Title: King’s Quest II : Romancing The Throne
Developer: Sierra On-Line
Platform: Apple II
One of the things I find the most fun about writing reviews for retro games is revisiting games that meant a lot to me growing up. “King’s Quest II: Romancing The Throne” is one of these games. Released in May of 1985 for the Apple II by Sierra On-Line, I was lucky enough to get to play for the first time as a teenager. It has since become one of my favorite games.
The game picks up an extended period of time after the end of “King’s Quest”. The newly crowned King Graham of Daventry has conducted an exhaustive and fruitless search for a suitable bride, when he sees in his magic mirror a vision of a young maiden held prisoner in a crystal tower in the faraway land of Kolyma. Graham departs immediately to rescue the young woman.
The game features colorful, hand-drawn landscapes with background animations. For the time, this was revolutionary. Up until that point, text adventures were the norm and a graphical adventure just was not feasible with memory constraints. The graphics are obviously well dated now, and maybe it’s just nostalgia speaking, but I’m quite forgiving of that fact because I feel like I’m re-reading a storybook that I read as a child.
The arrow keys control Graham’s movements and a text parser controls his actions. Standard mechanics from text adventures still apply. You can type “look” to get a description of the area you are in, or for a more specific view of something you can type “look ring”. Proper grammar or complete sentences aren’t needed, so things like “get sword” “talk man” or “open chest” will all be recognized. I’ve found the text parser for Sierra games to be the most forgiving, so if you use a similar verb you can still accomplish what you were intending to. This makes the game more accessible to casual fans and new players.
Neither the series nor the genre were reinvented with the sequel, but that’s fine. During that era, graphical adventure games were so new and rarely released that even putting out a clone of a previous game would have soothed the bated breath of fans. If anything the game took “King’s Quest” and made it less taxing and more enjoyable for the casual fan.
Long gone are the comparatively complex puzzles of the original game. There’s nothing like the infamous puzzle wherein the player was given three chances to guess a gnome’s name or else the game became unbeatable. You were given no hints and had to use a backwards alphabet code on the name Rumpelstiltskin. Keep in mind this was back in the days of no internet and no hint line to call for answers to puzzles.
Instead puzzles are pretty straightforward, though in this case I feel it is a fresh change of pace to have a game of this caliber to not be so open ended. A big problem with “King’s Quest” for casual fans was how easy it was to use the wrong item somewhere and render the game unbeatable. In “King’s Quest II: Romancing The Throne” you always seem to have a path towards your next objective. Hardcore fans may not appreciate this, and normally I’m not the type that would appreciate it either, but this is a game I play to relax and be nostalgic, so it is quite welcome.
I never considered this to be the best game in the series, but it is by far my personal favorite and one that I have enjoyed replaying several times due to its laid back nature. Sierra adventure games have a high rate of mortality, but in this game you basically have to try in order to kill your character. I say this assuming you know your way around adventure games already. (Save your game often if not!) This is a time period and a genre that we will likely never see in gaming again, and although the impact of “King’s Quest II: Romancing The Throne” can be seen in plenty of games today, it will never quite have the same charm that makes the real deal so special.
King’s Quest II: Romancing The Throne Gameplay (Apple II):