The first 50 or so points in King’s Quest IV left me with quite a positive opinion of the game, especially compared to the previous part. Although a lot of random things were happening, it all seemed to make at least a little bit of sense. I mean, Rosella even could climb a spiraling staircase, something that Graham never could.
But after playing some more, the game started showing it’s a true classic King’s Quest game. An evil thing, that only wants to antagonize it’s players. I found myself very stuck and because I made up my mind a long time ago, I resorted to the real Hint Book that I specifically bought for this occasion. It turned out that I had made a mistake, I had given the diamonds to the fisherman before I returned it to the dwarves. Not a smart thing on my part, but clearly a case of poor design. But it’s not too bad and although I started to dislike these types of games at that point, I laid the blame mostly on my part.
Next though, I was still stuck, and I once more glanced at the Hint Book. It spoke of an island, so I once again tried to swim in the ocean. I had of course tried this before, but was eaten by sharks and whales. There was no indication that I was meant to swim in the ocean, not even when I specifically examined the ocean and the horizon. And it’s not as if Rosella cannot see there’s something out there, because once on the island, Rosella clearly sees the mainland to the east. Anyway, once I knew for certain that there was an island, I tried once more to swim over to it and a couple of tries later I was on it. It looked nice and I tried to talk to all the animals, but there was not much to do. I did pick up a feather and I knew what I would use it for. In my earlier attempts to swim in the ocean, I was eaten by a whale and I tried to tickle his tongue on which the game replied: “with what?”. Tickling with my hands didn’t work which I found odd, because when I tickle my kids with my hands, they cannot stop laughing.
So, with the feather in my dress, I was determined to be eaten again. I managed to do so, but tickling the whale wasn’t an easy thing to do. I kept sliding of his tongue. The Hint Book wasn’t of much use, because it didn’t state that you have to climb a VERY specific path before you can reach the top of the whale’s tongue where you can tickle his/her uvula. Besides the fact that there is no clear indication that you can climb the tongue if you pick a random pixel perfect path, the place where you must stand to be an effective tickler is very counter intuitive. I mean the tongue is sort of high up towards the whale’s teeth (a whale with teeth?), wouldn’t that be nowhere near the uvula? This goes beyond poor game design into the area of antagonizing the player. Especially when they show you Roberta’s face every time you die. They have done there very best to make you hate her.
Anyway, the whale part doesn’t add anything to the Quest and the follow-up puzzle is sort of nice. I do wonder if you can find yourself in a dead end without the necessary fish. That would be too awful! But just the sort of situation the developers want you to be in I guess. I don’t want to find out the answer.
Back on the mainland I already tried to enter the cave a couple of times, but I was eaten by a troll every time I got in there. That led me to believe I first had to do something else. But that’s not the case according to the Hint Book. You have to avoid the troll in a trial and error way. Once again, I decided not to blame the game for this. It was purely caused by my inexperience with the way these early games worked. Next up I was even pleasantly surprised when Rosella automatically took the board with her when it was used. Aha! I thought. That must mean that I am going to need it again. In the following room it became even better, because it turned out that the developers had anticipated that I would try to cross the swamp as a frog. That didn’t work. I had to bend my mind a little bit to understand that the game wanted to be a little bit of an “action platformer” at that point. They had incorporated a jump animation for Rosella: Super Rosella Brothers all the way! I even fell into the trap of trying to jump the last gap, which everyone can see is way too big. Here the board is needed of course. So far so good. But then it quickly fell apart. When you try to cross the board you fall in the swamp and to your death when you just walk right. This is something the designers have specifically entered into the game. Just to annoy you and so they can show you Roberta again. Grrr!