Syl's Blog

Adventure and Nostalgia - King's Quest VII

When I was a kid, I often played adventure games, but I didn't get very far in them because the puzzles were usually too advanced for me. I would spend hours just wandering around, trying to discover new screens or lines of dialogue, clicking randomly and uncovering whatever I could while never advancing beyond the first area or two. Robin Hood: Conquests of the Longbow and Myst are two good examples of this. I was obsessed with the music of Conquests and the otherworldly books in Myst's library, but those things had to be enough to satiate me because the puzzles were just too hard.

The biggest exception is Sierra On-Line's King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride. As a kid, I was immediately pulled in by its bright, cartoony graphics, as opposed to the other King's Quest games, which were less Disney-fied and slightly more serious in tone. I never finished any of the other King's Quest games, but I completed King's Quest VII more than once. It has a chapter selection, and I would often replay my favorite chapters just to experience their colorful worlds again.

King's Quest VII screenshot

Since I've been revisiting old adventure games, King's Quest VII was one of the first that I turned to. I recently played through it again for the first time in years, and I was surprised at how well I remembered some of the puzzle solutions. It was quite easy for me to get through, but it was still a lovely nostalgic romp through one of my favorite video game worlds.

The Princeless Bride is, obviously, a play on The Princess Bride. That should give you some indication of the kind of humor the game contains. It's definitely on the sillier side, with the cartoonish aesthetic fitting perfectly. It feels like the Saturday morning cartoons of my youth combined with classic high fantasy.

King's Quest VII screenshot

Released in 1994, the game was designed and written by Lorelei Shannon, who had previously worked with Jane Jensen (of Gabriel Knight fame) on Pepper's Adventures in Time. Roberta Williams, co-founder of Sierra, served as the game's director and worked closely with Lorelei. In The Sierra Adventure: The Story of Sierra On-Line by Shawn Mills, Lorelei is quoted as saying, "Sometimes when we were jamming on ideas, coming up with every possible solution we could think of for a puzzle, we'd get really silly and just crack each other up. ... Don't get me wrong. Designing King's Quest VII was hard work. Sometimes it was stay-up-all-night-and-drink-coffee-til-your-eyes-bug hard work. But it was always fun, because Roberta made it fun." And I think that's just beautiful.

You play alternately as Princess Rosella of Daventry, who was kidnapped by a troll king and spirited to the land of Eldritch, and her mother Valanice, who manages to follow Rosella to Eldritch in search of her. Far from damsels in distress, Rosella and Valanice find their way out of countless sticky situations through the use of good ol' adventure game logic and '90s girl power.

King's Quest VII screenshot

Each chapter of the game takes place largely in one section of Eldritch. My favorites are the town of Falderal and the land of Ooga Booga.

Falderal is a nonsensical place, reflected by the fact that Valanice keeps calling everyone and everything in it ridiculous. A jaunty little tune plays while you're exploring, and you'll run into characters like Archduke Fifi le Yipyap, who runs the town and keeps things silly; the mock turtle Ersatz, proprietor of the Faux Shop, a store full of fake items; and a Jersey-accented mockingbird who has a new insult for you every time you click on him.

King's Quest VII screenshot

Ooga Booga is akin to Halloweentown. It's dark and spooky year-round, and everyone who inhabits it is dead. Its leader is Count Tsepish, who was beheaded by the evil fairy Malicia and doomed to ride the skies on his horse searching for his lost noggin, a la the Headless Horseman. Speaking of Malicia, she's the main villain of the game. She's essentially your run-of-the-mill evil stepmother type character, just without the stepchildren. She's trying to erase Eldritch from existence by causing a volcanic eruption to destroy it, and she pops up every now and then to put a wrench in the plans of Rosella and Valanice.

There's... a lot going on. Suffice it to say that Falderal and Ooga Booga are a ton of fun to experience. I love the creativity that went into all the areas of Eldritch, but especially those two over-the-top places. The environments are absolutely beautiful all around, with Disney-esque hand-painted SVGA (Super Video Graphics Array) scenes that scroll as you move -- a brand-new feature back in 1994.

King's Quest VII screenshot

The puzzles in King's Quest VII are inventory-based. You'll pick up various items and then use them, either by combining them with other items or interacting with objects in the environment. It's pretty standard point-and-click stuff, which Sierra was at the forefront of back in the day, but this was the first time you didn't have to select a "verb" icon before choosing which object you want to use. It was kind of revolutionary at the time.

I had a blast playing through my favorite adventure game again. As I mentioned earlier, I'm surprised by how much I managed to remember, especially when it came to Falderal and Ooga Booga. I guess that just goes to show how much I played those sections as a kid. I plan on continuing my nostalgia trip by playing LucasArts' Loom next. I'm hanging up the Sierra towel for now, but I'm sure I'll be back to it in the future. I kind of want to play through all of the other King's Quest games, so maybe that's a goal I can reach this year!

#video games