Monday 23 February 2015

Missed Classic 5: Wizard and the Princess - WON! and Final Rating

By Joe Pranevich

Happy Wanderer Travelogue #3: The hero comes and the hero conquers, but he also learns a valuable lesson: always get your contracts in writing. I have explored the mountainous region in the far north and found the castle of my nemesis. Though it was not easy, I was able to use his own magic against him to rescue the princess and return her home. But alas, my days of wandering are not over yet and I must quest onward if I ever hope to claim my reward. I think I’ll go explore the desert first. What could possibly go wrong?

Episode 5: In Which Our Hero Does Some Shopping

The artist must have practiced drawing people between games, but not trees.

Last week, the happy wanderer and I crossed a desert, explored a forest, sailed over an ocean, and dug up a buried treasure. As we ended the session, we had just used a vial of flying water to sail over the northernmost part of the ocean to land on a new continent. This has been a long journey and I admire the game for providing a sense of distance, something that many quest games don’t manage to do. My feet are sore just thinking about it.

Unlike the wide-open spaces of the desert and forest, the new land is mountainous with one pah that presses me onward with few few diversions. Along the way, I find a ring on the ground and meet up with a woman that warns me that there is a giant up ahead. Giants in these sorts of stories always end up being the evil “use your bones for bread” kind of giants, but this seems vaguely racist. For once, I’d like to meet a giant in a story that was just sort of a tall accountant.

Too deep for billy goats.

A bit further along the path, I discover an old bridge crossing a deep gorge. The bridge is in bad shape and when I cross it, it collapses and I die. Over the next few deaths, I try to lighten my load and cross but each time meeting the same end. Only when I am carrying nothing does the game let me keep going. Since I do not have much of an alternative, I proceed empty-handed.

I continue crossing the mountains and it starts to rain. Since this is the first weather in the game, it must be significant, but the rain stops and a rainbow appears. I do not immediately find I can do anything with the rainbow, so I keep going west. In the next screen, I finally find that promised giant: he doesn’t seem all that bad of a guy, but he won’t let me continue. When I retrace my steps, I notice that the rain and the rainbow are gone. I smell a puzzle! I restore back to when the rainbow was out and beat my head against the parser before I find something I can do: “follow rainbow”. At the end of the rainbow, there is a single goal coin. I had honestly hoped for a full pot of coins, or perhaps a figure from Irish folklore, but one coin is a good start! I go back to the giant, coin in hand, and confidently try to pay him off. That gets me absolutely nowhere and this puzzle is not quite as simple as I thought.

Red, orange, and yellow were unavailable. Blue and green were drunk. 

Back at the bridge, I am wondering if this is where I should have been using the flying vial. I restore back to the previous island and look for another way to cross, but fail. I even revisit the parrot, but he will not give me a second vial. I will spare you the long narration of playing the harp in every room and generally acting like a fool, but I found a lead right where I didn’t expect: I had been so used to being forced on a linear path in the mountains, that I did not notice that one of the screens (on the far side of the bridge) let me go north. When I followed that, it to an empty cave. Now, when you see an empty cave, I’m not sure what you think of, but I had a moment of “I’ve Played Roberta’s Games Before” intuition and it paid off! I return to the bridge and instead of dropping all my stuff, I use the “LUCY” spell to send the items into God-knows-where. When I cross the bridge and check in the cave, all my stuff was present! I had completely forgotten about the locket until the cave jogged my memory, so I will call this a lucky break.

So many items! Wait, is everything levitating?

With my backpack filled again, I return to the giant. I remember my children’s stories, so the first thing I try is to give the harp to the giant and he lets me pass! Do you think this is the same giant from King’s Quest? I suspect not as he was guarding a chest of gold, rather than a harp. (Gurer jvyy nyfb or n unec va Xvatf Dhrfg I, ohg V sbetrg gur qrgnvyf.)

Just ahead on the path is a peddler, apparently unaware that a giant was blocking his paying customers. His wares are spread out on a table and each cost one gold coin: unless I find more money, I will just get to pick one. With a bit of experimentation, I can make out a pair of boots, a dagger, a vase, a pan, and a horn but I have no idea what any of them do. Leaving that for now, I head north and discover a castle with a moat. Is this it!? Have I found the wizard’s castle? Unfortunately, the drawbridge is up and the moat is filled with crocodiles, so I do not find a way in. Let’s see if anything I can buy will help!

