|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Phoenix Online Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Phoenix Online Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 11, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: N/A||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
In the 1980s and 1990s, Kings Quest was a popular series of text-heavy, point-and-click PC adventure games. Today, its mostly a memory. The last entry came out in 1998, and since Kings Quest 9 was cancelled during production, no one has attempted to further the series.
No one, that is, except some very dedicated fans. Thanks to them, we have The Silver Lining: Episode 1: What Is Decreed Must Be, the first part of an unofficial new Kings Quest story. It was released online recently, free of charge, with the blessing of Activision, which owns the copyright after merging with the previous rights holders Vivendi Games. You can download it at www.tsl-game.com. Another four episodes are set to follow, hopefully by the end of the year.
If youve never played Kings Quest before, dont bother. Everything about The Silver Lining looks and feels dated, and fans of modern games will find it needlessly clunky and frustrating.
Take the control scheme, for example. You have to right-click your mouse to switch between different tools, which is cumbersome. You need to use one tool to walk, another to interact with people and items, etcetera. The simple act of moving your character by clicking your destination feels odd and doesnt always work. We realize this is all about nostalgia, but even so, some updated controls would have been nice.
In terms of modern-era polish, the graphics and sound dont fare much better. Like those in the final game in the original series, Kings Quest: Mask of Eternity, the graphics here are fully 3-D. Also like those in Mask of Eternity, they look like they came out in 1998, especially the terrible animations. The cutscenes showed up with lots of visual glitches on our PC, with hiccups and screen-tearing galore, even after we installed the Windows 7 patch. There isnt much detail to the in-game images either, especially when compared with the textures that many modern games include.
The quality of the voiceovers is incredibly inconsistent; a combination of volunteers and off-Broadway actors contributed. Many lines are delivered awkwardly enough to stand out, and theres a ton of dialogue here, so plan on cringing a lot. It might have been less expensive and time-consuming, for the developers to leave the voice-overs entirely.
Also, the reason not many companies make games like this anymore is that theyre pretty boring. The idea is to solve puzzles that entail picking up items and using them in the correct ways. Unfortunately, if the solution isnt obvious from the beginning, the only way to figure it out is to wander aimlessly until you come across an item you missed or put an item somewhere you havent tried yet. This is less frustrating than it was before since you can now just look up solutions online if needed, but its still hardly exciting.
Despite these problems, however, longtime fans will want to give it a shot. If you start with an appreciation of Kings Quest, not only is The Silver Lining free, but its worthwhile in all sorts of ways.