Monday 23 March 2015

Game 52: King's Quest V – King Graham, Insect Whisperer

King Graham of Daventry Journal Entry #1: "I thought my days of adventuring were over, but apparently not. On coming home from a walk, I found a hole in the ground where my castle used to be. My family and trusted friends were in that castle. Fortunately, my new friend, Cedric, saw the whole thing as was able to direct me to his master, a wizard named Crispin. Crispin gave me something to help me talk to the forest creatures, which ended up being terribly useful. I'm still no closer to finding my family, but I've made some allies who will no doubt help me along the way. Now, time to continue my quest..."

The game starts with an overly long and drawn-out introduction, something that would be annoying in a current game, but back in the early 90s, I used to gobble that stuff up. The fact that the graphics and use of voice were great for their time means I can forgive them for their indulgent lengthy closeups done purely to show off their mastery of the technology.

This 11 minute introduction could easily have been cut in half without harming the narrative – but it's all about wowing the gamer with great graphics and sound! And people say gaming has changed!

After finally getting control of Graham I began to explore my surroundings. Cedric suggested I go south to the town, so I went west to prove I was no owl's puppet!

I soon met a man who lost his fiancee and a bluebird drinking from a tree, and could do nothing with them. Then I saw a snake, specifically, a poisonous snake! The snake doesn't do anything no matter what I try to do with her, apart from tell me the road is hers, so I clearly need some kind of snake repellent before going east.

My disembodied legs chat with this depressed prince

I mapped out the area and found to my pleasure that it was consistent, meaning that if I went west and then south I would get to the same place as going south and then west (not necessarily so in many adventure games.) So, simple grid map it is.

I also noticed that, unlike earlier Sierra games, I could simply click on where I wanted to be and Graham would find a suitable path himself. Saving me from having to manually dodge every rock, bush and clump of grass - thanks, Sierra.

Cedric refused to enter the town because he was scared by a dog once, so I went on alone. In town I met a man fixing a cart (who left after I visited a shop), a tailor, a German toymaker with a child who wants to keep one of the toys for sale, a shoemaker who doesn't have any shoes for sale and four or so townspeople who have a generic line to say if you try to talk to them as they walk around. They're useless, but good for the atmosphere, making the town seem more alive.

The fat guy constantly tries on and complains about the outfits he's getting. I'm sure he'd much prefer some random item of second-hand clothing I find lying on the ground somewhere instead

After I left one of the shops, the man was no longer fixing the still-broken cart, but there was a silver coin there, which, being the benevolent and kind king I am, I obviously pocketed for my own uses.

King Graham, Pixel Hunter

Somewhere out there is a man whose cart no longer works so he can't make a living selling goods, and some rich king from another land takes his last silver piece for himself. I figure I'll probably be saving these townsfolk from an evil wizard at some point, so it's only right that I collect taxes from two realms now.

I next visited the bakery, and found that they were selling custard pies for a silver piece. Having just decided through some particularly baffling logic that I was clearly the rightful owner of the silver piece I found, I bought a pie from the baker who made a point to tell me how delicious it was.

Was that a hint? I checked out my points (I had six) ate the pie (which according to the narrator, was definitely delicious) then checked my points again (still six). Ha! Nice try game, but I'm not falling for this trick. If your pie doesn't give me the ability to fly or absorb dragon breath or something I don't care how delicious it is – I'll just keep it until I can trade it in for an old pair of trousers at some point instead. Restore a saved game time!

Coincidentally, William Baker and his brother both took up a career in baking.

To the west was an inn, which Cedric refused to enter because he doesn't like the place. I could do with a stiff drink so I entered. Three men were speaking in hushed tones and the narrator suggested I could hear them if I got a bit closer. I followed the narrator's advice, and promptly died. Remind me that if I ever meet that narrator in person I should raise his taxes.

My first death - how many will I find? (Death #1)

Outside the inn was a haystack, which I searched to no avail. I was expecting Graham to get pricked by a needle while searching, or to find something else there, but nothing happened.

Further to the west was another screen that seemed determined to kill me. A bear was trying to get honey from a beehive. There was a stick on the ground, which was clearly a valuable item because when I clicked the eye icon on it I was told what it was! Okay, death number two. Maybe I'll come back later.

This bear kills me with a move reminiscent of Wrestlemania (Death #2)

To the north was an anthill and a gypsy camp, neither of which I could do anything with right now. I did, however notice that the anthill music bears a remarkable similarity to Gabriel Knight's Detective Mosely theme.

It could be just me but when I heard this ant music I thought immediately of Detective Mosely - so I superimposed his theme over the second half of this video

A desert lay further to the west, and from my memory of playing the game before, I know I have to map the desert because I can only last a set number of screens (five?) before dying of dehydration and there are a few random oases scattered about. I went to the first row of desert screens, and found the ire of a small but dangerous scorpion. Death number three. Need scorpion-proof shoes I suppose.

