King's Quest 5: Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder logo

Vor nicht allzulanger Zeit geschah es, daß ein Sierra-Adventure vom PC auf den Amiga umgesetzt wurde. Und siehe, das Game war gut, aber die Konvertierung so schlecht, daß man es ohne Festplatte nicht spielen konnte. Weil das ein unhaltbarer Zustand war, taugen diesmal weder Game noch Konvertierung was...

Eine mächtige Magierin namens Roberta Williams hat es furchtbar geärgert, daß es auf der Welt immer noch so viele Leute gibt, die einen Amiga ohne Festplatte und Turbokarte besitzen. Deshalb bescherte sie diesen Unbelehrbaren nun ein Spiel, bei dem sie die ganze Zeit beschäftigungslos dasitzen müssen und nur hin und wieder mal eine Diskette wechseln dürfen. Gelegentlich können sie auch etwas auf dem Bildschirm anklicken, aber dann heißt's gleich wieder abwarten, Tee trinken, abwarten. Sterben kann man zwar nicht dabei, aber einschlafen, und sobald das Programm das merk, muß man zur Strafe wieder ganz von vorne bzw. beim letzten Speicherstand anfangen...

Gut, daß die neuen Sierra-Adventures mit einem unaufgerüsteten Amiga praktisch unspielbar sind, ist mittlerweile relativ bekannt. Aber im Fall der nun schon seit fünf Folgen vom Unglück gebeutelten Königsfamilie kommt erschwerend hinzu, daß auch die Handlung keinen mehr vom Hocker reißt. Losgehn tut's damit, daß Schloß Daventry mitsamt seinem blaublütigen Inhalt entführt wird, und zwar komplett! Lediglich der Haushaltsvorstand, König Graham, bleibt ungläubig staunend zurück - er hatte nämlich gerade seine Lieblingseule Gassi geführt und durfte/mußte deshalb nicht mitfliegen. Selbstmurmelnd, daß sich der Rest des Games um die Familienzusammenführung durch Papa Graham dreht.

Er begegnet dabei allerlei skurrilen Gestalten, wie sprechenden Baumprinzessinnen, aufdringlichen Schneidern, seltsamen Insekten und einer Hexe, die Prinzen am liebsten im Frosch-Format mag. Bloß von Spannung, Dramatik oder gar Komplexität war im Märchenland nichts zu entdecken!

Vielleicht liegt es ja an der neuen Einheits-Menüliste, die jetzt bei allen Sierra-Spielen verwendet wird. Sie ist zwar einfach zu bedienen, doch schränkt sie ach die Handlungsmöglichkeiten ein - man probiert nun oft wahllos rum, statt richtig rumzurätseln.

Dazu kommt der (hoffentlich nun wirklich) letzte Teil der Königssaga technisch ziemlich durchwachsen daher: Grafik ist zwar reichlich vorhanden und schön gemalt noch dazu, aber wenn sich alles bloß in Zeitlupe bewegt, verabschiedet sich schon bald der Spaß daran. Vor allem Grahams Begleiter, die Eule, erweist sich als arges Handicap! Bis der Vogel jedesmal gelandet ist, vorgeht eine halbe Ewigkeit, und das sogar bei niedrigstem (Grafik-) Detaillevel. Auch vom Sound hätten wir uns mehr erwartet, die Effekte sind nichts Besonderes, das Niveau der Musikstücke bewegt sich zwischen (überwiegend) fürchterlich und (zu selten) hervorragend.

Alles in allem ein Adventure für nervenstärke Märchen-Fans - und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann warten sie noch Heute...



King's Quest 5: Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder logo

Sierra make a renewed bid for the top of the adventure tree, but can they shake off their old image and compete with the likes of Lucasfilm and Delphine? They're certainly making an effort - these new releases (King's Quest 5 & Rise of the Dragon), aimed right at hard disk owners, come with vastly improved presentation - but can the stories keep up?

There're three things you really ought to know about King's Quest V. One - it looks great. Two - the plot is sickeningly clichéd. Three - it's actually really jolly good. What? I've got to write some more? Oh, go on - alright then.

