The beard is mightier than the sword!
You know what completes the look of mighty arm muscles? A great, big bushy beard! That’s right, our lovable protagonist Graham continues to grow as a king by adopting a regale beard. The last time we left King’s Quest, Graham was building a relationship with Valanice and Manny was doing evil things… again.
After waiting an hour and half for the episode to download, I ran into a few technical problems to begin with including a glitch where Graham didn’t appear on the screen. It makes it very difficult to play a game when you can’t see the character you’re playing as. This led to me having to delete the download, try again and then I had to buy it on Xbox 1. I’m obviously a little peeved as I brought a season pass for Xbox 360, expecting things to run as smoothly on previous consoles. Hopefully by the time this review is out, the mistake has been corrected.
In all the episodes, two stories are happening at the same time between Old Graham and his younger counterpart. The latter tends to reflect what is occurring in the present time to help teach Gwendolyn an important lesson. The key theme in No Place Like Home is the concept of family, the episode beginning with Graham watching helplessly as his newborn son, Alexander, is kidnapped by Manny.
The tale told by Older Graham reflects eighteen years of him trying to find his long-lost son, only for Alexander to find his own way home after tricking Manny. Trying to make up for lost time, Graham takes his daughter, Rosalie, son and wife on a trip to Avalon which held the broken tower from the previous episode. An ice palace stands in its place which doesn’t stop Graham in his quest to reunite the family and bond with Alexander.
Father and son get off to a rocky start as it is discovered the young prince doesn’t like puns, puzzles or even adventures. Instead, he uses magic taught by Manny which reminds Graham of the night he lost Alexander and his inability to save him. Egged on by a rather smug Sphinx, the wedge between father and son begins to grow, to the point Alexander abandons Graham, who couldn’t accept the young man molded by Manny.
‘I swear to magic Dad, if you start singing Let It Go, I’m leaving’
I was very young (not even born in fact) when the original King’s Quest came out and didn’t remember much of the characters or storylines. In previous episodes, there are throwaway mentions of adventures Graham had been in without focusing on them. Hagatha in Once a Upon Climb along with Valanice was a complete reinvention of an old King’s Quest tale which was refreshing and didn’t focus to much on the older series. The old Lore seems to escalate within the episode. I feel like there are prominent moments that are direct references to these stories which may go over players heads.
I had to wiki a couple of characters who felt important but I didn’t know why. I hope the reinvention of the series doesn’t rely too much on previous storylines as it alienates new players. I enjoyed the more subtle nods but Snow Place Like Home felt like a bombardment of references. Particularly Vee being turned into Icebella from the old series to make it seem like she is the antagonist behind the ice palace.
‘… Can’t argue with that’
Vee is only briefly seen in the episode before being swiftly cast aside with Manny being behind everything like the previous episodes. I really thought there would be more prominent role but any scenes she may have had were given in favour of Manny before being glazed over. It seems to happen to other characters too such as Rosalie and Valanice, who aren’t really explored in the episode. Rosalie is only really explained in a few sentences and identified as the mother of Gart. That’s all I got about her. I have no idea what Manny’s end game is as he keeps coming up with scheme after scheme which don’t appear to go anywhere. I’m hoping it may come to play in the last episode which will give the series a completed feeling.
There are so many puzzles you can take before it turns into an Escher painting.
The weird thing I’m going to complain about is the amount of puzzles within this episode. I’d say there were a lot more in Snow Place Like Home than the other episodes. The player completes various head scratchers before you even get to the ice palace, then it escalates mostly with tile based puzzles before moving to riddles then back to the tiles. One of them I had a lot of trouble with because it really felt too over complicated. The puzzle broke enjoyment of the game for me as it became to frustrating to feel immersed in the world. Obviously, a player doesn’t want to handed the answers though you do want to be given a hint you’re heading in the right direction.
When I thought I had reached the end by confronting Manny and defeating him (again), I thought I had earned the ending. But alas, was one last puzzle which involved the whole family had to solve together to show they were truly bonded. I honestly thought this was communicated enough when they worked together in order to defeat the main antagonist. I just didn’t see the point in taking another one on the end to reiterate the same point.
I have mixed feelings when it came to this episode because it’s not a good sign when the player wants to just reach the end. The combination of lots of references with an over indulgence of puzzles just became too much for a short episode. Of course, Sierra want to give the player a great experience and an adventure which will fulfill them. But I feel like they tried to do too much by having these direct ties to old series which takes away from the new re-imagined version.
Overall, I had to take a day break from Snow Place Like Home in order to sort out my approach to the puzzles before going back refreshed. When I reached the end, I was almost relieved it was all down. Of course, Manny will be coming back for the last episode, though I suspect this one will take place with older Graham more than younger Graham. In any case, i look forward to seeing what is in store for the players.