Rating: 7/10 - A good game, and the best of the series.
(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)
At the end of the last game, Prince Alexander met and fell for Princess Cassima. He now desires to find her again. He shipwrecks in her kingdom, the Land of the Green Isles, during the search. There he discovers that she is to wed an evil Vizier. The Princess's kingdom is a series of islands, from which no escape is possible. With nothing better to do, Alexander pokes around and seeks to woo Cassima.
King's Quest VI does not begin well. Pre-rendered video was the hot new thing, so players are treated to a crappy pre-rendered movie. As was typical of the era (and sadly still is), the video is choppy and ugly. Worse, it's poorly written, heavily padded, and in desperate need of aggressive editing. There is an inoffensive 30 second video hiding in the several minutes of garbage.
The game offers tips, which seems like a good idea. Unfortunately three screens of the tips cut off in mid sentence.
But a bad opening aside, things improve quickly. Very quickly. The game inherits the good looking engine from KQ5. Lots of seemingly nonsensical commands ("talk to sign") have amusing, custom responses. The pawn shop you encounter early on has a large supply of humorous objects designed to solve poor puzzles from the earlier games. The puzzles you encounter tend to have an internal logic and can be solved without needing to fail and restore.
On the down side, the inventory icons have all been made slightly smaller than in the previous game, presumably to add an ugly purple-pink border. Not a big deal, but a regrettable regression.
The game is not free of the series flaws. There are a few (but fewer) instant kill locations. It's possible to miss an object early in the game and be unable to finish (the skeleton key drove us mad). There are puzzles that require preparations or items that you cannot reasonably foresee. (For example, you better have prepared the rain spell before stumbling into a ceremony. Failure to do so is fatal. But you have no clue that you'll need the rain spell, or the nature of the ceremony.)
The game also requires using information that Alexander can't possibly have. One part of the game requires knowing what happened in a cutscene that Alexander can't possibly have witnessed. (They later hang a lampshade on it, when Alexander points out how odd it is that he happened to make the right decision.)
The game also requires information present in the manual, a guidebook to the Green Isles. Alexander again can't possibly have seen the book. (A shame, he could have found a copy in game.) If you do play KQ6, keep a copy nearby, and skim it occasionally, it will be important.
There are a few "Oops, you clicked on the wrong spot" moments, but they are rare. By and large Alexander manages to avoid killing himself in stupid ways.
Again, subtitles aren't available. Well, they are, but you get voice or subtitles, not both. Fortunately the voice balance is much better, and we never had problems hearing the dialog. On the down side, sometimes there will be a pause in the audio, so you'll click on something else to move on. In the process you'll cut off the rest of dialog, potentially missing something important.
Sierra made the interesting decision to allow you to finish the game while missing some puzzles. This is an interesting idea, but it means that you can get an only so-so ending while having missed big chunks of the game. I'm not sure I like it.
But for all of this, KQ6 is a decidedly less cruel game. We managed to make lots of progress without resorting to hints or walkthroughs. When we missed something, we could usually correct the situation without loading an old save.
While flawed, KQ6 is interesting, has a good plot, looks good, and is largely filled with good puzzles. This is the best game of the seven numbers King's Quest games. I recommend it for fans of graphic adventures.
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