King's Quest - Chapter 2: Rubble Without A Cause Review
King's Quest - Chapter 2: Rubble Without A Cause Review
The game has made a number of subtle changes from Chapter 1, but those changes make all the difference
Posted: 12/18/15 | Category: Review | Developer: The Odd Gentlemen | Publisher: Sierra | Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox one, Windows

Genre: Casual Adventure
Release date: December 3, 2015

The King’s Quest series was my first introduction to interactive adventures. I logged many an hour exploring Daventry and related lands. When King’s Quest returned I jumped into Chapter 1: A Night to Remember. But as I noted in the review, my feelings about Chapter 1 were mixed. The game was not the King’s Quest I knew and loved. The tone was all wrong, and I felt as if I was playing Monkey Island in a fantasy setting.  

But I love King’s Quest, and there was no way I wouldn't be playing Chapter 2: Rubble Without A Cause. This chapter tries to capture some of the aura of King’s Quest 3. The story is supposed to be slightly darker with Graham coming to terms with being a leader to the people of Daventry as Goblins continue to plague the kingdom by stealing mattresses and kidnapping people.

The Story
 

The game opens with Graham getting kidnapped by Goblins; and the bulk of the game focuses on Graham’s adventures in prison trying to keep the people of Daventry alive and well. The game has a good mix of old-style inventory puzzles combined with new-style decision puzzles, and I quite like the balance they achieved. What's more, there are some nice, subtle, throwbacks to earlier King’s Quest games. For example, this game offers contraband items that must be hidden from the Goblins, similar to hiding magic items from the wizard in King’s Quest 3. It's a nice throwback that made me smile.

Fairytales have always had a strong influence in King’s Quest games, and this game worked quite a few into the puzzles. As Graham wanders the dungeon, he’ll find homages to Cinderella, The Frog Prince, and the Princess and the Pea. The references are slightly subtle but work well in the context of the game without feeling forced.

My primary criticism of Chapter 1 is that Graham felt more like Guybrush from Monkey Island than Graham of Daventry. The humor is forced and unnatural. This chapter improves on that aspect tremendously. Although the humor isn't gone it is more subdued. Although Graham is struggling, he is presented in a more knightly posture as opposed to the ever-bumbling hero.

This chapter brings a tighter focus on Graham’s story, with a lesser focus on Graham’s grandchildren, Gwendolyn and Gart. They're still listening to grandfather’s stories, but the interaction has moved to the main game and they exist solely for cut scene fodder. Their inclusion is the weakest part of the game. For future chapters I’d like to see more focus on the mainline story and less on having Gwendolyn trying to mirror Graham decisions.

The Production
 

The strongest part of Chapter 1 is the visuals. The Odd Gentlemen went out of their way to bring a unique watercolor look to the land and characters of Daventry. Walking through the world put me in awe. The bulk of Chapter 2 takes place in the rain or underground, and as such the beauty of Daventry’s forests is replaced by the murk of caverns. This hurts the game, and I even had trouble finding parts of the game that would make good screenshots.

A big complaint of Chapter 1 was the lack of a ‘skip dialog’ hotkey. During my playthrough, I was forced to listen to every word uttered, even if it was the 100th time Graham clicked on the rock or tried to get a frog. Along with our review copy of Chapter 2, The Odd Gentlemen left us a note that this issue had finally been addressed. Honestly, that made me excited! That is, until I got the chance to try it out.

In most adventure games, I can read the dialog quicker than the voice speaks, and I often click through to the next line of dialog. This is what I want to see in King’s Quest. Instead, the new episode only provides the ability to skip a scene. However, any scene could be made up of multiple lines of dialog, and if you click them away you may miss something. The process to click forward isn’t even a single click. It takes two commands to actually skip the scene.

In the beginning, I inadvertently skipped a few scenes and got confused before I figured out how this all works. While it is an improvement over Chaper 1 and makes re-plays much more pleasant, it seems we grossly miscommunicated the problem to The Odd Gentlemen. How could they get something so basic so wrong, twice? Have they ever played an adventure game? This boggles my mind.

On a brighter note, the voice acting is top notch. I no longer think of “Old Graham” as Doc Brown; now I just think of him as Graham. Christopher Lloyd makes the role his own. The rest of the cast is great as well. The music mirrors the darker tone of the game, and this is a mixed bag. It doesn't inspire hope and adventure, but rather left me feeling somber. I wish that musically they had ended on a more positive, uplifting note. The game lacks the emotional depth of something like Empire Strikes Back, so I don’t want to walk away depressed.

When talking about episodic adventure games, comparisons to TellTale stories are bound to come up. Part of the promotion surrounding Chapter 1 was that each chapter would be like a full length King’s Quest game, providing lots of entertainment. However, that wasn't my experience, and I had many Internet arguments about the point. I don't think the King’s Quest chapters give me any more gameplay than an episode of The Walking Dead. To get some specific numbers behind this, I timed my first playthrough of Chapter 2. It was two hours and fifty minutes; so less than three hours of gameplay. I usually blocked off a day to get through an episode of The Walking Dead, so Chapter 2 seems infinitely shorter. Despite the hype, I fail to see how this type of episode could possibly compare to the weeks, or months, I would spend tackling older adventures.

Final Thoughts
  

The game ends with old Graham telling you to accept stories for what they are, not what you wished they were. It's good advice, and is a great way to approach the new King’s Quest series. There is a lot to love. But, I can’t help but think that this line was added after The Odd Gentlemen spent months on the wrong end of the Internet.

If you’re a King’s Quest fan, check out this chapter. The game has made a number of subtle changes from Chapter 1, but those changes make all the difference. If you’re new to King’s Quest you’ll probably like this game even more than I did because you don’t come with eight games of baggage. If you’re just looking to forget the world for a bit, then I can think of lots of worse ways to do it than playing King’s Quest 2015. Grab your adventurer cap and go off and explore.

Grade: B
 
Fairytales are nicely integrated into the story; which is a nice throwback to old King’s Quest games.
+ A stronger story with solid puzzles and hard decisions
 
- Graphics are less impressive than previous episode
Short game play
 
 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

 

System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 @ 1.86 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ 2.4 GHz
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Graphics: GeForce 8800 GT or Radeon HD 4770 / 512 MB
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Hard Drive: 13 GB available space
Sound Card: Direc X 9.0c Compatible
 
Specials from Digital Download
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