My mum always said wearing thin boots would be the death of me (Death #3)

To the north I found a weeping willow with a harp and a story that seemed strangely familiar, but when I re-read the Quest for Glory II post I realised that it was only a passing similarity. The willow tree used to be a human and had her heart stolen by an evil witch and was now crying, creating a lake of tears – the only thing that gives her comfort is her harp. I want that harp, but know I won't get it until I find and return her stolen heart, so I settle for drinking her tears instead (too salty for my tastes, apparently)

Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness! Mmm - Yummy! Yummy, you guys!

To the west of Crispin's house was an 'Enter at own risk' sign at a forest entrance. Being out of ideas, I entered. The cowardly owl refused to join me. On the second screen of the forest (no matter which way I went) I was killed by a witch, who looked more like a wizard to me – the beard gave him away. The manwitch threw some kind of energy ball at me which turned me into a toad – I suspect I'll be needing a mirror to reflect his spell back on him, but haven't found one yet.

Beware the deadly balls of the Manwitch (Death #4)

There was also a small house with two gnomes - the young one was playing with a marionette - I feel like I'll need to either give the marionette to the toymaker's granddaughter or give her doll to the gnome's grandson or both or somehow convince at least one of them to part with their beloved toy.

At this point I was sort of stuck. I walked around trying my magic wand on everything (Crispin gave me a wand at the beginning and told me it would need to be treated well before it would work, or something equally ridiculous) and trying to give a custard pie to everyone, as well as offering a fish to everyone and everything. I had earlier found a rotting fish in a barrel in town but got annoyed when the baker's cat refused to have anything to do with it. Then the obvious hit me – bears like salmon – I threw the fish near the bear and he took it and wandered off.

Queen Beatrice of the bees thanked me and offered me a free taste of her delectible honeycomb (that one's for you, Kenny.) I tried to take another piece, but the narrator told me that would be unwise – not as unwise as getting close to three thugs in a bar mind, but still unwise enough that Graham refused to do it.

We royal types need to stick together

Going north to the anthill guarded by the New Orleans police department band, I found a dog trying to play with the dirt castle. Having just picked up a stick, the answer seemed obvious. The dog took my thrown stick and left, towards the desert unfortunately – if I see dog bones next to a smiling scorpion later, I'll be unhappy.

King Antony of the ants thanked me and told me that his subjects would help me out at some unspecified later time. I decided that ants might be very useful for eating through rope so I deliberately got myself captured by the inn thugs again, in the hope that my new ant friends would come to my aid. They didn't, the unreliable little bastards, so I reloaded and decided to call it a day for my first session.

This map is proof I should never be hired as a cartographer

So tune in next time, when I'll likely have to save a swarm of flies from a hungry antelope!

Session time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Session deaths: 4
Total deaths: 4

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Save The Owls Fundraising
Western Screech Owl
Joe Pranevich mentioned in the intro post that he'd generously donate up to $25 to an owl sanctuary to make up for his feelings of hate towards poor Cedric.
From playing King's Quest V I already know owls are afraid of towns, dogs, forests, witches, deserts, bandits, inns and bakers. The owls need our help!
So, anyone who joins Joe in his quest for safer non-witch-infested sanctuaries for owls, will get themselves some bonus CAPs as well as the warm fuzzy feeling of helping a creature who is, well, warm and fuzzy. I'll be the first to join Joe in his quest with my own $5 donation.


  1. Your first death was actually eating the pie, it's just that that walking dead scenario takes some time to play out. "Fun"!

    1. Good point - I'll try to put together a list of possible dead-ends at the end of the game, but it's hard to know what's a dead end or not until/unless I've been dead-ended. I'll likely be asking everyone for opinions on dead-ends I've missed in the 'Won' post - whenever that comes up. I might start keeping a tally of possible dead-ends in the next post.

  2. Nice touch that the walking icon is a little King Graham. I think usually in Sierra games of this age it was just a walking stick figure.

    1. All of the Sierra games of this era had slightly different icons, a big change from their previous games. The best of course being the ghoulish ones from Quest for Glory IV.

    2. The floppy version of King's Quest V has a more generic while stick figure. I'll be showing a comparison at some point so you can compare.

      The Amiga version had the same King Graham coloured icons as the PC CD-ROM version

  3. Nice to see the game give you a small amount of warning for most things that can kill you, a definite change from earlier games!

    I do like that they give you freedom to wander about in this early section, even if you're a little limited in what you can actually do right now.

    1. I agree. I'm happy to say I've not yet had a death where I've told the game off - see navigating stairs or narrow paths or beanstalks in previous games for the type of death I hate.

      Deaths can be fun when there's a good animation or fun smart-arsed comment involved.

  4. Graphically, it is hard to believe this game came out the same year as QfG2. While I love the game that we have, I suspect "Trial by Fire" would have aged better if it had been given the KQ5 graphical and parser overhaul.

    Am I the only person that wishes they would redo QfG5 in the engine used by 3 and 4? Those games aged so well, but the graphics in 5 are distracting to say the least. Then again, all of the games would benefit from a nice HD remastering ala Monkey Island. Surely Activision can see the value of re-releasing those games for iPad...

    Save the owls!

    1. The leap from EGA to VGA was nothing sort of amazing, that's for sure. 1990 has seemed like a transitional year for Sierra (and probably for all adventure game industry), and KQV is like a peek of what's about come next year.

