Monday, 14 May 2012

Game 18: King's Quest IV - Exchanging Peasantries

Rosella Journal Entry 1: “I’m so afraid! My father, the King, is so very close to death, and I am his only hope! A fairy named Genesta spoke to me through the magic mirror and told me about a tree that bears fruit in the land of Tamir. Apparently this fruit, if eaten by my father, would give him good health and well-being for many years! Genesta offered to transport me to Tamir, but unfortunately she would not be able to send me back to Daventry unless I helped her to recover her full powers. An evil fairy named Lolotte stole her magic talisman, and only if I get it back will she be able to send me home, regardless of whether I find the fruit or not. I had no other choice other than to accept her offer, and have spent the last few hours exploring Tamir. It is a magical land not unlike Daventry, but Lolotte’s castle casts a dark shadow across the land. I have covered a lot of ground since my arrival and collected a few items of use, but I fear it will be some time before I find the tree I need or retrieve Genesta’s talisman from Lolotte!”

King's Quest IV certainly has the longest intro of any game on the list so far

Apparently I’ve already spent three hours in Tamir! It might seem odd, but I don’t actually look at the clock when I start and stop playing a game to figure out how much time I’ve spent in a session. I take so many screenshots on the way that I only have to look at the time I captured them to get a fairly accurate idea. I was pretty surprised to see how many hours I’d already racked up, which I guess is a sign of how much I’ve enjoyed King’s Quest IV so far. That being said, it’s perhaps a bit embarrassing that I’ve only managed to earn 37 points out of a possible 230, but that probably has more to do with the way I approach Sierra games than it does the difficulty level.

The last thing Genesta did was magically change my princess clothes to those of a peasant girl

I quickly realised that King’s Quest IV uses the same grid approach found in the previous games in the series. It’s very similar to King’s Quest II in this way in that the west and east borders of the gameworld are blocked by natural obstacles (in both games it’s ocean in the west and mountains in the east) while the north and south directions wrap around (meaning if you continue in either direction you eventually arrive where you started). I therefore approached the game the way I always have, by mapping the entire environment in excel, noting landmarks and collecting items on the way. Interestingly, Tamir is made up of a comparatively small 5 x 6 grid, meaning there were only 30 screens for me to map, but I assume more will open up past the mountains at some point.

I haven't been able to access that one white screen yet as I'm blocked by evil trees or rocks.

Not only are there less screens to explore than I was expecting, the majority of them had very little of interest to investigate. The first thing I did come across was a small shanty where a fisherman and his wife lived. They complained that there were no fish biting off the pier and that if their luck didn’t change soon, they would not be able to eat. I could see the fisherman’s pole in the corner, but could find nothing to do, so I moved on. Shortly afterwards I came across a unicorn in a meadow. I’ve since come across it several times, but it trots away before I can make any movement towards it. Similarly I ran into a satyr (the god Pan) playing a flute on numerous screens, but he paid me no attention no matter what I tried.

I've come to talk to you about global warming...

The next location of interest I came across was a swimming pool, but once again I could see nothing that I could do there. Apparently there’s nothing in it and it's too shallow to even swim in, so I was once again forced to note it on my map and move on. This pattern continued when I came across a pond filled with frogs. After being informed that one of the frogs had a small crown on its head, my immediate thought was to kiss it to transform it into a prince. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach it without stepping in the water, and entering the pond caused the frog to jump off the lily pad and swim away. So far the game had given me nothing but questions and I hadn’t gained a single point!

It's fairly odd to have a swimming pool in the middle of nowhere. I'm intrigued!

Thankfully, on the screen just to the south of the pond, I found a gold ball under a bridge, giving me my first two points. The pattern of finding locations that clearly play a role in the game, only for there to be nothing obvious to achieve there, continued when I came across a mine (where the seven dwarfs sent me out as soon as I tried to enter), an apparently foreboding house (that was locked) and a cemetery (with lots of tombstones to read but nothing to do or collect). I only really started to make progress when I found a house built under large tree on a stream. On entering the house I was informed that it belonged to the seven dwarfs, and the game made a point of making it clear just how messy it was.

I thought Rosella was supposed to be a good role model for women. The first thing she does is clean up after the boys!

