Fairy tales are cool. I like fairy tales. They present a good story, and normally have a moral at the end of the story. Since the days adventure games first displayed themselves on the PC screen, there has been Kings Quest. Sierra created an instant classic, and Roberta William’s colorful tales were quite the hit. The quality of art, animation, and music were all evident, but the series also presented some of the greatest challenges ever seen in the adventure genre. Some of these puzzles were downright EVIL, and I admit I’ve never actually finished a King’s Quest game because of them. But I do like these games for their challenge, and now I’m going to review a game that was created in the style of this famous series. A Tale of Two Kingdoms tries very hard to look like a Sierra game, play like a Sierra game, and kill your hero off in brutal yet funny ways like a Sierra game. It fails in some aspects, but it has many more good qualities than bad ones, and I guess that is what a review is for. Filtering the good and the bad qualities. I myself normally see the good qualities in games, but I plan to start being a bit more pessimistic, starting with this game.
You are Maeldun Whiteblade, a mercenary, and the hero of this story. During a banquet in honor of your kingdom, a soldier from a neighboring enemy kingdom arrives, and pleads for your help in vanquishing a goblin horde, before the kingdom is ruined. You agree grudgingly, and head to the kingdom to take these foul creatures down. But in the process, you are framed for the murder of a king, and you become a fugitive, trying to prove your innocence. What does this plot have to do with sorcerers, faeries, scarecrows, giants, and woodland creatures? You’ll have to play the game to find out. The story in this game is quite well written for a bit, but also a bit cliche. However it’s enjoyable while it lasts. But by Chapter 3, the story is replaced by a bunch of quests that try to cover up the fact that a story is basically non-existent, except in a few random cutscenes. Characters are underdeveloped and somewhat lacking of personality, other than a few cool traits. There were however a few characters that shone through, and they make the game awesome. The villain himself is pretty nonexistant, his motives are never ascertained, and when he shows up...well...I was disappointed. His random appearances to create hazards for you were very well done however. There are a number of bad endings, and one best ending, which I urge you to see. It’s cool.
The interface present in this game is typical of a Sierra title. It’s your standard Sierra GUI, with a pop-up interface at the top, and a right-click selectable list of icons useable with the left mouse button. The puzzles are very challenging, and give out a very big feeling of achievement when accomplished. There were two pixel hunts I noticed however. Some puzzles can’t be done unless you do other puzzles, and some puzzles are chase sequences, which require you to go somewhere fast, or use perfect timing. There was one near the end of the game that I found to be extremely fun.
Instead of points, you get wisdom for completing puzzles, and honour for doing good. If you do a dastardly deed, you lose all of your honour, so watch out. One big new idea present in this game is the ability to ask other characters to let you see into their inventories or to do things for you, such as using an item. This is an ingenious device, and a very fun one. Not all of the game is spent walking. You can also swim in water, which isn’t something that was present in many Kings Quest games without dying. Kings Quest 1 is an obvious exception.
The artists who worked together to create the amount of quality present in this game are to be given a lot of credit. I have not seen many freeware adventure games with such beautiful fluid backgrounds, representative of Terry Redlin or Thomas Kinkade. The color and detail is breathtaking, and each background has an array of creatures or animations that dazzle the mind. Birds fly through the woods, chirping, and creatures such as squirrels and foxes run free to do animal things. I’m not quite sure even Kings Quest had detail like this in it’s woodlands, but I’m not a Kings Quest expert, so don’t quote me on that. Each character has a wide array of animations as well. They move lifelike in each situation, and even their portraits display a realistic talking animation while...er..talking. Nikolas Sideris is now one of my favorite musicians on AGS. He manages to bring an epic quality to his music which gives my ears something to tremble at. If there was something sinister or lighthearted happening, I felt it in my bones. I can’t wait to see what sort of music he’ll bring to his next project.
A Tale of Two Kingdoms was a delightful game, and a wonderful faerie tale. And even though it’s not perfect, I won’t complain too much. Adventure games of this quality are rare. Some might say otherwise, but I’ll tell you something. I’ve given a lot of games a five because I really liked them a lot. A Tale of Two Kingdoms fails in some aspects where other games succeeded, but it also has many great aspects that a lot of other games don’t have. Crystal Shard has a great thing going here, so they shouldn’t let it die over a few quirks. I liked the game, and I think you will too. It gets 4.5 carrots.
Review by: Secret Fawful