King Graham is getting on a bit now. That boyish soul patch hanging off his lip has blossomed into a magnificent beard, there’s wrinkles on his brow and grey in his temples. Though it’s still endearing, his voice now carries a gravelly timbre. Hell, he’s even settled down and raised twins – well, at least one of them anyway.
Just minutes into this latest chapter, we see a younger Gram and his queen helplessly look on as their baby son, Prince Alexander, is stolen away from them. There’s a desperate search through the forests and caves of Daventry, but it’s to no avail. It’s a sombre start, to say the least. Quite suddenly, the game thrusts us eighteen years into the future. Still wrapped in sadness, those years have taken a toll on our plucky protagonist, but what’s even more jarring is Alexander’s sudden reappearance just moments after we see him kidnapped.
Despite being reunited with his long lost family the prince doesn’t seem all too pleased. For eighteen years he’s been a slave to Manannan, a maniacal sorcerer and the series’ main antagonist. Still, he’s quick to give his father the cold shoulder, certain he could have done more to rescue him.
Watching a significant chunk of time pass in just a few minutes of gameplay felt uncharacteristically slapdash for King’s Quest. Although each chapter picks up at a different time in Gram’s life, here it felt as though we hadn’t been given enough time to react.
The Odd Gentlemen quickly divert the player’s attention, however. Another trait found throughout the series is a defined theme for each episode. There’s definitely a family comedy vibe throughout this latest entry, playing not only on the characters themselves, but the hairy situations they find themselves in. It’s ultimately about bonding and there’s no prizes for guessing which two members of “Team Sovereign” get the most screentime.
As you might have guessed, there’s a particular focus on Graham and Alexander, working together through a series of strange and often quite taxing puzzles. These take centre stage throughout as the royal family find themselves trapped within the labyrinthine snow palace. It’s not exactly the getaway resort they had in mind, loaded with a mind-boggling assortment of levers, blocks, knobs, and buttons to mess around with. Oh, and there’s even a Sphinx.
Though occasionally fun, the constant barrage of puzzles from room to room feels exhaustingly one-track for a series that usually offers a decent balance. This fatigue is particularly problematic when attempting to make headway with the game’s story. The more vague and experimental these challenges become, the more they begin to feel like roadblocks between plot points.
We won’t discuss the ending of chapter four, though we will say it has that same emotional punch found through each of the reboot’s individual episodes. Beneath its patchwork of puns, King’s Quest has a strong and loving message, galvanised by the presence of two intertwining storylines. Each adventure is being retold by a much older King Graham, recounting every major event in his life as his granddaughter, Gwendolyn, hangs on every word.
Watching her develop as a character has been one of the reboot’s biggest draws. It’s essentially a double-layered coming of age adventure that could prove to have quite a tearjerking ending as we approach its final instalment, due out later this year.