The first thing that entered my head was “clean house” which resulted in Rosella rushing around the two rooms with a broom, putting everything away and cleaning the dishes. As soon as everything was tidy, the dwarfs arrived home from the mine and, delighted with the fact a stranger had broken into their house and cleaned it, invited me to have soup with them. Once the bowls were empty, the dwarfs hopped up and left, leaving me to clean up once again (chauvinistic bastards!) and to pick up the pouch of diamonds one of them had left on the table. I decided to follow my instincts, which were telling me to return the pouch to the dwarfs at the mine. I don’t see how this is any different to leaving them on the table in the first place, but since the mine was only one screen north, that’s what I did.

Is there anything else I can get for you boys? A beer? Maybe I can bake you a pie?

It worked too as not only did the dwarfs now let me into the mine, the head dwarf was impressed with my honesty and told me to keep the diamonds. Not only that, he then gave me a lantern for my trouble (crime does pay!). I continued my journey to the east of Tamir, coming across a spooky grove where the trees attacked and killed me if I got too close, a stream where I picked up a live worm and most importantly a large spooky house covered in spider webs. I couldn’t find anything to do in the dining room, the nursery or the bedrooms (although I did notice a trapdoor in the ceiling of one of the bedrooms), but the parlour did offer up some intrigue. I found a book of Shakespear (for some reason called The Compleat Works of Williams Shakespeare) and a secret doorway leading to a staircase.

The obligatory spooky house of the neighborhood

At the bottom of the staircase was a shovel, which I eagerly added to my inventory. I was pretty excited to find the secret door and fully expected to find something of importance up the staircase, so I was surprised to discover nothing more than an organ at the top of the tower. I sat down and played the organ (very well I might add), but could see no reason why I was there or what I might be able to achieve. Deciding the leave the house for now and investigate what screens were still left, I soon found myself in the second part of the cemetery, with a crypt in the mountainside to the east. The door was locked, so once again I had to assume that I didn’t yet have what I needed to do anything on the screen.

The music quality in King's Quest IV is a huge step up from the PC speaker stuff that came before it

On the very last screen that I explored I found a path leading up into the mountains. Following it took me straight to Lolotte’s castle, but before I could proceed or retreat, I was captured by winged demons who took me to face the evil fairy. She temporarily imprisoned me, suspecting me of being a spy, before releasing me. Apparently her son Edgar liked me, and believed my story about having accidentally come across the castle. Not only did she let me go, she told me she would reward me greatly if I could bring her the unicorn. Her creatures then dumped me back down at the base of the mountain, unharmed and with my inventory fully intact. I can only assume that this whole scene was supposed to play out and I haven’t yet attempted to go back to the castle (I imagine it wouldn’t end well).

I foresee an ending where Edgar assists me once again

Right, so I’d explored all thirty of the screens available, mapped them in excel, collected everything obvious that I could find, and had 22 points to show for it. Time to start using my brain! After looking at all my items and the various locations on the map, I decided to head all the way back to the shanty. I figured the worm must have something to do with the fishing pole and intended to give it to the fisherman. After he rejected it, I then tried giving him the gold ball, thinking they were short on money. He rejected that too! I then grudgingly gave him the pouch full of diamonds, which he unsurprisingly accepted, responding to the gift by giving me the fishing pole. Worst trade ever if you ask me!

Husband, fetch it yourself you dirty pig!

I tried fishing off the pier after attaching the worm to the hook on the pole, but had no more luck than the fisherman was having. Giving up on that idea, I decided to go back to the pond of frogs to see if I could get myself a prince! On my way there, I was surprised to find a man playing the lute in one of the meadows that had previously been empty. I wonder whether this is just the first example of things occurring on a timer within King’s Quest IV! That would explain why so many of the screens are suspiciously vacant at the beginning of the game. Perhaps things will happen in them only once I’ve completed certain tasks. Anyway, the game described the man’s lute playing as pretty bad, so I offered him the book of Shakespeare to see what would happen. He accepted it, realising his new ambition was to be an actor, and gave me the lute to boot.

Hey, he wasn't there before! Although the vacant stump was suspicious.

I had a bit of a “eureka” moment once I had the lute in my possession, remembering something about Pan (the satyr that plays the flute) being fascinated by music in general. I’ve since looked it up on Wikipedia and apparently Pan had a contest with the lyre playing Apollo to see who was the best, but I guess my thought process was correct. Playing the lute in front of the wandering Pan caused him to stop in his tracks and stare at me in wonder. I offered him the lute which he accepting and gave me the flute in return. I had no idea, and still have no idea, what the flute is for, but I guess that was the right thing to do as Pan never appeared again from this point onwards.

