Rating: 4/10 - Frustrating and illogical.
(My King's Quest series reviews: I: Quest for the Crown II: Romancing the Throne, III: To Heir is Human, IV: The Perils of Rosella, V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!, VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, VII: The Princeless Bride)
The original King's Quest (KQ) is good reminder of how far adventure games have come. Early graphic adventures were spawned by early text adventures. Both forms were relatively immature. Key ideas of fairness and internal logic weren't considered important. The enhanced version from 1990 improves the graphics significantly, but leaves the terrible gameplay.
The plot is dull but serviceable. The king lost three important magical items years ago, and as a result the kingdom has fallen into ruin. Only now that he is near death does he realize that maybe he should fix that. So he sends you out to look for them. Forgettable, but it will do.
Daventry, the land you explore, is chock full of nonsense. Giants living in the clouds, a witch, a woodcutter, a dragon, and more. There is no evidence of an actual kingdom with human subjects, but it's okay, just don't think on it too much.
The first problem is that KQ is a cruel game. It's possible to die engaging in simple exploration. Several "puzzles" are simply dangerous areas you must traverse without falling off the edge to your death. In many cases, the path would be easy to cross in real life, but is much more dangerous because of the crude keyboard or mouse control.
The second problem is that a number of puzzles fail to make sense.
At one point you can wait for a giant to fall asleep. If you leave the area and come back, he never falls asleep. If you enter the area invisibly and wait, he will.
At another point, you must guess the name of a gnome who spins straw into gold. Obviously he's Rumpelstiltskin. Except that he's not. The only clue to his name is in a witch's cottage; a witch that we have no reason to believe is connected to the gnome. The clue suggests that sometimes you need to think backwards, but doesn't provide any hints that it is talking about the gnome's name. Fortunately the 1990 version accepts the reversed form of Rumpelstiltskin, Nikstlitslepmur. The original game demanded the completely insane Ifnkovhgroghprm! (That's what you get if you use a reverse alphabet cipher, so A becomes Z, B becomes Y, and so on.)
Near the end of the game, you need to access a previously inaccessible screen. A condor, which has not shown up before and for which there is no reason for it to show up now, starts flying around. To continue, you need to wait for the condor, then jump up and grab it's legs, causing it to fly you to the final area. Condors are big birds, but at no point have I considered using them for flight.
All in all, this is not a game worth playing. I only recommend it to people studying game design, and even then only as a source of warnings or for the study of the history of game design.
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