Feeling a wave of nostalgia after the fact that Sierra is being ?downsized,? I went and looked through old folders of older games that I hadn?t played in a while. King?s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, the game that consumed me for months and months of my childhood, said play me and I obliged willingly.
I remember seeing an early screenshot for King?s Quest 4 in an old computer games magazine, and I knew I was going to be hooked. After experiencing the King?s Quest I, Space Quest I and II and such, I knew that this new amazingly colored and detailed game had to be mine! It was on the top of my Christmas list in 1989, and my parents put up with my constant stream of information about Sierra On-Line and the amazing new game they had. Just look at these pictures on the back of the box!!
When I got it for Christmas that year, the family was visiting my grandparents (who owned a Mac) and so I poured over each and every page of each and every insert. Just biding my time until I could arrive back at home and pop disk 1 of 9 into the A: drive and type the ?sierra? to get things rolling. 9 disks. This game was huge! Our home computer didn?t have a hard drive, just two handy 5.25? drives with a good old 640k of ram. MS Dos 3.2 and GEM desktop if I wanted to draw with the painting program.
The game?s opening with King Graham looking old and gray, getting sick and Rosella (his Daughter) going off on an adventure to save him. The plot was great back then and now ends up just a little simplistic and cute. Skip past it all and Rosella stands on a beach, alone. Waves lap up on the shore. This was heaven and it was only beginning. I soon discovered the problem of having a 9 disk game with no hard drive. Walk one screen, ?Please insert Disk 4?, walk two screens north, ?Please insert Disk 2?. You get used to it quickly, and the excitement of playing disk that had never entered your drive until that request before was great. You were making progress into unknown territory.
I spent months traveling around the land, talking to the natives, getting fishing poles, and true to a Sierra game, dying constantly while climbing circular stairs. My friends soon had their own ?copies? of the game and we gave each other hints, and exalted over new areas and puzzles as we made it further in the game. My sister would join me in the quest, offering help and advice, but mostly watching me die by the hands of the troll, or the blind witches. Eventually it all came to an end with my father saved, and the family happy again. The ending of the game never really mattered to me, but it was more the experience of the game that stuck with me. From there I continued my Sierra love affair with Space Quest and Manhunter: New York.
Sad as it is to admit, I wrote fan letters to Roberta Williams when I was a kid. Twice. I received letters back from her both times. As a kid, having your game designer idol write you a personal letter back was thrilling, and I had the envy of my peers. I was even thanked for my game design ideas, and told they preferred to use their own in-house ideas, rather than those from their fans.
When replaying it this weekend, it was amazing to see how quickly the typing and the interface of walking around came back to me. It was like it never left. I remembered where things were and where I had to use them, and where random little things lay. I also quickly remembered to save often and really save in a few different save files. The game will let you get to places without the items you need to get out of them, and end up in a dead end. I really only forgot one piece (giving the book to the minstrel) but all of the other puzzles came back to me like I had never left the game.
The thing that surprised me was the lack of sound and music. Sierra helped to pioneer sound cards for the industry, just like ID did for video cards with Quake. Kings Quest 4 doesn?t really seem to show it so much. There just was a lack of ambient noises (aside from opening a door or getting a point) and music was severely limited. Maybe it was still early in the days of the AdLib card (ohh how I drooled for one of those, and ended up getting a Sound Blaster Pro a couple of years later), but the music was just a slightly upgraded version of the PC speaker sound. Maybe the MT-32 sound would blow me away, but I don?t think they hit their stride with the music till King?s Quest 5 and onward for full use of sound cards.
Go find it, play it, ignore the dated graphics and the lack of a mouse interface. Save often and play it. You?ll feel all warm and fuzzy if you like adventure games. One of the finest in a series that died in its later incarnations. It?s the pinnacle that was all downhill from there.