Give me the flute or the lute gets it!

By this point it was getting pretty late, but I wanted to see if I could figure out the pond puzzle before heading to bed. I didn’t expect it to work, but I tried using the fishing pole to catch the frog anyway. It didn’t work! With nothing else in my inventory that might achieve my goal, I tried throwing the gold ball to the frog. I don’t really understand why this worked (perhaps there’s a fairytale that I don’t know or remember), but throwing the gold ball into the pond caused the frog to retrieve it and jump out of the pond to give it to me. I then picked up the frog and kissed it, immediately transferring it into a prince. Amusingly, the prince is horrified that I’m “nothing but a peasant girl!” and bids me good riddance. He did however leave the little gold crown that was on his head, so I took that, and the gold ball, and added them to my inventory.

King's Quest preceded Shrek's fairy tale parodying humour by over a decade!

That’s where I’m at people! Sorry for the longwinded description. These opening posts can be tiresome as I need to describe a high amount of locations and occurrences while trying to keep things interesting for the reader. As it stands right now, I’m enjoying King’s Quest IV quite a bit, but am already starting to wonder what I might try next. It’s certainly not as obvious as a lot of the other Sierra games I’ve played which will make for a decent challenge. As for the technical aspects of the game, there’s no doubt that it’s a step up in the graphics and sound department, and has an overall polish that surpasses anything on the list so far. Only time will tell whether the quality of the game matches the promise of its package!

I really thought this game was supposed to be groundbreaking for women. So far it sees to be prejudiced against them.

Session Time: 3 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 00 minutes


  1. Stop enjoying it so much, it makes me regret my guess for the final score. :(

    1. Haha...there's such a long way to go! I thought Gold Rush was really great after the first session and I seem to recall I was enjoying Captain Blood for an hour or two also. We all know how that ended...

    2. That's true. I guess it's hope yet. hehe
      It's a good game, no doubt. I just remember the dead ends frustrating me no end.

  2. The part with the golden ball is directly from The Frog Prince by the Grimm brothers, i. e. the fairy tale which introduced the notion of kissing frogs in the first place. At the start of the tale the king's daughter loses her golden ball in a well and the frog retrieves it for her.

    1. I feel like I'm going to need to brush up on my fairy tales to be able to figure out some of the puzzles. Thanks for the explanation. 5 points!

  3. KQ4 was the first (graphic) adventure game I played, and I still play it over every year or so, like rereading a favorite story. But one thing can get frustrating. I hope it's not too much of a spoiler to say that screens that look empty aren't necessarily so because you're not ready for what's to come -- certain things happen randomly, so keep going back. The same goes for some things you can try with inventory items. Even if you've tried them more than once (!).

    The following two items are (small) spoilers, so I've rot-13'd them:

    ner lbh fher lbh'ir qvfpbirerq gur rnfg-jrfg yvzvgf bs gur znc?

    fbzrgvzrf vg znggref jurer lbh hfr na vairagbel vgrz.

  4. I'm pretty sure the characters appearing or not appearing on screens is random, and not timer based. I think the only thing that is timer based is nightfall. But, I haven't played the game in a long while.

    1. Nightfall happens after you complete a certain task.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Really? I never noticed the ticking clock -- guess I moved too fast. :)

      It seems to me that I've done the pool otherwise than you suggest and still had success, but I'd have to go back and try it to be sure.

    4. Or after a certain amount of time (there's also clock ticking, although it's really slow).

      There's a significant lack in your cartography: Ebfryyn vf nccneragyl zber hfrq gb jngre guna uvf sngure jnf.

      Deleted the pool bit, because on second thought I wasn't 100 % sure whether the qverpgvba bs nccebnpuvat gur cbby was of any importance (that's what I thought when I was little, but it could have been completely random).

    5. OK Cinnabar, now I got it with little experimentation with the game itself: Jura lbh zbir sebz fbhgu be rnfg, vg'f rnfvre gb fpner gur ybiryl punenpgre njnl, orsber vg rira ynaqf. Fb grpuavpnyyl, vg'f orggre gb nccebnpu gur cbby sebz abegu be jrfg.

