King's Quest V. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Russ Ceccola
King Graham guests again, this time in a gaming environment far easier to navigate than before! If typing ever turned you away from adventure, you no longer have an excuse not to embrace adventure games. The splendid synergy of graphics, sound, and gameplay in King's Quest V makes for one of the most rewarding quests in computer history.
Previously in Sierra games, you moved a character around a 3-D screen with joystick, mouse, or keyboard and typed in commands at the bottom of the screen on a text entry line. King's Quest V does away with typing. Instead, the game can be played entirely with a mouse. The keyboard and joysick are also active, but I found the mouse easier to use.
When you move the cursor to the top of the screen, a row of icons pops up that allows youto perform all of the game's functions. You can select the icons on the bar directly with the cursor or avoid the icon bar entirely. The second button on the joystick or mouse cycles through the icons by changing the cursor to an eye (for examining), hand (for using objects), character (for moving), head (for talking), or an inventory object (for using an object on something else). This is the way to play King's Quest V. Go near the icon bar only to save games, choose an object from your inventory, or control volume level and other environment variables.
After a minute spent mastering the interface, you begin the real fun. You assume the role of King Graham of Daventry, and upon returning from a walk, you realize that your castle and family are missing. With the help of Cedric the owl, you must find the castle and its occupants and defeat the evil wizard responsible for their disappearance. The journey will take you to a variety of places, from desert to ice caves, and will introduce you to many distinctive characters, such as the Queen of the Bees and the King of the Rats.
The story and miniquests of the game are woven together beautifully, and members of the animal kingdom that you save from disaster will return the favor in either the most unlikely places or your hour of need. Save the King of the Rats, and he'll later free you from jail, allowing you to continue your quest. You also have the opportunity to prevent the destruction of an ant community. As it turns out, the ants prove to be adept at finding a needle in a haystack--a task you'll have to complete in order to finish your quest.
Expect some trouble with the puzzles as a result of the game's convoluted plotting. With so much depending on what characters you've met or need to meet, problem solving may require some extremes of imagination. If I hadn't had the hint book, I might never have cleared some of the game's obstacles. You might choose to play with a few friends; someone is bound to have some insight or interesting suggestions. As a game played alone, though, King's Quest V might be too much of a challenge.
The strongest element of King's Quest V is the use of graphics. The pictures in the 256-color version of the game were painted by artists and then optically scanned for breathtaking results. For machines supporting fewer colors, the game's developers chose the standard approach to computer graphics: using paint programs to create facsimiles of the originals. The resulting art is good but not stunning.
Further enhancing your total gaming experience is the superb music in King's Quest V: a good reason to buy a sound board, although even those computer owners with only an internal speaker will be in for a treat. The soundtrack is nonstop, and the theme of the music varies with the screens displayed.
My suggestion to Sierra after seeing King's Quest V is that it not change the interface at all and use that interface on all its adventure games. The company assures me that Quest's interface will become its standard. This means, with Sierra games at least, that you will never again have to contend witha parser and a keyboard--a welcome promise indeed.