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Sierra: the Quests

Sierra Online, like Infocom, is a well-known game company of the 16-colour era, although its games are graphical and I can't think of any pure text adventure it's released. Its flagships were the "quest" series: King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Quest for Glory and Leisure Suit Larry. As the consecutive games in each series were released over the years, they illustrate, better than standalone games, the development in adventure games from graphical with text input to point-and-click, as well as the improvement in the graphics themselves. The last King's Quest adventure that I know, number VIII, even included real-time action and 360-degree vision, a nod to the real-time RPG games that were becoming very popular as better graphics cards became available.

The text entry games remain my favourites. Like pure text adventures, they could be played on extremely primitive computers, providing drivers for CGA to VGA and anything in between. The art of even the earliest games was quite good considering the imposed restraint of 16 colours. (The first King's Quest game was redone in "VGA" style; both the old and the new version were included in the Kings Quest Collection (adventures I-VI) and either have their charm.) King's Quest is the work of Roberta Williams, who has made a number of games for Sierra, including graphic-heavy ones. Space Quest comes to us from a duo that calls itself "the two guys from Andromeda". Graphically, they evolved similarly from blocky 16-colour to VGA-resolution, although Space Quest stopped there; number VI was the last quest that saw the light. The other three series I only know from hearsay, but probably developed along the same lines. Here follows a list of the Quests I've played, or know of.

KQ1: Quest for the Crown
Sir Graham (at this point, a knight) must collect the three stolen treasures of the kingdom Daventry to restore it to its former glory. If he succeeds he will become its next king. Moral: don't waste jewellery on trolls, let the goat deal with them. Was later remade in high-resolution VGA mode, the moat crocodiles replaced by a serpent.

KQ2: Romancing the Throne
King Graham is sorely in need of a wife. He looks in the mirror and sees a lovely girl: Valanice, his bride-to-be, imprisoned in a high tower. He goes to the island where she's kept, climbs up to her cell and opens the door; but she's too wimpy to go down the stairs. This one has Little Red Riding Hood and Dracula.

KQ3: To Heir is Human
Poor Gwydion was stolen as a child to perform household chores for the evil wizard Manannan. This wizard has a habit of blasting his household slaves when they turn eighteen, or sooner if he finds them messing with magic, so he has to steal a new child every eighteen years. Can you help this character break out of his destructive pattern by changing him into a cat, and free his poor slave while you're at it? Includes the Three Bears. The last KQ to use blocky CGA graphics.

KQ4: The Perils of Rosella
About to pass his adventurer's cap to his children, Graham gets some serious chest pains. Just after, his daughter Rosella sees a fairy who calls for her help. If she can rescue this fairy from the evil sorceress Lolotte, this fairy Genesta will help cure Graham. The first VGA-graphics adventure. Includes Pan, a cupid, the Seven Dwarves, a unicorn, a self-absorbed minstrel and an arrogant frog prince. And copy protection, so always have the manual handy or the game won't even start.

KQ5: Absence makes the heart go yonder
Graham returns to his home one day to find it gone. It's been shrunk and put in a bottle by a friend of Manannan to avenge his transformation. (Why? He looks much nicer as a cat.) This game is completely point-and-click, in 256 colours. Graham is accompanied by an owl who makes some pointed comments on his mishaps. Comes with yeti, snow queen, and Ali Baba's forty robbers. Save often: Graham may end up toadified (ribbit!) and have to start over. A few tiresome animated sequences (yes, I realize they were a big thing in the days when VGA was for the wealthy) and a copy protection system using an exotic alphabet. This game needs so much RAM that on the first computer where it was installed - a 286 - I had to boot off a "clean" boot disk to stop unnecessary drivers being loaded. This was when 4 MB of RAM was considered an astronomic amount.

KQ6: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
This game uses the copy protection of needing a CD in the drive. Consequently, it has somehow remained unplayed. Alexander copies Graham's move of looking in the mirror to find his dream date, who is of course imprisoned, this time in a more oriental setting.