    6. That matches my memory as well. Zl erpbyyrpgvba vf gung vg'f bayl ragrevat sebz gur rnfg gung'f ernyyl vzcbffvoyr.

    7. You guys have no idea how hard it is not knowing what you're talking about. ;) I am getting the impression though that I should visit locations many times and retry using items I've previously tried.

      Sounds scary!

    8. How do I put this obliquely... one thing that you've attempted that didn't work will work eventually. One object you're carrying has a use you haven't found yet -- it will work anywhere, but it advances the plot in one particular screen. (The "empty meadow" screens don't need to be revisited, you've done what you need to there -- except the unicorn and you already know you need to catch it.)

      I think I'd better mention (others have in rot-13, but here it is in clear): do you remember the bridge in KQ2? The minimum uses in the game was also the maximum times you could use the bridge without falling. At least one of the items in the game has that same property -- and it's possible to run into dead ends as well -- so be sure you save frequently and make multiple saves.

  5. I really do like the art; but I find it amusing that the two women at the top are almost identical, save for the wings on the fairy :)

    1. I thought that too! It's extra funny that Rosella thinks Genesta is incredibly beautiful when she actually looks exactly the same as her. How very humble!

    2. Well, the fairy IS far more attractive, what with having eyebrows...

    3. Rosella has eye brows, but apparently she's not an natural blonde.

  6. I'd usually have done a few more things before that first visit to Lolotte, but I don't think it matters (if there is a timer, it's very slow and forgiving). It is always important to remember that some things are triggered by doing other things, so checking old areas can be useful.

    Very minor spoilers follow!

    One of the "dead ends", related to an item you picked up: Or pnershy jvgu gung fubiry, hfr vg gbb zhpu naq vg'yy oernx, naq vg'f gur bayl bar lbh'yy svaq!

    Also the creepy house: qbrfa'g trg ernyyl vagrerfgvat hagvy nsgre avtugsnyy

    Finally: jul abg unir n yvggyr fjvz va gur frn?

    Major spoilers regarding the unicorn: Trggvat gur havpbea erdhverf gjb guvatf, phcvqf obj/neebj (juvpu unf orra qvfphffrq nobir) naq gur oevqyr, juvpu erdhverf n ovg bs n fjvz naq n gevc guebhtu n junyr. V guvax trggvat gur oevqyr vf vzcbffvoyr hayrff lbh'ir orra gb frr Ybybggr (junyr qbrfa'g nccrne, abg gung guvf jvyy nssrpg lbh abj), naq V frrz gb erpnyy lbh pna eha bhg bs neebjf.

  7. An addition to Andy's major spoiler: Gurer'f bayl gjb neebjf naq lbh'yy arrq gur bgure bar yngre, fb qba'g tb jnfgvat vg!

  8. Just had a look at your list here...
    1989, Mean Streets (only 11 games away)
    1991, Martian Memorandum (25 games after that)
    1994, Under a Killing Moon (54 games! Yikes!)
    1996, The Pandora Directive (another 45 games)
    1998, Tex Murphy: Overseer (hey, where is it on your list?)

    And now tacked on the end, Tex Murphy: Project Fedora! Yes! Tex is back, Kickstarter going from today. So break out your savings accounts/mattress money/kid's college funds, and go back it now!

    Sorry for hijacking your thread here, feel free to delete it if you don't want it. :p
    And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

    1. I've bought the entire bunch of Tex Murphy games during last year's Christmas sale on GOG. Haven't seriously played any of them so far, but they look extremely charming, atmospheric and funny (except probably for #1, which seems a bit odd with its driving sequences).
      Definitely going to back Project Fedora!

    2. Awesome! I've not yet played any of the Tex Murphy games, but I'm stoked to see Kickstarter bringing so many adventure series back to life. I've added it to the Kickstarter list.

      I can't believe there are people pledging $10000!!!!!!!!!!

    3. Aaaaand Project Fedora is funded! Yay!

    4. Yeah, the last couple of days have been amazing, with $90k pledged just since yesterday. Still 8 days to go though, although the game has been funded we're not done yet! :)

    5. Awesome news! I haven't played any of the Tex Murphy games, but I'm still excited that all these adventure games are getting funded.

      I'll update the list!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Wow, you are really brainwashed :O
    You are obsessed with feminism!