King’s Quest: “Once Upon a Climb”
Developer: The Odd Gentlemen
Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows
Release Date: 27 April, 2016
Price: $9.99 USD – Available Here
Chapter three of the King’s Quest reboot is a romantic comedy about King Graham and Queen Valanice’s first meeting. “Once Upon a Climb” takes King Graham into the old witch Hagatha’s tower, where she keeps Valanice locked up and waiting for her one true love to rescue her. Graham’s goal of finding his queen quickly goes off the rails when he discovers not one, but two princesses waiting for their one true love.
Warning, possible spoilers ahead.
The old King Graham has selected a story perfect for the young Gwendolyn as she struggles to find a birthday gift fitting for Queen Valanice. The tale is set several years after the events of chapter two. King Graham is no longer the scrawny teenager and has now grown into a strapping young man. He is a seasoned adventurer and has turned the aging kingdom of Daventry into a thriving realm, just as Graham’s predecessor had hoped. Graham is feeling the pressure to find a partner and get married like many people his age. The magic mirror directs Graham to his next adventure, an old tower where Graham is convinced his true love will be. In the tower, Graham finds two princesses who could be more different from each other. Vee is logical, focused, and absolutely in love with puns, while her best friend Neese is energetic, happy go lucky, and constantly on the move. Graham’s adventure not only requires him to free the princesses from the witch Hagatha’s tower, but also court one of the girls.
I think “Once Upon a Climb” is without a doubt the best written chapter in the game so far. It feels like an incredibly kid-friendly tale that is light hearted and teaches all the right morals. Although the story sounds like every classic fairy tale, it is incredibly modern at the same time. Both Princess Vee and Princess Neese are very clear about Graham needing to take the time to develop a relationship with them and both are independent and strong female characters. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments and the ending gives players the warm and fuzzies. Many old faces from the first two chapters make a return and we finally see the Manny story arc moving. The story is a definite improvement over chapter two, which feels like an isolated side story in comparison.
The puzzles in chapter three are excellent. There is a good variety of puzzles and they hit the right balance in difficulty. The puzzles are a serious improvement over the previous chapter, which was filled with boring fetch puzzles, and are more in line with the creativity found in “A Knight to Remember.” I am really impressed with the game’s first puzzle, where the puzzle is used as the vehicle for storytelling and as a brain teaser. It is without a doubt the best King’s Quest has offered so far and set the bar for the rest chapter. Throughout the chapter, Graham’s must woo the princess of his choice. The process is dragged out throughout the whole chapter, which I think does a great job of conveying the theme that love needs time and effort to bloom. While Graham has multiple opportunities to choose between Vee and Neese, players who have already fallen in love with one of the princesses can easily figure out which options they need to select to get the ending of their choice.
“Once Upon a Climb” is the first chapter to feature an older King Graham. The new design is a strapping and confident figure that still looks very much like the young bumbling knight we first fell in love with in chapter one. Although trapped in the tower, The Odd Gentlemen manage to send players off to several new places that are bright and cheerful, a sharp contrast to dreariness of Hagatha’s tower. The game’s animations and textures continue to be excellent, though I did notice a slight texture pop when sections were reloaded.
“Once Upon a Climb” delivers a solid audio performance. The soundtrack fits wonderfully with the chapter’s romantic comedy direction and cheerier mood. The voice actors continue to provide a fantastic performance.
Without a doubt, “Once Upon a Climb” is the best chapter yet in the King’s Quest reboot. The writing is absolutely flawless and feels like it is moving game’s overall plot forward. The more upbeat and positive storytelling is a much better fit to for the game’s theme as set out by chapter one. The puzzles are varied and interesting, a marked improvement over chapter two’s repetitive fetch puzzles. The audio visual continues to be top notch. Chapter two’s repetitive experience left me a little concerned that the future of King’s Quest would be a slow slide into mediocrity. Thankfully, “Once Upon a Climb” has proven it is possible to leap well over the high bar “A Knight to Remember” set.
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