worm, attached it to the hook, and tried fishing with no success. Why should I try again? Clearly I was just missing some other item that would make the fish bite or perhaps there was another location that I was supposed to fish from? This sort of puzzle (ie. one that makes you repeatedly try to the same task until it somehow randomly works) is just not welcome in the adventure genre in my opinion (does anyone disagree?).


So I gave this guy a pouch of diamonds because there were no fish to catch...don't I feel stupid!

Moving on…now I had a dead fish! Like the feather, I couldn’t see how that would assist me anywhere, but I decided to visit every screen to see if a “eureka” moment might occur. Moving from west to east, it didn’t take me long to arrive at the swimming pool to find cupid flying around the screen, placing his bow and arrow on the ground, and then taking a swim. WTF? Cupid had never been there before, just as the lute player hadn’t originally been in the meadow. I know that some of you had tried to warn me about King’s Quest IV and in particular, how certain things only happen at certain times, but I kind of thought they might be more obvious. I don’t have a major issue with triggered events, but having spent about thirty minutes trying to make something happen at the swimming pool earlier, finding out that I was wasting my time kind of hurt. I don’t yet completely know how I feel about this, but it sure highlights why King’s Quest IV is so difficult. I’ve wasted hours trying to figure out things that simply can’t be figured out…yet!


Oh look! It's cupid taking a bath. How adorable! Quick...let's steal all his stuff! Mwahaha...

My immediate reaction on finding cupid flying around was to approach him and try to communicate. He freaked out and flew away. I re-entered the screen, let him put his bow and arrow on the ground and dive into the pool, and then walked towards his equipment. Once again he freaked out, but this time he flew away without getting the bow and arrow, leaving them there for me to pick up. I was happy to add them to my inventory, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for cupid and thinking that this little scene goes against the normal approach necessary in King’s Quest games. Now poor little cupid is flying around without his bow and arrow! Ah screw him! Let’s go shoot some stuff! Thankfully I saved my game because I quickly found out that I only had two arrows to shoot. I tried shooting them at the giant that chases you near his home, but missed. After figuring there must be two places where you are required to fire the arrows, I restored and set about finding one of them. The most obvious answer was the unicorn!


Headshot!

That worked perfectly. I typed “shoot arrow at unicorn” and watched as my arrow hit the mark and the unicorn immediately became my friend. Unfortunately, no matter what I tried, I could find no way of leading the unicorn to Lolotte. I tried riding it, dragging it, pushing it, talking to it, feeding it, nothing worked! Eventually I was resigned to the fact that I needed some other item to make the unicorn come with me, but what might it be?! Long story short, I travelled far and wide looking for the answer but didn’t find it. It was time to resort to the user comments! There were stacks of ROT13 comments to choose from (thanks everyone), but one of Andy_Panthro’s was titled “Major spoilers regarding the unicorn”. I translated it and read: “Getting the unicorn requires two things, cupids bow/arrow (which has been discussed above) and the bridle, which requires a bit of a swim and a trip through a whale.” The whale!!??


At least the game left me in no doubt that I was screwed.

Wow! That’s brutal! I saw the whale in the distance while I was swimming, but it continually dived beneath the water and no matter what I’d typed, it appeared the game didn’t recognise that it was even there. I’d typed “look at whale” and “touch whale”, but the game had responded with something like “there’s nothing there”. If I swam towards it, I’d just appear on the next screen and there was no sign of the whale. I just figured it was an “extra”, like the jumping fish. With the knowledge that I somehow had to get inside the whale, I rushed back to the sea and jumped in, wondering why on earth I would find a bridle inside a whale. It wasn’t hard to find the whale as it appears regularly on a few different screens, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get to it. I typed all sorts of things and tried going from screen to screen, hoping that something different would happen. Nothing did. Eventually I just sat there in the water, thinking of anything I could possibly do to get inside the whale. Suddenly I was sucked beneath the water and found myself exactly where I wanted to be!


Apparently this whale's tongue is bigger than its stomach!

To get into the whale, you have to go to a screen where it is, watch it emerge and then submerge in the distance, then stay very still for about ten seconds until it sucks you down into its stomach. If you move at all it doesn’t happen! Seriously, the only reason this happened at all for me is because I knew for a fact that I had to do something with the whale. I was still extremely lucky! My feelings towards the game were starting to slide at this point, but I was determined to go on with an open mind. Right, so I was inside the whale…what now? I found a bottle in there, inside which I found a note. Disappointingly, albeit humorously, the note was merely a reference to Space Quest and not at all useful in finding the bridle I needed. I could find nothing else in the stomach and so all that was left to do was to try and get out. The game made a point of describing the massive uvula hanging down when describing the mouth, so I immediately thought I would need to do something with that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any way to climb up the whale’s tongue to get to it, and kept sliding down.


