Line On Sierra: King’s Quest II
OH HEY THERE. YEAH, I’VE BEEN WORKING OUT SINCE THE LAST GAME. I’M TRYING TO ATTRACT A MATE
1987’s King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne concerns King Graham’s search for a suitable queen, which I guess is why they’re immediately amping up the sex appeal. As a kid I didn’t recognize the reference in the title, so I assumed “romancing the throne” was a wonderfully poetic expression that no one should be embarrassed about at all. (As an adult I just.. I don’t.. why, tho) Although I’d read about it, this is one of the few King’s Quest games I’ve never played in any form, so I was curious going into it.
I only need one post for my adventures in King’s Quest II for two reasons. First off, it’s pretty similar to the first game. Second, I blitzed through the thing. After needing two nights and near-constant walkthrough consultation to finish the first game, I beat this one in three hours flat. And I only had to check the walkthrough once, over a point of interpreter diction. There are three possible factors at play:
- Perhaps Sierra had learned from their mistakes and were designing more player-friendly puzzles.
- After struggling through the first game, I was more familiar with the designers’ logic.
- I was extravagantly drunk.
I mean, look, I was blizzard-trapped and bored. After this experience, I suspect that chemically shutting down my executive function and working on pure fuckoff whim is an excellent way to approach these games. This may prove to be a long-term experiment. For now, let’s see what changed between Sierra’s ground-breaking graphical adventure and its rather hasty-seeming followup.
YEAH, I THINK THERE MIGHT BE A FEW TICKETS LEFT FOR THE GUN SHOW, LEMME CHECK
King’s Quest II picks up exactly where the previous game ended, with pixellated adventurer Graham sitting in a large empty throne room pretending to be a king. Now he has a mirror though! He looks in it and feels sad. He’s a pretty lonely guy, unsurprisingly, and would like a nice baby factory to continue his pretend lineage. But what’s this he sees in his magic mirror?!
Seriously, what’s this? She’s apparently the most beautiful woman Graham has ever seen. This is plausible, since his tiny kingdom contains a total of two human women, one of whom keeps trying to eat him. But I can’t be the only one who’s seeing three separate candidates for a mouth on that face. It actually kinda reminds me of the wife/mother-in-law illusion, which is cool I guess. In any case, she inspires Graham to throw off his crown, put on a jaunty hat, and magically appear on a beach somewhere in search of her.
This new kingdom, which has a foolish name of some kind, is about the same size as King’s Quest I‘s Daventry. However, the design is a little more unified; I don’t get the same sense that space warps unpredictably around the map. Stuff you see in the distance usually appears in the next screen in an orderly fashion. It also introduces two natural barriers to the east and west: an ocean and a mountain. This makes the map feel a little bigger than the one from the first game, even though it isn’t. There’s a reason world designers keep pulling this trick.
One thing I’d definitely learned from the first game was to start by thoroughly mapping the area. I wandered through the joint methodically for the first hour of the game, picking up nonsense and scribbling on my graph paper.
Oh hey looks like my quest is finished already HEYYY
Seriously though, this clam just concealed a sapphire bracelet. The dirt of the kingdom of Whatever continually vomits forth coordinated sapphire jewelry for no reason whatsoever.
In my wanderings I met this witch, who seemed like a pretty excellent bride candidate. She has defeated many enemies, has a neat pet bird, and is so dedicated to her craft that she didn’t notice me sneaking up right behind her until I started talking.
My stylings failed to impress her. As if my heart weren’t broken enough, I later found out she had a Batmobile too. In spite I stole her bird and sold it to some asshole.
I found some of the design of the new kingdom unsettling, such as this apparently suburban home in the middle of nowhere. I feel like this is based on some programmer’s mom’s house in LA. It contains Red Riding Hood’s grandma, who sometimes is a wolf based on a random die roll as you enter. So like, if there’s a wolf in bed, you just leave and come back and it’s Grandma again. If they’ve got such a casual bed-sharing arrangement, I don’t know why I’m supposed to be scared of the guy. But you know, these designers are just really committed to inserting random meaningless death into every possible scenario.
I didn’t manage to loot the honored elder’s home. So instead I gave her some soup I stole from someone else’s home, because theft is the only way I know how to communicate. She gave me a cape and a ring, which I would later use to inadvertently disguise myself as Dracula. (I just put them on because I thought fancy clothes would make women like me better.) In retrospect I’m more curious about how Grandma ended up with some of Dracula’s clothes under her bed. This lady’s pretty baller.
The insertion of vaguely Californian scenery continued with a mission-style monastery. I found this whole scene pretty surprising. So far this universe had seemed pretty pre-Christian, what with the fairy blessings and deals with gnomes and whatnot.
I was immediately sour on the idea of encroaching Christianity for many reasons. Chief among them is that folks attempted to convey this “ringing merrily” sound in tremendously half-assed 8-bit sound. I can’t… I can’t convey how horrible this sound was in text. It’s like someone tried to recreate the Emergency Alert System sound in extremely low fidelity, but kind of… dirtier-sounding, somehow?
