King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella
First posted on 01 May 2000. Last updated on 15 May 2010.
King's Quest III: To Heir is Human introduces not only Prince Alexander but his twin sister Princess Rosella. It opens a whole new possibility for the King's Quest series—a female protagonist. So there it is—King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, the first game in the series to let you play a female character! The sequel continues immediately where the previous game has left off. King Graham is throwing his adventurer's cap into the air, and the suspense is on as to the inheritor. Of course, all things in the kingdom of Daventry suddenly take a bad turn.
Princess Rosella has just been rescued from the gigantic 3 headed dragon by her long lost brother Prince Alexander. She hardly has time for her pulse to get back to normal when, lo and behold, an adventure is thrust her way. King Graham, weary from his past adventures and ready to pass his trusty hat onto younger blood, takes the aforesaid object from its place on the wall and pitches it over the room, where his twin children are standing. They reach for it when all of a sudden, King Graham is stricken by a terrible heart attack. After the initial pain and collapse, he is bedridden and near death. Rosella stands with her family by his bedside. Unable to bear the sight of her suffering father, she flees the room in tears. Alone in the throne room, she seats herself upon the throne and weeps, wishing aloud, "If only there was something I could do to save my father!" She then hears a gentle voice, "There is something you can do." Wildly glancing around to find the source of the voice, Rosella realizes that the voice comes from the magic mirror. In the mirror is the beautiful fairy, Genesta. Rosella learns from her that in Genesta's homeland of Tamir, there is concealed a tree that, once every century, bears a fruit that can nourish and cure the sick quickly. In an act of desperation, Rosella agrees to be magicked to Tamir to locate the tree. Genesta outlines a catch as well. She cannot send Rosella back to Daventry unless Rosella brings back her magic talisman. This talisman, Genesta's life source, has been stolen from her by the evil Lolotte. Without it, not only can Genesta not send Rosella home, she is going to die if it is not returned to her within 24 hours. Transporting Rosella to Tamir has taken enough much of the strength from Genesta, but as a last favor, Genesta dresses Rosella in peasant clothes so she does not attract unwanted suspicion. Genesta then departs for home with her fairies in waiting, leaving Rosella on the beach to begin her quest.
William Goldstein (of Fame) has composed the music for this game. In addition, support for soundcards such as Sound Blaster and Roland offers a nice change from the underwhelming internal PC speaker music of previous games from this series. The songs give character to every screen, adding a special realism of mood to the adventure that even the nice graphics cannot accomplish. Speaking of graphics, this game shows signs of breaking away from the fairly dull pixelated look of the previous games. This is the first game in the series to offer native EGA support. All the graphics are more detailed. The backgrounds are lush and the characters are more defined. It is also the first game in the series to support a mouse. The mouse can be used to toggle on the menu or make Rosella walk in a straight line on screen. This is a very handy improvement. Winding staircases and twisting paths are now easier to navigate! There is now less death by falling from heights! Unlike the interface used in previous titles, Inventory is finally combined with View Item in this one. Moreover, instead of having you type as fast as you can whenever there is danger, the text box does not appear onscreen until you begin typing with the rest of the game in pause. All in all, there are plenty of improvements that set it apart from its predecessors.
The game uses a proprietary game engine called SCI (Sierra Creative Interpreter) pioneered by Sierra On-Line. The interpreter provides the game interface and handles all subroutines used to display graphics and sounds. The game itself is then programmed using scripts written specifically for the interpreter. As such, the scripts themselves are platform independent, and can be played in any platform given the right interpreter. This game is based on SCI version 0. SCI is an object oriented interpreter. Version 0 supports 16 color EGA (320x200) graphics and a text parser based interface. It is also the first interpreter to support sound cards.
King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella is a substantially challenging game. As in all the games in the King's Quest series, most of the puzzles are based on well known fairy tales, so if you know your fairy tales you can more easily figure out many problems (instead of blindly goofing around with items until you get something right). A few puzzles can be very obscure. Most of the difficulties, however, lie in the exactness, or just plain meanness, of the situations. It is possible to die on many screens. Enemies can move extremely fast at times, giving you little time to leave the screen. My personal pet peeves are the dark cave with the troll and the witch cave. In the former, the troll can chase you across many screens (shudder) and show up at the most inconvenient times. In the latter, if you do not do what you should exactly right, at exactly the right time, and on exactly the right pixel, then bang, you are dead! Personally, I believe that the biggest challenges of an adventure game should lie with the puzzles. Making the monsters so particularly tough is simply unfair. Not all gamers' fingers are that fast (and I am among them)! Sure, it may be fine to throw in a few just to get the adrenaline going, but I wish they have made it more possible for the keyboard challenged gamers to have a chance. You may be able to pass all the obstacles except for a particular monster, but if you are always creamed by that monster, what good is that?
Roberta Williams, creator of King's Quest, has once described her thoughts when designing this sequel, "Before King's Quest IV was released, word leaked out that Graham would have a heart attack and might die. Fans were upset enough to write in, asking to save Graham. I wanted King's Quest IV to have some pressure applied to you: a timed game, taking place over a 24- hour period, so you roam around during the day and eventually it turns to night. I don't remember other games using the same scenes at night; it looked creepy."
Overall, King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella is a great game with some tense moments and lots of colorful characters. The game has a promising story, with many surprises, juicy puzzles, and pretty graphics. It is a fair-sized world that is fun to play in. The graphics in this sequel have taken a substantial leap from its predecessors. The scenes are more detailed and the character faces are more defined. Unfortunately, some monsters can seem downright impossible for the floppy fingered gamers. In the end, this is a game that fits nicely into the King's Quest series with the debut of the brave Rosella. Just watch out for the troll!