No, not throne! Thorne. O-R.
The whole time I kept reading it as throne even though I listened to the introduction and knew that it wasn’t. I just did it again! That was the second biggest challenge I faced with this game.
The biggest challenge was that I just didn’t trust it.
For some reason I kept waiting for it to turn into an ironic retro tribute. I don’t know, maybe I’m still feeing the after-effects of The Messenger. They didn’t advertise it like that, but I couldn’t shake the suspicion that they’d sneak it in there anyway.
You know, the king would turn out to be a fool, and the challenge would turn out to be a joke, and the villain would, of course, not really be a villain, and the main character would snark his way through it all; and thus heroism itself is revealed yet again to be merely a farce. How clever.
But no! In true King’s Quest fashion, they play it totally straight from start to finish; and as a result this humble little game manages to create a heartwarming nostalgic experience.
As far as the story goes, it’s a fairy tale in the literal sense. That is, it takes place in an actual fairy kingdom. Basically you’re a bard who shows up to take part in a contest, the grand prize being a wish granted by the king himself. In doing so you explore the land and encounter a colorful assortment of charlatans, weirdos, jerks–especially that damned gnome–killer bugs, and even a few likable people here and there.
It’s got a good-natured, lighthearted sort of vibe, which is exactly what you’d expect. The adventure is on the short and simple side, but then so were the early King’s Quests; although looks-wise this one is closer to the KQ5-6 era.
Even so, their biggest shortcoming here is that ultimately the game doesn’t make much of an effort to exceed its source material. Retro is one thing, but this really could have been dropped here straight through a time portal from 1991, complete with the rudimentary interface and clunky item combinations. With thirty years of hindsight, you’d like to see them find ways to incorporate some fresher ideas, whether in the story, the puzzles or the mechanics. For one thing, the whole bard theme feels underutilized, even though you do get to play a song here and there. Same with the villain.
Also, can we talk about mazes?
The confusing maze has become the adventure game’s version of the sewer level. They’ve all got to have one even though I’ve never met a single person who actually enjoyed it. I mean, this has been going on since Zork 1, and does anybody understand why?
How about we just agree to a moratorium on The Maze until someone figures out a way for it not to be the worst part of every game it’s in.
Still, overall it all manages to come together pretty well, especially considering this was their first try. I guess we’ll get another chance to see what they can do, since apparently there’s going to be a second one coming along eventually.
I’ll play that, too, I guess, if I can ever remember the name.