Whatever my feelings on the subject, I could see why Graham would find the Church appealing. He’s a flimsy monarch ruling over a land composed almost entirely of hostile forest spirits, and he’s looking to consolidate his power in a single family line. The time has come to cast ancient traditions into the darkness. Make everyone pick sides. Get a supernatural power backing your family that the people can’t appeal to directly.
Unsurprisingly, the new alliance between the throne of Daventry and the Church of Christ went swimmingly right off the bat. Graham knelt to show his loyalty, and the monk rewarded him with the blessing of the Lord.
Equally unsurprisingly, Graham obtained the blessing of a pagan forest spirit not seconds after leaving the church. Monarchs in volatile times should hedge their bets!
Soon, my mapping efforts were at an end, and I came to the real purpose of this game: opening this door.
This is a surreal detail of the game I quite liked. The overall structure is that you have to open three nested doors standing in the middle of nowhere by obtaining three keys. Presumably, a hot princess lies on the other side. It’s a brutally stripped down version of Every Game Plot Ever, and I love it. The fact that the doors just float there, unattached to anything, really hammers the point home. It’s beautiful.
To find the keys, you ride a variety of ridiculous things to unlikely locations. First, you ride a seahorse past some sharks. I was kind of offended that Graham the Two Second Drowner could suddenly hold his breath this long.
Then you ride a carpet to a mountain that has a snake on it.
I killed the snake, which made me lose points. Apparently I could have done something fancy and left the snake alive. These games usually give bonuses for nonviolent solutions, which I always forget in the heat of the moment. I’m not sure whether this is because of my decades of violent games, or because I’m biased by the UNENDING VIOLENCE THAT SURROUNDS ME.
Anyway, on this mountain I also found a hole in a rock, which I assumed held a sapphire toe ring or some damn thing. So I look in and then–
I LOOKED IN A HOLE AND SAW A AD FOR THE NEXT GAME I’M GONNA PLAY #LineOnSierra
— Line Hollis (@LineHollis) February 9, 2013
WELL PLAYED, SIERRA. Get hype, people! Space Quest is indeed next in line. By the way, I’m continually charmed by how Sierra On-Line referred to all their graphical adventure games as “3-D.” By this they meant that sprites could move in front of and behind objects, rather than all objects being on one plane. It was legitimately clever graphics programming at the time.
So with only one door left, I was now ready to ride across the poison lake on something ridiculous. This poison lake is not fucking around. I fell in it once and the game text told me that I died of EXTREME POISONING.
Based on the monk’s gift of a cross, as well as everything about the design of this place, it was pretty clear that I was gonna meet a vampire. Also: why the hell is this place so giant? Dracula is not much larger than Graham on screen. The proportions of things in the first two King’s Quest games seem to be decided by dice roll. They may have been doing some fine things with animation, but let’s be real: these jerks were terrible pixel artists. Anyway, it was obviously time to kill Dracula.
This proved harder than I expected. I had a stake, and a mallet, and a fancy cross that made me invincible against Draculas. I just couldn’t… figure out… what god DAMN words the parser wanted from me. I know from vague memory that this is the first of many such occasions I’ll face in this journey. I tried: STAKE DRACULA, STAB DRACULA, USE STAKE ON DRACULA, etc. etc. Eventually I turned to the walkthrough for the one and only time. The answer is KILL DRACULA. Well! I should have thought of that! HEY LET’S TRY THIS
OH SORRY IS IT NOT THAT EASY ALL OF A SUDDEN??
Anyway, having obtained the last key, I died of thorns a few more times and pensively headed back. I also dyed my hair black in honor of my gothic surroundings, apparently. This actually got me wondering why Graham’s hair is normally dark gray. He’s supposed to be a young fellow after all, right? I wonder if they thought he looked too swarthy with full black hair.
At last I was able to travel through the final door! On the other side I found..
FUCK YEAH PSYCHEDELIC BEACH. This place is great, why doesn’t the whole game take place here? Obviously, my goal at this point was to find another ridiculous thing to ride, and I did not disappoint.
IT’S A GIANT SMILING GOLD FISH. IT SOARS ABOVE THE PURPLE SEA. CAN YOU FIND A GREATER SCENE IN A VIDEOGAME? I DENY THAT YOU CAN.
After some very touchy staircase climbing, I ended up finding my bride-to-be. Oh hey. Hi. I see your pixels have been apportioned in the usual insulting ways. I confused the game a bit by trying to talk to this woman. In the end, of course, the correct thing to do was to just say GO HOME so she would automatically marry me.
Aw, all my pals and things who tried to eat me showed up! Note the inherent tension of all the pagan forest and sea spirits attending a Christian wedding. I look forward to seeing how this temporary ceasefire plays out in future installments! Also note that Grandma has chosen to take the wolf as her date, while Dracula sits far away with the witch. Hope things don’t get awkward later~! Maybe Dracula just likes a woman with a flash car, tho.
THINGS THAT KILLED ME IN KING’S QUEST II: THE POWER RANKING
Bushes: 18 times
Climbing slightly diagonal things: 4
Extreme poisoning: 1