KQ7: The Princeless Bride
Ignoring her mum's reproaches about finding a man to marry and the prince who really fancies her, Rosella falls into a pool, is pulled out in an underground world and finds she is... a troll! The troll king tries to make her comfortable and tells her they're going to be married. With help of his old nurse who is unsure that this is the real troll king, she sets about item-collecting and puzzle-solving. Her mother does the same above ground, running across such characters as an annoying hare, a hippo selling gag articles, a bull in a china shop and archduke Fifi leYipyap (or whatever he's called!) and so they make their way through all levels of their virtual world - Valanice even meets the three Fates - to stop an evil sorceress from blowing up all these levels. And guess who the fake troll king turns out to be! Comic-style art. As before: needs CD in drive.

KQ8: (In German!) Mask of Eternity (Maske der Ewigkeit)
Amusing as it is to hear the main character promise all the petrified (literally) peasants he meets that he will find a way to restore them to life, real-time action/adventure doesn't appeal to me enough to finish this game. Needs CD in drive.

SQ1: The Sarien Encounter
The first chapter in the story of Roger Wilco (who didn't get his name until the second adventure). "You are a janitor. ... Yes, a janitor. ... And not a very good one. You would have been fired -" and so on. That's only the intro. Trying to stave off threatening aliens, this character for which the user can input a name chiefly manages to die in amusing ways. This animated text adventure has an arcade element: the player has to direct a hovercraft over a field without banging into any rocks. Needless to say, I never got past this stage.

SQ2: Vohaul's Revenge
Doing what he does best, Roger is abducted to have revenge exacted on him by Sludge Vohaul. But Sludge's henchmen forgot to refuel before setting off on their journey, and so crash in a jungle. I'm stuck on the part of the game where Roger keeps getting sucked into and eaten by a giant mushroom.

SQ3: The Pirates of Pestulon
Roger's escape pod has been sucked into a fully robotic waste processing space station. He'd better get out before he's processed too, although he'll have to fight a large rat over machine components. Lots more amusing ways to die, fast food in space ("Do you want fries with that" Yes/Yes), a tourist trap selling heat-resistant underwear and other junk ("oooh so trendy") and finally the two guys from Andromeda who have to be rescued from the fourteen-year-old Elmo Pug, owner of Scumsoft, through an arcade-game battle in body suits which I always lose.

SQ4: The Time Rippers
As yet unplayed.

SQ5: The Next Mutation
As yet unplayed.

SQ6: The Spinal Frontier
As yet unplayed.

Since I've bought the Leisure Suit Larry Collection, after finding out that the greasy lizard in the nylon suit is supposed to come off as a greasy lizard and is really an insecure old bachelor played for comic relief, I've added his, errr, quests:

Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards
I started playing this bar-crawling game and never got further than the pooch who peed on Larry's pants. Having played the first and last game together to get an idea of how the series developed, I can say that it started much more seedy than it ended.

LSL2: Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places)
As yet unplayed.

LSL III: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals
As yet unplayed.

LSL4: The Missing Floppies
There is no game of this name, the title was inserted as explanation of why not.

LSL5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work
As yet unplayed.

LSL6: Shape Up or Slip Out!
Larry competes in the dating show "Stallions" where he is set up to lose, and "wins" a free holiday at a tropical resort, where he meets and tries to seduce all the eligible women available, succeeding (almost) every time in ways he wishes he hadn't (especially with the woman who turns out to be a transvestite) until he scores with the one woman who is so far above him in every way that you would never expect it. A masterful lampoon of the stereotypical exotic tropical resort. The game ends in a beautiful "sex scene" with not a nude body part in sight, and sets the scene for the seventh game, where Larry will escape from the resort and, as usual, be dumped by last game's love.

The Quest series, although showing parallel development and containing at least one in-joke (when Roger Wilco is flung into the moat of King Graham's castle and eaten by the crocodiles) are not Sierra's whole oeuvre in the way that text adventures were Infocom's whole oeuvre. Sierra titles that I've seen in bargain bins were action or graphical adventure types of the 256-colour kind, while an old Sierra/Coktel demo CD with trailers of Inca, Gabriel Knight and Gobliiins included a crossword puzzle game and card games where the player could take on Sierra game characters, including, yes, King Graham.

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