This game has been lying dormant in a plastic bin in my basement for more than a decade. Back in the nineties I made many attempts at completing this game but I always would get stuck about a third the way through the game, usually because of the frustratingly unfair (even for a Sierra adventure) whale puzzle. Mind you those were the pre-Internet days, when your only hope for a hint was Compuserve, a BBS or the official 900 number hint line. At some point in around 1996 I made the switch from my Apple ][gs to a Windows 95 machine and the game got packed away with the rest of my Apple stuff. But today, thanks to DOSbox, ScummVM and walkthroughs I can finally finish my questing.
Rather than suffer through the insane 15-20 second room load times on my actual ][gs, I played this using the ScummVM emulation system. As I’ve said before, the graphics and animation for these Sierra games are great masterworks of pixel manipulation. KQ4 is unique in that it was created using Sierra first adventure game system (AGI) but very soon was replaced with the visually enhanced SCI version:
For the most part, the SCI version is still incredibly pixelrific. However, there are some close up screens that just look hideous in the newer engine. This cut scene image from the SCI version looks like art of the criminally insane, or, even worse, a Superchunk record cover:
In the end, I settled with playing the SCI version because ScummVM cannot yet emulate the ][gs music engine (The SCI emulation in Scumm isn’t perfect either. There are a few doors that you can walk through which are supposed to be locked). This is too bad because, in addition to the great music on the ][gs, that version also features sampled audio here and there. The peacock screeching would be dearly missed.
Technical matters aside, this is a fairly solid adventure game. This sequel continues the King’s Quest tradition of incorporating fairly tales into the story. My eight year old daughter was able to get me past one puzzle with her more recent memory of the tale of the Frog Prince. Beyond the aforementioned whale puzzle which I finally got past, I managed to get stuck only three or four times. The solution would usually be something that I was trying already but wasn’t quite standing in the right spot or using the right verb/noun combination. But this is to be expected in these old Sierra games.
Shall I go onward to the parser-free KQ5? Now, if I can find a copy. I sold my Mac version on eBay when I discovered it was incompatible with my Centris 610.