The selection is great, but no free shipping.

I head south and the salesman is gone. Since there is no way to know what to buy when you meet him the first time, it hardly seems fair that he disappears before you can come back. Something for me to complain about in the PISSED rating, but for now I restore back. In my first attempt, I take the violent approach: I buy the dagger and try to kill the crocodiles. I guess Roberta only believes in the mass slaughter of snakes, because that doesn’t work AND I lose the dagger. On the next pass, I try the horn. When I play it, the drawbridge opens and I can finally enter the castle! Time to fight a wizard!

Final Episode: In Which Our Hero Does Not Get Everything He Deserves

No castle moat would be complete without a collection of crocodiles.

Inside the castle, everything looks normal enough and I have some options how I want to explore: there are doors to the north and west, and a stairway leading up. I choose west at random and find myself in a large dining hall with a flag on the wall. I note a door to the north, but keep moving west. That leads to a throne room. No one is home, so I do exactly what you would do in this situation: sit on the throne.


After a moment of disorientation, I realize that I have been teleported into an open courtyard. There is an angry looking boar here, but after failing to kill the crocodiles I decide to take the non-violent approach: I still have the apple that I picked up in the cabin just after I left I desert. I hand that to the pig, he eats it, and is dead at my feet in moment. Seriously? Who would leave a poisoned apple out where anyone I can pick it up and eat it by accident?

I just feel so guilty...

I re-enter the castle and find myself in an old fashioned kitchen. I start to explore further, before…


I am teleported again, this time to a small room with a locked door. How am I supposed to make any progress if I am teleported around like a madman? I do not have any way to open the door, so I step outside and into a hedge maze. At least, I think it’s a hedge maze; you know how the graphics are… Fortunately, the hedge maze turns out to be large, but simple: each corridor heads off in one direction and there are no switchbacks or hidden exits. Along the way, I find a dungeon room that contains a cell (that I cannot open or do anything with) and the exit back to the castle entrance hall. (The hedge maze had been out the door to the north.)

This pass, I try to explore north of the dining hall instead and… ZAP!

This hardly seems fair.

This time, I find myself in a cell with a locked door, probably the same cell that I just found the other side of in the hedge maze. Unfortunately, I cannot find any ways out so I am forced to reload the game.

This time, I do some experimentation. I find that the zapping is consistent and that it happens whenever I do anything in the teleporting rooms, and always loads back to the same place. More importantly, it seems to only happen once! When I retrace my steps all the way through the hedge maze this time, I can explore the throne room freely without getting teleported anymore. I do not find anything but it is at least a lead!

When I’m done exploring the downstairs, I head up and find a landing with rooms left and right. Left takes me to a gigantic frog, but ZAP! I am pushed back to the landing. I go in again and the same thing happens. This is the only play that zaps you more than once, so it must be significant. Could it be that the princess has been turned into a frog? Who would ever see that coming!?

Not looking forward to kissing that…

The room to the right is a former bedroom, but I find a pair of shoes on the floor in the closet. When I examine them, they have the word “WHOOSH” written on the bottom! I try my new magic word in the frog’s room, but I am still teleported out. It must be something else… how about that locked cell? I force myself to be zapped back to the cell and try my new magic word: nothing happens. But I do not give up that easily and try it again after putting the shoes on. It works! I am teleported back to the very beginning of the game!

Oh God, not again.

Thinking on this for a second, I remember that walking back to the castle won’t be an option. The rowboat is on the wrong shore and I still have no means of getting a second flying vial. Fortunately, using “whoosh” again here teleports me back to the castle entrance. Awesome!

Having triggered and survived that teleport trap, I can explore north of the dining hall further but that ends up not being as exciting as I hoped: it just leads back to the old fashioned kitchen where I was teleported to in the first run. This leads me to another boring segment where I type stupid commands in bunches of places and try to find something that I didn’t before. It’s not the most fun to type up and read, so I’ll spare you the details and just tell you that I found that I could pick the lock in the door at the end of the hedge maze using my knife. (That’s the room I was teleported to, so I wonder if I needed to solve the hedge maze at all.) That leads me to a new room with stairs and a door to the east. When I go through that door, I find myself in the frog room and am teleported out, but the stairs take me to the top of a tall tower.

