Basking in the success of the original King’s Quest, Sierra On-Line introduced a sequel to the game in 1985. But, at the time, the name they chose made me a bit apprehensive. King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne seemed a bit like a gimmick to me – playing off the popular Romancing the Stone movie of the prior year. I was wrong to have any doubts. Designer Roberta Williams and her team delivered a fantastic new game that improved upon the original in nearly every regard. Expanded to a whopping two diskettes in size (the first game I personally owned that held such a distinction) the game felt much larger in scope. At the same time, I found the solutions to the puzzles far less obscure than many of those in the original.
In the original game, you’re questing for a series of magical items to demonstrate you’re worthy to be king. This time around, as the name implies, you’re questing for true love. Graham, finding himself lonely on the throne, take the advice of his magic mirror and sets out to the land of Kolyma to find himself a bride. Apparently, Graham couldn’t find a suitable partner in Daventry. That’s not much of a surprise given that Daventry in the original game was populated primarily by trolls, giants, leprechauns, and a witch. Many of whom met their demise at Graham’s hands. So, the dating pool was probably a bit shallow.
As King Graham searches the new land for clues to his bride’s whereabouts, he’ll meet a range of interesting characters from mythology and fairy tales. Familiarity with fairy tales makes the resolution of some puzzles pretty obvious. The game is cute and there’s some gentle humor. It features a pop culture reference as the Batmobile occasionally exits a cave where a witch resides. This Easter egg has no bearing on the game, but the comedy is a prelude to the tone of the Space Quest series.
With more screens to explore and more characters to interact with, King’s Quest II feels far more polished than its predecessor. As the player progresses, new puzzles are revealed, which marked a difference from the original in which the quests could be tackled in any order. My favorite part of King’s Quest II involves the puzzles to enter and explore Dracula’s castle. While quite tame even then, you can tell the designers were aiming for a spooky atmosphere. Subsequent chapters and the broader Sierra lineup would continue this trend and sometimes attempt to create some real scares.
As I said, I found the puzzles in King’s Quest II far more logical than in the first game. That meant I sped through the game in a matter of days, rather than the months I spent stuck on the earlier version. Modern gamers who don’t have to grapple with slow save or load times may find they can complete the game in just a couple of hours. If you’re a fan of retro gaming, I think you’ll find those hours well spent. King’s Quest II, despite its relative ease, remains my personal favorite in the series.
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