In 1984, Sierra On-Line revolutionized the computer gaming world with the introduction of King’s Quest for the IBM PCjr. IBM sought out Sierra and other software makers create games for the newly released PCjr. Rather than taking Big Blue’s money and churning out a mediocre product, Sierra instead pushed the PCjr to its limits. Not only did King’s Quest showcase the PCjr’s at-the-time advanced graphics, but it also introduced an entirely new genre of interactive adventure game. Sierra called their new format a 3D adventure.
The genre was later christened “point and click” adventure games but the original King’s Quest featured neither pointing nor clicking. The player controlled the onscreen Knight Graham (he’s not a king yet!) using directional keys and by typing commands. Subsequent mouse-driven adventure games owe a debt of gratitude to Sierra for pioneering the format.
Since Sierra provided the product to IBM for marketing and distribution, the original King’s Quest comes in a plastic box that resembles a large cassette tape holder. The cover art features a castle and a field of clover which are both relevant to the game. In the foreground there’s a knight in dazzling silver armor who is nowhere to be seen in the actual gameplay. The description reads:
Take on the challenge! Find the magic treasure. Put on your armour – and your thinking cap – as you search the countryside…in the days when knights were bold and brave.
Inside the box, the player would find a single diskette, warranty card, manual with color illustrations, keyboard overlay and a quick reference card.
So, how does the gameplay hold up 35 years later? Surprisingly well. The game’s parser can be touchy. On my original playthrough in the 80s, I struggled to find the right phrasing for certain actions. When addressing the monarch of the realm, typing “bow” did nothing. “Bow to king” was the right format. These challenges aside, King’s Quest remains an engaging if short adventure.
Later the game would be rechristened, King’s Quest 1: Quest for the Crown in order to distinguish it from subsequent volumes in the series. To their credit, Sierra On-Line remained committed to maintaining compatibility with the PCjr for years after IBM cancelled the system. I played King’s Quest I – IV on my PCjr after expanding the RAM to 256k. Future releases came directly from Sierra, and I have to say I missed the nifty plastic box that IBM provided – although Sierra did a far better job with the box art.