Never being one for plot (but to understand some of my criticisms you kinda need to know it) the quick resumé goes somehing like this: King Graham wanders along, picking some flowers (and his nose for all I know), whence comes forth the cry, "Hey, who stole my castle?".

At this point he meets an owl who explains how an evil wizard has destroyed the castle (stop laughing back there), and so ((quite naturally) sprinkles King Graham with fairy dust, allowing him to fly to the land of Serenia, in order to defeat the evil wizard. Ho hum.
The last time I saw a plot this original was watching the A-Team

Sierra have pulled their socks up quite nicely for their latest batch of releases. Gone are the insufferably bad text parsers (everything is now achieved with a wonderfully simple point-and-click interface) and the drawn-by-a-three-year-old-esque graphics (backgrounds are now hand-painted, then digitised).

Gone, basically are most of the terrible bits, to be replaced by shining examples of user-friendliness, and slick presentation. King's Quest V is really up there with the best in this respect. If only they'd forsaken the crap plots too. Then Sierra would maybe, just maybe have had a Monkey Island beater on their hands. As it is they've got an ideal stepping stone to go on to eve greater and more ambitious heights.


My only reservations lie with the game content

SEE THE WOOD FOR THE TWEE
The entire game is played via a cursor and a few pop-up icons, a system simpler even than Lucasfilm's, yet probably just as effective. Movement is simply a matter of pointing to a position on-screen, and the hero (yes, I know King Graham isn't a very heroic name) will work his own way around the scenery (much like in Monkey Island, in fact).

This is much more preferable to some adventures I've seen, where the characters play dumb, and can't work out how to reach areas of the screen unless guided every bit of the way. Actually, despite the Lucasfilm-isms of the games exterior, King's Quest V is remarkably old-fashioned when it comes to the basic plot and the way the puzzles and locations are structured.

It would be fair to say, in fact, that the actual adventure is less advanced than the ancient (but nonetheless excellent) Infocom games. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. An adventure can be quite basic so long as it is well designed and pretty logical. Thankfully, King's Quest V succeeds in this area. Simple but neat sums it up nicely.

That's not to say that King's Quest V is without faults. One thing about adventures is that overall game quality is inextricably linked to the quality of plot. King's Quest V doesn't do itself any favours here. Fairy tale clichés abound, and when the packaging promises 'enjoyment for all the family', a bout of retching isn't too far off.


Simple but neat sums it up nicely

The game is actually pretty small, too. That's not to say that there isn't much long-term appeal in there, but in terms of actual locations and puzzles to solve, I can't help but feel reminded of 16k adventures on the Spectrum.

This is obviously partly down to the use of digitised graphics in every location, but for a product which is so physically large (box size, number of disks, chest measurements), I would have expected a bigger game in there.

Roll right up for that usual Monkey Island comparison. Whereas Monkey Island felt like a totally interactive graphic affair, King's Quest V relies upon its graphic-based nature for command execution but little else. I get the feeling that most of the game (and puzzles could have been implemented purely using text. There are a few exceptions (such as the ravine-hopping sequence and the way some of the objects are hidden in the scenery) but things feel a little too 'static'. Maybe this has something to do with the lack of cinematic trickery which made Monkey Island and Cruise For A Corpse such a delight to watch.

One other thing which I haven't really mentioned yet is the use of a hard drive. Don't even consider buying this game unless you own one. Disk access is necessary at every location, so even hard drive owners are going to spend a little time tapping their fingers.

It's nice to see Sierra getting their act together. They've trailed behind Lucasfilm and Delphine for a couple of years now, but with King's Quest V and Rise Of The Dragon they've made massive steps towards 'fully interactive entertainment' (or whatever it is the Americans call it).

The graphics, the sound, and the whole presentation trip are finally up to the standard of what Amiga owners expect in '91. My only reservations lie with the game content. Still, I must admit that despite my normal loathing of all things pretty and twee, I enjoyed King's Quest V no end. So, hard drive owners, dive on in.



