Developed by The Odd Gentlemen, Sierra's wonderfully strange point-and-click King's Quest franchise is finally resurrected with a new, episodic tale that is set to span six chapters in total – the first of which being the rather cunningly titled A Knight to Remember.
The story begins with Graham, the king of Daventry – the game's fictional kingdom which will act as your only port of call this time around – telling his granddaughter Gwendolyn the tale of how he ventured into an old stone well in order to retrieve a magical mirror. The treasure, of course, proved more than troublesome to obtain, and it's left up to you to discover how he did it. It's quite a simple task to open with, but is at least promising in its fantastical nostalgia and underlying sense of wonder.
It's deeper into this gloomy hole that the game introduces you to the various systems and gameplay mechanics that you'll be using to succeed in Graham's further exploits. As you might expect, the majority of these involve interacting with characters and objects in a way that will offer up new opportunities and paths for you to take. Go here, grab this hatchet, chop down this tree – that sort of thing.
However, you won't be pressed to cycle between sniffing, grabbing, or drinking everything that you come across like in the King's Quest games of old; this incarnation will see you simply walking around and tapping X on anything that you want to examine or touch – though you can still use your collected items on anything that seems appropriate, of course. It's definitely a more streamlined style of point-and-click adventure than we've come to know over the years, and whether that's better or not is down to personal taste. Hardened fans of Graham and his family's earlier endeavours might find that the title can be a little patronizing at points, whereas those looking for a more casual experience will be grateful for the extra set of wheels. All in all, A Knight to Remember certainly comes across as being far more accessible to newer players, and because of this, playing it with family and friends can be quite the treat.
That being said, the game also boasts a few fresh segments, dropping you into scenarios which require you to shoot down targets within a time limit, hide from beasties before they can turn you into that day's supper, or even solve dynamic, moving puzzles in order to progress. The premise may sound a tad gimmicky at first, but these sections can often breath new life into the adventure, keeping things fresh and compelling. This is expanded upon by player choices that can alter the road that the story takes, and can sometimes even lead to different types of activities.
The puzzles of a more static variety – that is to say, ones that are designed to bend your brain a little without the need for pre-obtained equipment or tools – can seem a little bare bones occasionally, though they tend to make sense contextually and, for the most part, are well-paced and presented. Some might leave you scratching your head, though, as one puzzle in particular – in which Graham faces off against a certain someone in a board game – seemed difficult for us to win, at least, that is until the opposing player randomly threw their strategy to the wind and allowed us to prevail with little-to-no effort. Moments like these are rare, and shouldn't impact your enjoyment of the game as a whole, but they definitely don't help to make your achievements feel as genuine as they should do.
Again, however, the title's pacing is expertly done considering its roughly five hour length. All of its gameplay sections are woven in between moments of tasteful exposition, with the exception of one instance in which you'll be expected to gather up some items from the far reaches of the realm. It's at this moment that the game's main weaknesses start to make themselves apparent; Graham sluggishly trods around the land's environments, and with no map or means to fast travel, navigating the game's world can become quite tedious and dull, especially if you get stumped on what to do next and resort to checking every nook and cranny through a second time. It's in these periods that you may even run into some aggravating frame rate issues, although these are merely annoyances as opposed to anything that would stop you dead in your tracks.
It's fortunate, then, that the places that you'll be trudging through are at least gratifying to look at. In fact, the game's stylings are to be admired. Putting some of the more muddy textures aside, the release adopts an almost painted aesthetic, rich with vibrant colours and interesting visual concepts. This, coupled with a charismatic score and sound design, really brings the kingdom to life.
Of course, the game's main method of immersion comes in the form of the bizarre personalities that you'll encounter during your time in Daventry. These can range from warm-hearted bakers to stupendously large trolls, and all of them feel legitimate and believable. This is in no small thanks to the superb voice acting and clever writing that the game serves up, with every character possessing some form of gag or quirk that will most definitely incite the odd chuckle from time to time – barring the off chance that the comedy comes across as being too obnoxious or loud.
Although talking to the area's inhabitants is more often than not a total pleasure, it is worth mentioning that you can't skip dialogue – meaning that any unintentional repeats of the same topic can result in a frustrating wait for that respective non-playable character to finish their message all over again. The lip-syncing also has the habit of looking a little off rather frequently, which isn't a weighty grievance by any means, but isn't something so easily ignored, either.
As a standalone outing, King's Quest - Chaper I: A Knight to Remember isn't bad at all, even if does fall at some disappointingly low hurdles. With aid from the game's charming cast of characters, alongside its inspired visual and audio design, though, fans of the genre will surely have a pleasant trip – albeit an occasionally arduous one.