Another clever marketing ploy by the geniuses at Sierra

I tried and tried and tried again…but couldn’t climb that tongue to reach the uvula. Several times I gave up and tried other ways to get out, but it seemed certain that I was supposed to climb the tongue somehow, otherwise why was I able to reach different heights depending on where I began climbing? I had a terrible feeling that there might be an item I’d missed on the mainland or the island that would assist me in climbing, but I thought I’d been pretty thorough. I began climbing a little bit then moving left or right, then climbing a bit more, and seeing how far I could get. Suddenly Rosella stood up at one point of the tongue, and I saved my game immediately. So just when I was losing faith in the game, it throws a ridiculous maze puzzle at me! Luckily, from this point it didn’t take long to find the right way to reach the highest point of the tongue to be able reach the uvula, but I still had to do something with it. Looking at my inventory, the answer became obvious. The feather!


If you enter the whale before getting the feather from Genesta's island, there's no way out!

I tickled the whale’s uvula and was spat out into the ocean. At this point I was starting to panic a bit. I’d got nothing out of the whale other than a silly note in a bottle. Surely there was something else I was supposed to have discovered in there! It was then that I noticed the island in the distance. Apparently the whale had swum further out to sea and I’d emerged from its depths right next to a deserted island. The island contained nothing more than a palm tree, a couple of shipwrecks and a pelican. When I investigated the wrecks I was informed that something was glinting in one of the boats. On further investigation I found it was the bridle I needed, half buried in the sand! Right, so how to get off this island back to the mainland? Assuming I would need to do something with the pelican, I gave it the dead fish that I’d caught off the pier. It accepted it and in return dropped a whistle. Blowing the whistle caused a dolphin to come to the island which I then rode back to the mainland. This whole island section was logical from an adventure puzzle point of view, but completely ridiculous when you think about it. I guess you can get away with anything in the fantasy world of King’s Quest.


Hmmm...a deserted island...that bridle has got to be around here somewhere!

I used the bridle on the unicorn and was then able to ride it to Lolotte’s castle. On arrival, the winged demons took me to Lolotte and she eagerly accepted my offering of the unicorn. Once again, handing over the unicorn, whose trust you have gained, to an evil fairy seems out of the normal moral code of the King’s Quest series. I can only assume that the unicorn will be released from captivity later in the game so that all is well in the world, but still, Rosella is far more ruthless than her father or brother. As expected, Lolotte didn’t just hand over the talisman I need to save Genesta, and instead gave me another task to complete. I now need to retrieve the hen that lays golden eggs from the giant’s house. Given that my only contact with the giant so far was to be captured and killed time and time again, I’m not sure how I’m going to achieve that. I’m now able to enter the house, which I couldn’t prior to giving the unicorn to Lolotte, but as soon as I do so I’m eaten by a vicious bulldog. I don’t think I have anything in my inventory that will help (shooting the other arrow failed), so I think it’s time to wander the map again, hoping that something else has been triggered by my progress.


I might have to read Jack and the Beanstalk again to figure out how to get the hen

Session Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes


33 comments:

  1. Yeesh, this one sounds brutal just from a "where do i go to do things?" standpoint.

    The setting seems one of the most fantastical yet though. It's a pity the puzzles are so frustrating =/

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  2. Trickster, I said earlier that there was one thing you needed to try again. That was fishing. I also said there's one thing in your inventory you haven't found a use for yet. Once you do, and use it in the right place (think edges), you'll find a way to get past the bulldog. Among other things.

    Here's what you need to do next, in case you get too frustrated.
    Jrne gur pebja.

    Jrne gur pebja arne gur jngresnyy.

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    1. To be honest, I've been trying not to read too many comments, because there's a little bit of spoiling going on. Can I please request that everyone uses ROT13 when describing anything in the game that I haven't yet got to.

      Once I've got there, you're welcome to discuss it all you like. :)

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    2. Just to clarify, this isn't a direct attack on you Cinnabar. I appreciate your assistance.

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    3. S'okay. I hoped "there's an item you haven't found a use for yet" wasn't too much information, but do you also mean a comment like that?

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  3. I am right with you except I can't get the whale to appear. WTF, whale?!

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    1. There's something odd with Sierra's random numbers at that point, I think. I once spent about 45 minutes trying to trigger the whale's appearance. Although it usually doesn't take nearly that long (as mentioned before, I replay this one fairly often). Try quitting the game (save first, of course! and reloading it.

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    2. I found that if I went one screen west from the pier and then one screen south, the whale was always there if I waited. Then again, I have no idea if I did something else to trigger his appearance elsewhere in the game. I've been pretty thorough in my description of the game though, so if I did something you haven't, it's in the posts.

      This puzzle is unfathomably difficult for a number of reasons, and I will punish the game for it when the time comes. Ilmari has suggested there's nothing left in the game of the same difficulty though, so it's not all doom and gloom.

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    3. I think it requires you to have met Lolotte, and have the right items (so you don't get stuck), before the whale appears.

      After that, you just need to be on the right screen at the right time (which can take a few attempts).

      Make sure you've done everything you can before you go whale hunting, then try again.

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  5. Oh, and the unicorn's days as Lolotte's prisoner are numbered... if you do your job.

