Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, PC
The reboot of the King’s Quest series has, for the most part, been a solid return for a popular franchise. The previous three episodes have combined an entertaining story, top-notch voice acting, and innovative and interesting puzzle solving for an enjoyable episodic adventure.
While Episode 4 of the series, Snow Place Like Home, doubles down on the story, it unfortunately does so at the expense of the gameplay and interesting puzzles.
The Story So Far
When last we left King Graham the (whatever your game calls you), he had fallen in love and married a princess. Cut to a little more than nine months later and Graham and his queen are raising infant twins, a boy and a girl. Everything seems perfect for the happy family, until your old enemy Manny – now going by the name Manannan – waltzes into the castle and uses powerful magic to kidnap Graham’s son, Alexander. Graham spends 18 years searching for his son to no avail, but just when he’s given up all hope, the prodigal son returns having escaped from his captor.
It a fun setup – if you’re curious about what really happened to Graham’s son, just play the original King’s Quest III – but what follows seems to be an odd decision for a newly reunited family. Let’s go on vacation!
Without dragging out the plot too much further, Graham and Alexander get separated from the rest of the family and have to navigate the labyrinth of a Sphinx in order to get them back.
From a story perspective, Snow Place Like Home is a great addition to the series. It’s a much darker episode than anything we’ve seen before; it starts out with a kidnapped child for crying out loud. While the game isn’t without humor, the entire tone is subdued. It’s a pretty substantial change of pace, but it’s one that the game handles well. The darker tone is mirrored in the parallel story of an elderly King Graham telling stories to his grandchildren. This part of the tale heats up and, at this point, may be the better of the two stories.
Not So Much
However, what the game does right on the story side, it screws up when it comes to gameplay. Nearly the entire game is made up of a series of sliding block puzzles. Each room that Graham and Alexander enter requires them to create a path from the door into the room to the door out of the room. The majority of the puzzles are simple enough. The ones that are tougher are usually only challenging because the mechanics make it that way. One annoying puzzle in particular takes place on three separate levels, so Graham has to travel between them in order to complete it. Moving between the levels takes longer than the puzzle itself.
This frustration could have been avoided if the puzzles had simply been more varied. Rather than being slightly different sliding block puzzles, putting different types of puzzles in the rooms would have been greatly appreciated. There is a “puzzle room”, which is very different and a lot of fun. But it just makes you notice how similar the rest of the game has been.
Music and Lyrics
There are a couple of solid additions to the voice cast this time around. Lorraine Toussaint is a name you may not know but a voice you will likely recognize, as she has appeared in every television show you’ve ever seen at one point or another. She joins the episode as the Sphinx who leads you through the labyrinth. The music is not necessarily remarkable, but it does not get nearly as repetitive as other parts of the game, which was welcome.