Now, the first time I went into the tower, it was empty, but at some point I entered it a second or third time and there was a bird flying around. I try to catch the bird or kill it, but that doesn’t get me anywhere and I find myself stuck yet again.

Anyone have a rod with a rusty star on one end?

And this is where I get really stuck. As in, hours and hours of not finding anything new. I even explore the entire first section again after using the “whoosh” spell. Other than the rowboat resetting (so I could get to the second island), there was still no way to get more flying vials so I could not retrace my steps to the castle completely. After hours and hours of this, I gave up and took a hint. I am not proud of that, but I did want to finish eventually. I made it pretty far solving some puzzles and beating others to death with sheer stubbornness, but this one beat me.

The trick is in the ring that I found in the mountains: if you put it on and “rub” it, you transform into a cat. In your cat form, you are able to easily pounce on the bird and eat it. Are there any stories where you rub a ring? I would never have thought to try that verb. Did I miss a hint anywhere?

While that does not seem to do anything immediately, for some reason I can now enter the frog’s room without getting teleported away. (After winning, I consult a guide and it seems that the wizard had disguised himself as the bird to evade detection.) I pucker up and kiss the frog, transforming her back into a beautiful princess.

You still look a little green. Are you okay?

The princess follows me back to the throne room and I expect an ending, but that does nothing. For lack of any better ideas, I use “whoosh” one more time and we are both transported to Serenia. With all the pomp and circumstance of buying a soda from a machine, the game is over:


After all this effort, walking halfway around the world, and defeating the wizard, the best they can do is “Junior-Master Adventurer”? The manual clearly stated that I would marry the princess and take half of the kingdom, but now I’m just left disappointed. Did I miss something? Is there a better ending that I could have received? Please reply in the comments!

Time played: 4 hrs
Total time: 9 hrs

Final Rating

Without further pomp or circumstance, let’s talk about the game overall.

Puzzles and Solvability - 3

This game is a mess when it comes to puzzles, with some absolutely brilliant/fun ones (the notes that you have to assemble to leave the desert) with some real losers (rubbing the ring to kill a bird that was secretly an evil wizard). This game loses points for the opening maze as just an example of poor pacing, as well as the puzzles that required reloading to solve. I may be able to forgive the latter since the game was nearly over and we expect an increase in difficulty, but to start the game off in a maze? That was just poor design.

If only the Professor had thought of this, Gilligan and his friends may have made it home.

Interface and Inventory - 3

Other than color, the interface to this game is the same as Mystery House with few exceptions. The keyword “all” has been added and can be used in a few cases, but that is about it. (And the only way I even know about that is that the manual brings it up.) This game however has a great collection of inventory items, almost all of which you need to solve a puzzle. While many of those puzzles had their flaws, the inventory in the game isn’t that bad in itself.

Story and Setting - 4

I sort-of like the story and setting of this game. It’s a decent traveling journey across varied terrain and you really get a sense for having gone a long way. While it was not well-used, I also liked that you could re-explore pretty much the whole game at the end. A better game would have made that worthwhile, but this isn’t that game. I know I’m letting my future-sight cloud my judgement here, but this felt like a King’s Quest game with that same hodge-podge of fantasy tropes and mixed up mythologies that enjoy. I am sure that many would not find that as endearing as I did, but I liked it.

Sound and Graphics - 2

The graphics were somewhat more mature than Mystery House, but it still looked amateurish and unpolished. Worse, it seems that the continuity wasn’t always there. The damned sailboat thing really screwed with me for a long time, but I bet that was just an artist trying to draw the rowboat from far away and not caring that different kinds of boats look different. Sound was nonexistent, of course. I also have to ding some points here for the blandness of some of the environments, especially the two mazes. Since you spend the majority of the first hours in the desert, at least they could have made it slightly less bland.

See the pirate hiding behind that tree? Me, neither.

Environment and Atmosphere - 3

Just like the “story” section above, I find myself uncontrollably reading the Kings Quest feeling into this game, but otherwise the environments were hit or miss. The desert section went on far too long, detracting from the feeling that the game was going anyplace. While I found it somewhat annoying, the constant “zapping” in the final castle created an unsettled feeling, like you could get whisked away at any moment. Exploration became more hurried, tension was higher. That was a good way to shake up the final segment and I’ll give the game a point just for that.