King's Quest 5: Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder logo CU Amiga Screen Star

£

When they come to write the annals of computer adventures, one series that will feature high up the list are the King's Quest games from Sierra. Roberta Williams, the co-founder of Sierra-On-Line, designs the series, and now the latest installment has been released for the Amiga.

The game first saw light on the PC, and it shows. There are a grand total of eight disks, which is alright for PC owners with hard drives, but the vast majority of Amiga owners are going to have to suffer multiple disk swaps - even with two drives. As with all Sierra games, this is for 1 Meg Amigas only, even if you're one of those lucky people with a hard drive.

King's Quest V continues the story of the kingdom of Daventry. King Graham's entire family have disappeared, so Graham embarks on a quest (of course) to save them. His journey starts in the desert, which causes him his first problem, he is only able to travel a few screens before dying of thirst (which results in some poor attempts at humour from the programmers).

The new 'point and click' interface, used adventures such as Wonderland and Operation Stealth, comes in very handy for exploring each screen. Previous Sierra games relied on rather tedious typing to input commands, and this is a vast improvement. A joystick or mouse can be used, and even the keyboard can control Graham's movement. Typing can still be used, and in fact this is often the easiest way to get the command recognized by the program.

The puzzles themselves are quite original, but anyone who's played the more recent KQ adventures will have an inkling of the thought processes behind Roberta Williams' games, thus making them fairly easy to solve. In fact many of the problems are somewhat too simplistic, and have been 'balanced' by the presence of puzzles so idiosyncratic that only the most lateral of thinking stands a chance of beating them! Luckily, the sheer size of the game (and it is HUGE) means that nobody is in great danger of finishing it quickly.

The graphics are a wonder to behold. Using 32 colours from the Amiga's palette may not seem like much, but the artistry that's patently gone into the backgrounds turn this into a visual delight. The animation is of a high quality as well, although for obvious reasons the majority of effort has gone into the main sprite. Little 'blink and you'll miss them' touches are everywhere, rewarding the attentive player with whimsical sights. As with previous games in the series, it's worth saving the game then doing something silly - just to get a glimpse of the results!

The aural side of the adventure hasn't been neglected either. Having been ported over from the PC version the music is enjoyable, but keep a hand near the volume control. In-game music is tied to events such as playing an instrument or entering a tavern. A stereo monitor or TV helps to get the best out of the sound effects.

Sierra's greatest asset is the quality and effort put into their games, and this is the perfect example. The slight drawbacks, however, include a tendency to make their games slightly too cure, in an effort to interest their younger customers. These criticisms hold true for King's Quest V, but don't let that put you off. With games of this outstanding quality appearing on the Amiga it helps to raise the standards in general. It's user-friendly (except for the disk-swapping), glorious to look at, and pitched just about right between neophytes and more experienced adventure players.

King's Quest V has a lot to offer, and anyone thinking of trying adventure games should make this their first purchase. It's witty even if the jokes are groan-inducing some of the time, but the challenge maintains its serious nature. Sierra have produced another winner, and the games-playing public benefit more than anyone.


ON THE HORIZON

Sierra claim to be able to turn a PC game into an Amiga version within three weeks which is certainly a vast improvement over the turnaround of most companies. Although Amiga owners will still have to make do with an obscene number of disks, it does mean that games such as Leisure Suit Larry V, Conquests of the Longbow and Space Quest IV should appear soon. As usual, Sierra's commitment to customer support means that Amiganuts hopefully won't be treated like second-class citizens, as they are by many US companies.

MOUSE ACTIVITY

The interface used in this game brings the King's Quest series up to date, and more acceptable to Amiga owners. The top of the screen contains an icon bar with icons for Walking, Travelling (walking over distances avoiding obstacles), Looking, Action, etc. When an icon is selected the cursor changes into that icon, making it easy to perform the desired action on the screen. Let's say you want to get a magic bean from your character's pocket and plant it in the ground, first select the Inventory icon, select the bean and then go to the Action icon and click on the part of the ground you want. This is obviously much less hassle than manipulating the parser until you stumble across the correct verb.