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  6. All these terrible puzzles remind me of why I rarely played Sierra adventures back when they were released. I much preferred LucasArts games, where the puzzles were much fairer, but still challenging.

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    1. Somehow they worked for me. I only needed a couple of hints: to let the whale swallow me, and the one I just handed our friend the trickster. :)

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    2. There are some pretty obtuse puzzles in various lucasarts games, the main difference is they didn't kill you for trying the wrong thing (usually!).

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  8. Seems like Fenrus got it right with the wager and you did need a hint (see his comments for the introduction of the game). The whole episode with the whale is probably the most unfair puzzle in the game and I have no idea how anyone could get it right without any advice - rest of the game will be a breeze in comparison.

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    1. Haha, I just went back and read it. I suppose it's only fair that I give him 10 points for correctly betting against me. :)

      10 points for Fenrus!

      Hmmm...this could become a new feature. Betting points on whether I'll need assistance for specific puzzles.

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    2. Thanks, although I did not expect to gain any points in return, as the bet is rather unfair for you - at least with 1:1 odds.

      I never had any problems getting into the whale, in fact I did not even know it was triggered by events. The first problem was finding the way over the tongue (as I also thought that an item would be needed), but the biggest challenge was finding the bridle. In my opinion that was just as unfair as the "key on top of the cabinet" in KQ3. At least if I remember correctly, you have to be standing in the correct place when "looking at ground", as the game gives no hints that the wreck has any importance. Although my memory might also be doing tricks..

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    3. Some interaction with the points would be a great idea - although I think it is difficult to make the betting fair for all, as it is quite easy to identify the "impossible" puzzles if one has already completed the game.

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  9. Yet another adventure game hits GOG. This time it's Torin's Passage from 1995. Anyone played it? I haven't, but it's on the list.

    http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/torins_passage

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    1. Played it, don't remember a darn thing about it...

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    2. I really liked Torin's Passage when I was younger. It had some interesting locales, and I liked the Journey to the Center of the Earth vibe.

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  10. A few hints (that hopefully you won't need this time!).

    Cinnabar has already given you a hint for the Waterfall, so I'll skip that.

    The dog: Lbh arrq na vgrz sebz orlbaq gur jngresnyy

    The trees: Lbh'yy svaq fbzrguvat va gur Tvnag'f ubhfr sbe trggvat cnfg gur gerrf.

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  11. I remember (from not too long after this came out) figuring out the whale part without too much hassle only to be defeated by the bridle. I don't remember any hints at all that it was hidden on the island, though I'm sure I would have looked at the boats - maybe I was meant to look at "wrecks" specifically? In any case I only ended up finding it after hours of searching the rest of the game and figuring it must be on the island because there's no other reason to go there. Different people have different contenders for the worst puzzle in this game because there's quite a few to choose from.

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    1. This is a contender of mine too. You have to say exactly the right thing to the parser for it to mention the "glint." Once I was on the island, I kept searching because there had to be some reason to go there besides a taxi ride to the mainland.

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    2. Yep, I agree completely - the only reason why the bridle can be found, is because otherwise there is no benefit in the whole whale / island episode.

      No puzzles should be designed like this, but I guess we are still early in the learning curve on how adventure games should be designed..

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  12. Despite KQIV being my first adventure game, I remember figuring out the whale thing well enough. To be honest, I'm not sure I knew how to get out or what I was supposed to do next, but I remember getting swallowed without too much insanity.

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  13. Sierra apparently knew how infuriating some of the puzzles in KQIV could be, as you can see from this Sierra News Magazine from 1989:

    http://sierrainteraction.wikidot.com/king-s-quest-iv-the-real-perils

    (Trickster should avoid opening the link, because it contains some spoilers)

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  14. I still cannot get the whale to appear. I have done everything possible otherwise, and just swim, swim, swim over every screen. Never shows. Bug in my game? I get the shark every single time.

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    1. OK, I got it. It simply took a ridiculous amount of swimming, I am unsure why, but it eventually just appeared and ate me. I'm on to the next quest now...

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    2. Just a guess, since many Sierra games suffer from timer based problems with modern computers. Maybe this is also one of these.

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    3. Yes, as Fenrus said, some of the Sierra games (prior to DOSBox, at least) became unplayable as processor speeds increased. I still remember the day I could no longer complete "Conquests Of The Longbow" due to a ridiculous timing issue.

      Also, these games really did employ a "longevity via dead ends and mental brick walls" approach. I remember spending the better part of a month trying to figure out this game, with occasional hints from a friend who'd already finished it (and had loaned it to me.)

      Any modern game that attempted the kind of puzzle sadism that Sierra got away with, would be justifiably called out on it. =)

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  15. I remember having to ask my mother what a "bridle" was, because it was mentioned in the instruction manual in the section explaining the parser and giving a selection of sample verbs to try. Still took a heck of a long time to find it.

    That stupid whale tongue is probably one of the worst pixel mazes I've ever played. Reading your description of that sent me right back to being a kid. Seeing Rosella switch from climbing to standing definitely triggered a OMG, QUICK, SAVE response!

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