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Old 09-24-2010, 12:27 PM   #1
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[PC] - King's Quest: The Silver Lining, Episode 2 Review

Title: King's Quest: The Silver Lining, Episode 2
Platform: PC
Platform Reviewed: PC
Developer: Phoenix Online
Publisher: Phoenix Online
MSRP: Free
Writer: Matt 'gzsfrk' Williams

King's Quest: The Silver Lining, Episode 2 Review

There's nothing like a sea nymph with four mouths.

Fans can do some crazy things. From stalking the target of their obsession to running naked across the infield, a deep-seated devotion to any person, group, or thing has all kinds of potential to go wrong. Fortunately, there are also those fans who gain genuine inspiration from their fervor and use that energy in a positive, constructive way. Such is most certainly the case with the members of Phoenix Online and their free-to-download-and-play labor of adventure gaming love, King’s Quest – The Silver Lining.

The Silver Lining is a completely volunteer effort that has been ongoing for almost 10 years. The eighth and final official release in the King’s Quest lineage—Mask of Eternity—was widely viewed as a disappointment by fans of the earlier games who disliked the shift from story-driven puzzle solving to 3D third-person combat. To bring the series to a more fitting end, The Silver Lining project (known by a different title at the time) was begun in October of 2000 and eventually evolved into an episodic format. Following nearly a decade of development, legal wrangling, and two separate cease and desist orders, the first episode—“What Is Decreed Must Be”—finally saw the light of day on July 10, 2010. However, that initial release was viewed as something of a letdown by some fans due to its short length (even by episodic standards) and the scarcity of actual puzzles to solve. Thankfully, both of those complaints have now been addressed in the latest episode, “Two Households”.

Following the events of the previous chapter, King Graham is tasked with finding the three rare ingredients needed to cast a spell that will help him rescue his children, Rosella and Alexander, from the curse that has been placed upon them by a powerful, unknown antagonist. The game takes place in The Green Isles—the highly-diverse series of islands from King’s Quest 6. This chapter of the game finds Graham encountering everything from talking chess pieces on the Isle of Wonder to a conniving Black Widow temptress spider who runs the kingdom’s newspaper.

Adventure game veterans (particularly those who have played through the other games in the KQ series) will feel right at home with both the environments and the puzzles they encounter. However, it should be noted that—true to the series—there is some amount of item-combining required to advance certain quests (sorry, modeps). Fortunately, the instances in which it occurs make sense given the context so long as the player pays attention to the clues they’ve been given. The interface is point and click, using a format all but identical to the one in King’s Quest 5 and 6. Another nice feature is that the game not only allows you to save anywhere, but also offers a “Retry” feature for when you die unexpectedly. Clicking the “Retry” option will reset your screen to where it was just before King Graham met the unfortunate demise into which you led him.

On a technical and presentation level, The Silver Lining is nothing special. While it has some nice hand-drawn artwork and a well done musical score, the 3D visuals are 7 or 8 years behind modern standards. The voice acting also shows signs of being a non-commercial work, with the vocals for the various characters in the game being anywhere from passable to King’s Quest 5 levels of awful. But then again, when you bear in mind the fact that this is a free and completely fan-driven work with all visual, audio, and programmatic assets created by an enthusiastic group of KQ groupies, the spit-and-shine shortcomings are easy to forgive.

I completed Episode 2 in just under 3 hours, which feels about right given the The Silver Lining's episodic format. However, it does feel a bit like the story is just inching along, which makes me wonder if they won’t have to really cram things into the 3 remaining chapters. I suspect that the pace will pick up considerably in subsequent episodes as most of the groundwork for both the story and major characters appears to have been laid during these first two releases. While there yet remain at least two islands to uncover on the Green Isles worldmap, there are already plenty of locales available for revisiting and expanding upon which will hopefully allow the team at Phoenix Online to focus more heavily upon plot progression than environmental and character introduction.

All in all, I have high hopes for the remaining three episodes of The Silver Lining. While I had my misgivings following the very short and puzzle-bereft first episode, “Two Households” has met almost all of my expectations I had going into this continuation of the King’s Quest story. Keep in mind that if you’re not an old school adventure fan or if you demand the latest eye-popping visuals in your games, then this title likely won’t be for you even as a free download. But if you either still actively enjoy the point-and-click adventure genre or if you get nostalgic about the King’s Quest series, then you really have nothing to lose by giving The Silver Lining a try.

You can download The Silver Lining for free from the game's website here.
Score: 3.5 out of 5

The Good
  • The story is very well done so far, with plenty of plot content and several side-quests, but not so much
    going on that it's hard to keep up with the over-arching events.
  • Faithfully recaptures the feel of the classic King's Quest games, from the diverse environments of the
    Green Isles to King Graham in his red shirt and blue adventuring cap.
  • Can't beat the price. And the love that went into the game is palpable.
The Bad
  • The production values are, as should be expected from a free and fan-created title, a bit outdated. The
    visuals would be more suited in a game from 2001, and the dialog--while well written--varies in delivery from
    pretty good to distractingly amateurish.
  • Navigating King Graham is spotty and occasionally outright frustrating. While this aspect of the game has
    been improved over Episode 1 (they added a continuous run feature), your character will still all too often
    come to a dead stop when confronted with an obstacle.
  • The puzzles are passable, but nothing special. While nowhere near as cryptic as some of the more dastardly
    puzzles in previous games from the series (KQ4 in particular), there's nothing particularly distinctive or
    innovative going on here.
The Ugly
  • Close-ups of low-res texture, low poly-count character faces.
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Old 09-24-2010, 12:27 PM   #2
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Old 09-24-2010, 02:06 PM   #3
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this would be a neat blast from the past if i had the time

i recently went to "roger wilcos broomcloset" (search google) and played a couple AGI oldskool fan made space quest adventures. One was called Replicated I think.. was quite awesome.

Also check out sarien.net , some dude made all these old sierra AGI games playable in a browser window.

while im on my tangent.. if you are still listening try and find and play SunDog. The best atari/amiga era game out there.
Originally Posted by jeffool View Post
As a gaming nerd I never thought I'd say this... "Dr. Wily is right."
gamertag: cisownz
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episode 2, free-as-in-beer, king's quest, phoenix online, review, the silver lining, two households

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