I loved adventure games as a kid. Probably because I hated my life and wanted to grow more frustrated with every click of the mouse. Most of those 90’s adventure games had terrible play filled with puzzles that made sense only to a sadistic programmer hunched in his cubical so long that any exposure to sun would melt him the moment he stepped out of Sierra’s headquarters.

“Yes! It must use the pliers stuck in the inflated rubber duck tied to a string stolen from the rat who ate the last piece of the king’s cake to get the key that will open the door to the portal through time! It will see the solution instantly or It shall die!”

That, by the way, is only a modest exaggeration to an actual puzzle.

One of the more logic twisting games was King’s Quest. We had received a free CD of King’s Quest V with our new Compaq Presario to showcase how amazing the newly released CD drives could be (“Look! No disk switching!”). I would play it for hours, often with my dad, despite not having an internet to look up the necessary walkthough for any normal, right thinking person to actually make it through the game.

By the way, no, I don’t believe we ever actually finished it. Or if we did, it was years later, after the amazing new technology of America Online started spreading to my corner of California.

Fast forward a generation, and now I’m playing the updated version of King’s Quest with my own kids.

So far they’ve only released Chapters 1 – 3, but I have to say, I love it. It was a risky move for the company to release the game at all, in a world where adventure games have basically fizzled out except for Telltale Games’ glorified Choose Your Own Adventure books. I don’t know how successful the effort has been financially, but gaming wise, The King’s Quest creators managed to strike a good balance, having puzzles that are difficult–but not impossible without a walkthrough–and a story that’s actually pretty good.

The game is told by the old King Graham, played by Christoper Lloyd, recounting the adventures of his youth his granddaughter Gwendolyn. Each chapter has told a different one of his stories, so far covering how he conquered a dragon, how he became king, how he escaped goblins, and how he met his wife. Each one and filled with puns that will make any sane person groan. Each can reach a different ending depending on which path you choose (though, like the Telltale Games choices, the paths end up being fairly similar).

The graphics are a bit odd, but they grow on you.

The graphics are a bit odd, but they grow on you.

Each chapter we’ve played has gotten Kella fully invested in the story, with her pushing me to play “just a little bit longer” to find out how the next twist is resolved.

Of all the chapters, the best so far is the third. Rather than being a typical fairy tale “they were destined to be together and and lived happily ever after,” King Graham keeps reiterating how much work it took, how much time and effort they spent on their relationship, not just during the initial rescue, but in the days and months and years afterwards.

As for appropriateness of the game for a 4 and 6 year old, I’ve had only slight reservations. The beginning starts in the dragon’s lair, which is absolutely littered with skeletons, some humorously and gruesomely placed. Like the impaled skeleton that rides next to you on a bed. It was a bit dark. Thankfully, after that initial section, the tone lightens up considerably, with no more corpses spread at your feet.

For the gameplay aspect, Kella likes to move King Graham around, but the puzzles are a bit too difficult. She likes watching, though, which works for me.

There was one moment that made me really love this game. It came in one of the cut scenes with Grandpa talking with Granddaughter. I couldn’t help but be transported to my own youth, hearing my grandpa spout out his daring adventures fighting against teenagers and the other teachers as a high school biology instructor. When you can take a video game story about dungeons, dragons, kings and quests and connect with the player enough to throw him back to his own childhood, I think that qualifies as a home run.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the chapters. I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute recommending others play this with kids of their own.