I'd never played a King's Quest game until a couple of days ago. I'd spoken to 'fans' about what they were like, being told how they "kind of subverted the point and click genre" and that that they were "kind of amusing". Having played what most intelligent people believe to be the better point and click games, from LucasArts, I do know what these adventures are meant to be like. This King's Quest reboot, from The Odd Gentlemen and Activision, has numerous endearing moments but is bogged down by issues that make it a chore to play much of the time.
This first episode (dubbed A Knight to Remember - one of about a billion puns in the game), sees the King, Graham, telling one of his many tales to granddaughter Gwendolyn. It begins with the story of how he faced a dragon and survived (obviously) but the meat of the chapter comes from Graham regaling us with the details on how he became a knight. Essentially there was a tournament but, seeing as the other contenders were far more suitable, Graham had to use his intelligence and enthusiasm to be victorious.
As I mentioned, A Knight to Remember has plenty of positives: the voice acting is excellent, for one, with the cast doing a great job at bringing the characters to life, especially the bridge trolls. While the humour here isn't really laugh out loud funny, it's certainly good enough to raise the odd smile or smirk - which is more than can be said for a lot of games. Visually the world and characters look rather lovely, with the developers managing to achieve a cartoony, painted look: although presented as a modern, 3D adventure, the feel of the old-school 2D art has been retained, and it impresses far more than I expected it would.
But these things can't make up for some really tedious gameplay. You take direct control of Graham, rather than a pointer, moving him around a world that is larger than it seems due to the fact that you'll be darting about it (well, plodding really) to revisit areas and talk to people over and over again. To an extent this is part of the genre, but it becomes hugely noticeable here, to the point of becoming a bit of a chore.
Puzzle solving is in the classical mold, with Graham having to use an item from his inventory on an object or person. Sadly I found very few of these puzzles to be particularly clever - an early conundrum saw you looking for something that would work as a wheel. As long as you've talked to everyone the item you need and what you need to do with it becomes abundantly clear. Annoyingly there's no map, though, so initially it's easy to lose your bearings. It's also impossible to skip dialogue, so if you find yourself hearing the same old stuff from someone as you attempt to figure out what's next, you have to sit through their spiel.
Other niggles combine to make this adventure altogether less entertaining than it could have been. Numerous dull QTEs are used for significant moments, Graham is fiddly to control during one sequence in which he has to jump from pillar to pillar, there are some lengthy load times between areas (at least on Xbox One), and there's tearing and an abundance of low-res textures that hurt the game's otherwise pleasing appearance (again, at least on Xbox One).
As far as episodic adventures go, this is at least a fairly lengthy one. Depending on how smoothly you navigate through the puzzles you'll probably get between four and six hours of play time, and there are multiple solutions to some of the scenarios meaning those dedicated enough will want to play through numerous times. (I'm not one of those people.) The end is also rather abrupt, perhaps not surprisingly for an episodic title, but it does mean that the tiny amount of storytelling outside of the flashback feels a little weak. From time to time the game pulls you out of the main tale to focus briefly on Graham as an old man, and what Gwendolyn is up to. Presumably this story will run throughout all the chapters and become more than the framing device it is in this opening episode, otherwise each part of the game will have little to link one to the other.
Despite plenty of issues, A Knight to Remember isn't a terrible start to the adventure, just a rather unnecessarily tedious one. If The Odd Gentlemen can increase the overall game speed and introduce some smarter puzzles, future chapters could indeed be a lot of fun.
Version Tested: Xbox One