King's Quest 7: The Princeless Bride
If the King's Quest series was anything like the Rocky movies, you'd be forgiven for dismissing this, the latest offering. King's Quest VII - The Princeless Bride (KQ VII). as just more of the same. Same plot, same graphics, same gameplay, with a slightly different scenario - all designed to rob you of another 50 quid. Thankfully, the King's Quest games are nothing like the Rocky movies, since each subsequent adventure in the saga is both an improvement and diversion on the game before. KQ VII not only betters its predecessor KQ VII, it puts on its steel toe-capped Doc Marten boots and kicks the stuffing out of it!
Get me down the pub NOW!
Roberta Williams, creator of the famous King's Quest adventures, had one major problem to overcome when embarking on the design of the seventh instalment in the series - how to make it bigger and better than KQ VII keep it fresh and innovative, yet retain the King's Quest adventure style? At this stage she did what every normal human being would do and decided to go down the pub. Thankfully for us - you because otherwise there would be no KQVII, and me because I wouldn't be earning any dosh writing this review - after a swift half and a packet of pork scratchings she decided to put pen to paper and began to write what I would say is possibly one of the most impressive adventures I've ever had the good fortune to play!
On launching the CD (KQ VII will only be available in true multimedia) you are treated to a beautifully animated cartoon which outlines the game's scenario in gobsmacking form. In fact, you'll be so intent on watching the animation that you'll have to watch it several times before you discover the plot. So I'll save you the bother - Queen Valanice (who King's Quest aficionados will recognise from the previous incarnations) berates her daughter Princess Rosella (who's more wholesome than a Hovis cracker) for not having tied the knot at the decrepit age of 20. Rosella. understandably so wants to have fun and is not too enamoured of this "marrying" idea, particularly lince the suitor lined up for her is Prince Frogmorton, who's hobby s conjugating Latin verbs. (What a wuss!)
Whilst Valanice continues to nag her daughter, Rosella is lured nto a magical pool by a flying seahorse, leaving only her golden lair comb behind. Valanice plunges in after her, but it is too late the cannot find her beloved daughter. Valenice later finds herself tranded alone in a desert in the Land Beyond Dreams.
Wolf In Sheep's Clothing?
Gameplay takes place in the main window, with the game controls and inventory occupying a small box at the bottom of the screen. Objects in the inventory can be examined by selecting one and then placing it over the "eye" icon, whereupon a window pops up allowing you to view a rotatable 3-dimensional image of the item in question. I'll let you into a secret here - pay particular attention when examining your inventory objects as many can be manipulated to reveal something rather important.
Sound like your kind of game? Well actually the sound track is also superb. Sierra has put an immense amount of work into producing a fully orchestrated package, featuring over a hundred melodies and many original scores. In the animated intro. Rosella's rendition of Land Beyond Dreams makes Julie Andrews look like Madonna, but it all adds to the Disney ambience. The sound effects are very realistic and the magnificent voice talent gives characterisation and personality to the animated inhabitants of Iitheria. I loved the chicken who runs around telling everyone the sky is falling!
What about the puzzles?
I was just getting to that. For a start there are hundreds of them to complete and they come in every shape and size. Some puzzles are really simple (just use one object on another type of thing) whilst others are so cunningly difficult (perform a sequence of actions in the correct order to solve part one of the puzzle and move on to the next bit variety) that they'll leave you frothing at the mouth and tearing your hair out! When you solve a particular problem you are rewarded with brilliant and often quite funny animations of the resulting effect. It pays to keep both your ears and eyes wide open when exploring since there are loads of useful clues to help you solve problems along the way. You'll have plenty to explore as this game is BIG! There are six chapters, all with at least a dozen different locations plus loads of further sub animations.
Bottom burps and all
Even perfection has it's faults (I bet even Keanu Reeves farts in the bath) and KQ VII is no exception. First, those graphics - yes. they are impressive, but they are a little too good to be true. Even the Disney movies can be a bit frightening when the occasion calls for kt. (I hid behind my bucket of popcorn during the stampede scene in I Tie Lion King!) I'm not asking for Reserwir Dogs cinematography, but it really has to be said that the ogres and death scenes could look at least a tad scarier. Also, some of the puzzles are a little too lemon squeasy - just see how long it takes you to suss out how to scare the Jackalope.
I also experienced animation hang-ups in the forge (which meant my game wasn't saved), so I had to go back and re-do a lot of the puzzles, but. admittedly, that may have been particular to my machine. You also have to wait a while before arriving at a new location and automatic animation sequences, which isn't that surprising considering the amount of information being loaded. The former point you can't do anything about but the latter you can fast forward through, which is a real blessing when you've seen the animation several times and gleaned all the clues therein.
The bit at the end
How many times have you bought a well-hyped game only to find that it's all mouth and no trousers, eh? Well, you'll be pleased to discover that although King's Quest Vll may have all the looks of Mel Gibson or Michelle Pfeiffer, within it throbs a heart of Sean Connery or Sharon Stone. Roberta Williams and her team have managed to produce a beautifully crafted product that will appea those who enjoy adventures of the IucasArts ilk while still managing not to put off those who have played the King's Quest saga from its inception. If KQ VII was a car you'd be driving around in an Aston Martin. A multimedia masterpiece.