I’ve got to be honest, when I began the first chapter of the King’s Quest reboot last year, I really didn’t know what to expect. Having grown tired of the modern adventure games produced by the likes of Telltale Games, I was really hoping for a series that took more inspiration from the genre’s forebears, and provided a narrative-rich game filled with classic point-and-click challenges. Thankfully, what I did receive was exactly that: a game with a loving mix of both old and new, and one that truly sat apart from other games in its genre. Providing a refreshing experience by comparison, I thoroughly enjoying my time with the first offering, and was naturally very excited for the next entry in the series. Fast-forward a few months, and the next chapter is now upon us and offering a more streamlined, and pure gameplay experience. Acting as somewhat of a double-edged sword, this second offering of Kings Quest is very enjoyable, but perhaps feels a little lacking when judged against the first.
Feeling far more like a straight-up ‘point and click’ adventure this time around, ‘Rubble Without A Cause’ has a much stronger focus on traditional gameplay that long-time genre fans are sure to enjoy and feel comfortable with. Containing zero platforming puzzles, action scenes, or boss fights throughout, this chapter feels pure, and plays more akin to a conventional title. Those that criticised the debut for its inadequate amount of classic puzzles can now rejoice, as The Odd Gentlemen have certainly created a solid slice of familiar, adventure gameplay. Featuring nothing but exploration, item gathering, conversation, interaction, and of course a dash of ‘outside of the box’ thinking – the game concentrates on providing genuinely puzzling scenarios to solve, and it achieves this with great success.
Presented as one giant puzzle, the narrative follows King Graham as he finds himself, and the towns-people of Daventry, kidnapped and caged-up underground by the Goblin king. What follows is Graham’s rescue attempt to break everyone out and escape back to the kingdom. “Attempt” is the operative word, especially as part of the challenge is found in actually being able to save everyone. With their health decreasing as each in-game day passes, players must approach this chapter with plenty of care, and be as efficient with their time as possible. It’s a very surprising gameplay addition that not only adds a unique challenge to the formulae, but also adds weight to your actions. It’s unfortunate that players will lack any kind of emotional bond to the vulnerable characters, so you’ll unlikely care about who may perish, but regardless, players will still feel driven to save them because it forms the basis of the entire chapter.
This added complication introduces the element of risk, and as such, a tactical approach is encouraged in order to maintain the health of each prisoner (by providing them with food), and carrying out tasks in the best order. If you perform poorly you may even have to choose who lives, and who dies, so there is an element of choice that shakes up the structure. The open-endedness of the entire scenario means that there are multiple ways of completing this chapter, but ultimately it all builds up to the same conclusion.
It can feel a little harsh at first when you are thrown straight into this whole ordeal, but part of what I enjoyed so much was found within the factor of discovery. The game doesn’t explicitly explain the scenario, so it’s up to you to investigate, understand what is happening, and find out what to do. That isn’t to say that the puzzles themselves are fiendish, however, and infamously convoluted solutions are thankfully nowhere to be found, but that’s also not to say that the solutions are spelled out for you either. With some thought and experimentation, you won’t ever find yourself losing hair over stressful moments. The solutions are logical, and without massive amounts of difficulty plaguing the game, players can cruise through the chapter at a steady pace. With a great sense of progress being made as you gain access to new areas, collect new items, and save each prisoner, you are likely to finish this game in one session and fully enjoy it.
The only downside to this release is that comparatively it just doesn’t feel ambitious enough. Placed side-to-side against the offerings of A Knight To Remember, the variety just isn’t there. The purity of the game can almost be seen as its undoing, and some players may not enjoy this limited experience as much. Don’t get me wrong, it still provides a fun adventure and it never feels repetitive in the slightest, but the grand-scale that opened up this game isn’t matched at all. There are no real moments of conflict, tension, or really any great-deals of raw excitement, so it doesn’t quite reach the heights of what came before. That said, this chapter can also be seen as a nice change of pace. Ultimately, it’s all about perspective and what you enjoy, and if what you enjoy is a solid few hours that concentrate on nothing but classic adventure game action, then you’re in for a treat. If not, then you might have a slight problem, but play through the chapter in a few short sittings and the ‘one-note’ gameplay will not be apparent.
Everything else that was so fantastic about chapter one, however, is still present: the voice acting, the funny script, the narrative mixture of both the ‘old’ and ‘young’ King Graham, the characters, their animations, and the fantastic level art – but unfortunately, all the not-so great things have also persisted. Travelling between areas in the large, expansive environments really does drag and become a pain at times, with a run ability or quick-travel system desperately needing implementation – and once again, it can be hard to notice some interactive elements of the world. Thankfully, despite how irritating these times can be, they don’t tarnish the overall experience, and Rubble Without A Cause is still a joy to play from start to finish.
The biggest strength found in King’s Quest: Rubble Without A Cause could also be seen by some as its biggest weakness, but ultimately it’s a chapter that most will find difficult to dislike. Providing much more traditional puzzles this time around that should feel familiar enough to anyone who has experienced a King’s Quest title before, or any one of the LucasArts titles of old – it’s great fun and challenging enough. Sure, it may lack the variety found in the previous chapter, but the writing, puzzle designs, and the adventure itself maintains that same high quality.