    2. Yeah. Comparing EGA with VGA is rarely going to be a contest.

      Though even looking at EGA screenshots it also seems that King's Quest V's artists simply did a better job (which they should have, seeing as Corey said they got most of Sierra's staff to work on the game.),617/,7357/,574696/,14461/

      Looking back at the Monkey Island screenshots I find them to be of similar graphical quality to King's Quest V though.

    3. The early Sierra VGA adventures, this one included, suffer from what I like to call EGA syndrome: although the backgrounds are beautiful scanned artwork, all sprites look like they've been made in 16-colour first and then sloppily upgraded to VGA - everything is bright primary colours, including the iconic red skin, just with some intermediate pillowshadey tones added.

    4. The backgrounds were painted on art board and scanned in (actually photographed with an overhead camera rig). I believe the characters were drawn and animated on the computer, and most of the animators had only worked with the 16-color editor before KQV.

      In addition, there was a limited palette (I think 64 colors, some of which were very distinct interface colors) available for characters. The reason is that each scene had its own custom palette (I think 192 colors?), while the other 64 colors were always available. Since characters - particularly Graham and Cedric - had to look the same in every scene, they could only use the fixed color palette. The backgrounds would have looked much worse if the same 256 color palette had been used throughout the game. Instead, the scanning software calculated an "optimal" set of 192 shades for each scene.

      Characters did not get that benefit - They were painted with the set of 64 generic interface colors.

      Another reason for a sharp contrast on the characters was to make them very visible against the more muted look of the backgrounds. Compromises were made.

    5. Lori thinks we actually did rotoscoping on the characters for Quest for Glory III, and therefore probably for King's Quest V - Live actors played the parts (using a treadmill for the walking animation), it was filmed, then converted down to the 64 (or less) color "global palette". So it was the lack of color space that made the characters lack subtlety, not the animation techniques.

      Lori played Shema, and I played Ad Avis, for some of the rotoscoping for QG3. I guess that must have been for the opening "recap of Trial By Fire" scenes.

      On Quest for Glory IV, Marc Hudgins, an experienced (and expert) 2D animation artist, led the art team. Tim Loucks designed the character faces. Marc animated them for the talkers. We don't recall the process for the walking and other animation, but it was all based on Tim's drawings. Might have been hand-animated or might have been a combination of cell/paper animation and rotoscoping. Anyway, that resulted in a totally different (and very fun) style that worked very well despite the palette limitations.

    6. Thank you for the details. I did know already that characters, sprites and UI have a shared smaller palette compared to backgrounds (256-colour games in AGS use the same method). But in later games they apparently tweaked the global palette to allow for more natural colours, especially skin. Compare Leisure Suit Larry 5 and 6 for example:,2040/,89961/

    7. @Corey - Whoa! So you played the big bad? Cool!

    8. Come to think of it, I remember that Jordan Mechner was pioneering on that sort of animation back in those days.

    9. Ok, that is really cool that they were rotoscopped, I would have never thought that type of graphics work started so early, I thought motion capture was a quite recent thing.

    10. 2D rotoscoping has been around since the silent black&white era of animation. 3D motion capture is a newer thing.

  5. Groan, I had forgotten about Beatrice and Antony.

    Also, how about a count of pixel hunts?

    Pixels hunted so far: 1 (silver coin)

    1. Not a true pixel hunt surely, since the coin periodically shines to get your attention.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Yeah, I was deliberately exaggerating for the sake of an attempt at an amusing caption. You're right, the coin was easy to find because it has the shiny animation.

      The biggest pixel-hunty-problem with the game is that you don't know what's just background and what is a clickable object without constantly 'looking' at everything. I'm sure I've missed at least one thing due to assuming background where it's actually an item.

  6. What, no focus on the infamous pOOOOIsonous snake line? It's a great example of the game's voice acting quality, and has spawned various spoofs on YouTube.

    There are a few other great remixes of the intro too. They manage to turn it into something actually enjoyable.

    Finally, for those of you who enjoy bleeding ears, here's the town theme, along with a remastered version and two Mario Paint remixes. (The only thing that comes close to its quality is the true masterpiece that is the Lavender town theme.)


    1. I do have a video including the pOOOOisonous snake line, but it won't appear here for two more posts.

      There's a different bit of owl-voice-acting that I found particularly groan-inducing, and that will also appear in the third post - for anyone who's playing along, try walking really close to the ant castle.

      I actually think the music compares favourably to most of its contemporaries - with the notable exception of Secret of Monkey Island (TM), which somehow seemed to excel at just about everything. I particularly like how each location seems to have its own music - I'm not sure if this game was the first to do that though.

    2. Most of the music itself is actually not bad, but the awful FM synth sound effects and repetitiveness in that track are the primary reason why it has become so memetic.

  7. I recently played through this game for a school project and it was such a blast form the past! It still holds up... but of course now I have the internet to get hints. Let's face it parts of it were just unfair, like trying to barely navigate cliffs and you have to save it a lot because you can die
    at anytime and if you don't have a saved game you have to start all over. Also you can overlook picking up an item you need and then you can't finish the game.

    That guy's voice instantly takes me back.