King's Quest Episode 4: Snow Place Like Home Reviewby Adam Dileva
If you would have told me a few years ago that I’d be playing a King’s Quest game in 2016, published by Sierra nonetheless, I’d probably laughed at you, but alas here we are. Developed by The Odd Gentlemen, King’s Quest has returned in episodic format, telling a tale about King Graham’s previous adventures, complete with some great storytelling and unique gameplay.
Episodic releases can be tricky, as you need to hook the audience right away so they they’ll want to continue playing, but you also need to release each 'episode' at just the right pace to keep their attention as well. While the episodes for King’s Quest have been released painstakingly at a snail’s pace, we’re finally able to enjoy Chapter IV: Snow Place Like Home, a little over a year since the inaugural episode was released. While the wait between episodes has been dreadful, they tend to always impress and feel well worth the patience given their filled with great gameplay, loads of humor, and fantastic characters. Has Episode 4 been worth the wait this time?
If you’ve played any of the previous chapters then you’ll know what to expect from a narrative standpoint. King Graham is recollecting his past adventures and telling them to his granddaughter Gwendolyn, and you play them out first hand. Episode 3 was about King Graham finding the love of his life, and making a choice of whom to marry. Years have passed and now you have your Queen and you are starting a family. Recurring nemesis Manny, now going by his proper name Manannan, intrudes into your castle and kidnaps Graham’s baby son.
I don’t want to delve too much more into the story, but expect some twists, turns, and jokes within the much darker storyline in this episode. While previous episodes focus heavily on story and narrative, Snow Place Like Home is almost the complete opposite, focusing instead on the puzzle aspect of the gameplay. This isn’t to say there’s no story contained within, as there is, but it’s nowhere near as weighted as previous episodes.
Episode 4 begins with Graham needing to shush his crying twins as his wife feigns sleeping. You’ll need to change diapers, feed them, burp them, and get them back to sleep. Seems like an odd beginning for the game, but it’s meant to try and convey the bond that the family has before Manannan shows up to ruin everything.
If you’ve played every episode up to this point (I’m not sure why you would start at episode 4 if not), you’ll notice that each chapter seems to have its own feel and focus. Episode 1 set the tone and was quite lengthy, Episode 2 was more about making choices, and Episode 3 was very heavily story focused. Episode 4 though feels completely different, as it’s primarily a puzzle game this time around, but not your typical King’s Quest puzzles that we’ve come to know over the past few chapters, but something quite different, making for a somewhat jarring experience.
The first major puzzle you’ll run into for example is packing your family’s luggage into a much too small carriage, and this is done as a 3D Tetris puzzle, which was quite difficult. Most puzzles though will task Graham with running along lines on the floor from beginning to end, making sure to not step off the pathway, or else he has to reset and start again. Sounds easy, but it’s anything but. The puzzles in Episode 4 are by far the hardest ones in the series to date, even resulting in me becoming stuck and having to look up a solution.
The line puzzles aren’t inherently bad, but the vast majority of your time will be solving these increasingly difficult brainteasers. They all are generally the same, but add another layer of difficulty as you progress. Near the end there’s even a 3 layer puzzle that will test your patience, as one wrong move forces you to essentially start from scratch. The other handful of puzzles you’ll deal with are sliding blocks so that you can walk along the lined path. Again, not difficult on their own, but it becomes much more challenging near the end, resulting in almost brute force trial and error to figure out.
If there was much more variety in the puzzles I don’t think I would have minded them as much, but the majority of this episode is simply trying to figure out the same two types of puzzles as they become more arbitrarily difficult. Near the end though is an awesome riddle room that was a lot of fun, leaving me stumped for quite some time, but offering some slight variety at least.
Due to the heavy puzzle focus, Snow Place Like Home simply feels like a puzzle game rather than the narrative driven experience we’ve had up to this point. And because each episode seems, and feels, so different, it does feel refreshing when you play every new chapter, but with the addition of Episode 4 things seem to feel scattered, as if they were unable to pinpoint the exact type of experience we want to play throughout the whole season. Some might like the chapter variety, while others would rather have a cohesive and strung together experience.
Overall, I did enjoy Episode 4 for the few cutscenes that progressed the story forwards, it’s just a shame that the whole gameplay was so puzzle focused this time around. The presentation is still very stylized, and the voice acting is amazing as always. There is still humor contained within too and I’m sad to see that there’s only a single episode left with King Graham, as I’ve come to love his stories just as much as Gwendolyn. Episode IV: Snow Place Like Home is absolutely recommended to those that have experienced Graham’s journey across Daventry so far, and if you’ve not started yet, get caught up, as it’s a the whole series is great episodic tale that harks back to the early days of adventure games when many of us were just growing up.
Overall: 7.5/ 10