Dialog and Acting - 3

Like its predecessor, the text in this game is sparse and there are relatively few NPCs that you can talk to. I’m reminded of the lonely town of Serenia which apparently has no people at all! But unlike Mystery House, there was enough text to get a feeling for the tone of the game and to appreciate the writing when it was there. I scored it a bit higher for that reason.

Drumroll Please...

(3+3+4+2+3+3)/.60 = 30 points! That is just slightly ahead of Mystery House. I was considering deducting a point for the terrible opening, but I think the scores speak for themselves overall. The first Kings Quest game scored a 48 and while I can see a glimmer of what that series will become in this game, we can see a much earlier and less refined approach to storytelling here. If the art had been a bit more consistent and the start not quite as frustrating, I think we would be a lot closer. I am curious whether any of the “Hi-Res Adventure” games will come close.

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

Roberta Williams may have taken the criticism that Wizard and the Princess was too hard seriously: her next game would be Mission Asteroid. Released as her third game in 1980, the game was renumbered as “#0” to act as an easier prequel of sorts to help new adventurers get into the genre. That will be my next “Missed Classic”!


  1. Just a heads up that the score image is broken for me.

    I look forward to playing "Mission: Asteroid", but I know with the blog posting schedule it may be a while. I do not want to set expectations that there will be a "Mission: Asteroid" post next week, or perhaps even next month. But it will come! And I am looking forward to playing it.

    1. I think I've fixed the image now.

    2. Now it's broken for me. :)

      Let me try something else...

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. It does make for an interesting precursor to King's Quest. I wonder if "Mission Asteroid" will have any passing resemblance to Space Quest?

    1. My guess is not, but that they may stem from the same core thought. It seems that each of the Hi-Res games were targeted at a different genre: we've seen mystery, fantasy, and the next will be sci-fi. I do not know the rest of the games as well, but when the "Quest" games first came out there was a similar spread of genres to try to cover as large of a market as possible.

      I suspect-- but am looking forward to finding out-- that the first two Hi-Res games directly correlating to later Sierra games was a coincidence.

  3. You've discussed of the development of graphics from Mystery House to Wizard and Princess, can you confirm, if it was actually Roberta Williams doing all these pictures?

    I think rubbing a ring is a familiar concept from fairy tales. At least in the original Aladdin, rubbing a ring produced a genie who wasn't as strong as the genie in the lamp.

    1. You also operate the invisibility ring in the KQ1 remake by rubbing it.

    2. There are no in-game credits that I can recall, but several sources claim that Roberta did the art for Mystery House. I did not find a clear source for the art in this game, but there are some similarities in the design of the characters that makes me suspect it was still her-- but that is just a guess.

    3. I've encountered a ring that you rubbed to activate as well- I suspect it was also a version if Aladdin, or based on that.

  4. It might be a fairy tale trope, but it's still not very sensible. Rings are meant to be worn. And this game isn't tied to Arabian Nights tropes by anything else, as it's awfully generic. I'm not a bit surprised that Joe didn't think of rubbing the ring. (It doesn't say "written by Joe Pranevich" or anything at the top, by the way.)

    1. I had tried wearing the ring and nothing happened. If there was a magic effect, I would have expected it to be a magic word (like "HOCUS", "LUCY", and "WHOOSH") rather than just rubbing it. I knew there was something I needed to do with the ring, but overlooked the solution.

  5. And of course, now it does. Second time I've tried to comment and found that my issue was already fixed. My previous message was meant to be a reply, of course.

    1. :)

      Yeah. You wrote the message at about the same time 'By Joe Pranevich' was being added (I fixed that when I fixed the score picture.)

      I've been in bad form lately. The past 3 or 4 posts I've posted have had to be edited the next day because I've missed something or screwed something up. Need to up my game.

  6. Wow, Ilmari nailed the rating. Sniper!

    1. I guess it helped that I had played the game (although I have to confess that I lost the interest around the giant and never saw the ending).

    2. Except for the issue with rubbing the ring, the endgame was one of my favorite parts of this game. Shame you quite just a bit too early!

    3. Well, I was an impatient youngster at the time, and the whole Roberta Williams collection waited me...

  7. Yahtzee reviews Grim Fandango remastered: link

    At one point, there's an illogic train driven by - appropriately enough - King's Quest V, coming soon on the list.