Familiar Territory

Breaking away from my Minecraft addiction, I recently finished The Silver Lining: Part 2.  I had been playing short sessions of the game for a while but was having a hard time getting into it.  It’s certainly better than Part 1 – being an actual game this time – but I simply wasn’t hooked. 

    King Graham, will you save me from Minecraft?

However, playing through The Silver Lining: Part 2 (TSL2) I can’t help but marvel at the general quality of the world that Phoenix Online Studios  created.  The Land of the Green Isles is beautiful, especially considering that the game is a fan-made indie project.  Also taking into account that King’s Quest 6 (where the Land of the Green Isles first debuted) is arguably the most popular entry in the franchise, it’s no small feat to try and recreate that world. 

In a way, however, it was revisiting King’s Quest 6’s haunts that made it hard for me to get into TSL2.  I felt like I had already seen it all before, and, well, I had.  Plus, TSL2 doesn’t fully recreate the Land of the Green Isles.  The game has remade certain screens from King’s Quest 6 but omits others.  The designers added some new areas to the game world, which were nice to see, but they seemed oddly out of place, especially when considering what had been left out.

Throughout TSL2 I had the feeling that the game is stuck between two worlds.  One world serves fans by recreating old characters and visiting familiar places from the original games. The other tries to create a new chapter for the royal family of Daventry.  Neither world is a bad place to be, but ultimately it resulted in inconsistent design choices in the game.  On the Island of Wonder you finally get to enter Chessland, where you couldn’t go in King’s Quest 6, but it only consists of two rather sparse screens.  The first contains the royal castle in the distance, which made me think that I would be exploring that fortress.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and in the next screen you only enter a small courtyard where you merely face a simple puzzle and then leave.  Bummer.

My complaints aside, it was good to play a chapter of The Silver Lining that featured actual game play after my disappointment with Part 1.  One of my favorite parts of the game is how the developers handled something that has always been criticized in King’s Quest games—death.  The main character in King’s Quest can die—a rather uncommon element in most other adventure games.  I always loved the death sequences for their terrible puns.  TSL2 maintains that tradition and King Graham dies if you make the wrong decision.  A retry function will then bring him right back to the spot just before you died.  In the original games, when you died, you had to start back at wherever you had last saved your game, sometimes losing significant progress.

I still have mixed feelings about the narrator in TSL2.  She hasn’t quite settled into the role and her tone isn’t as wry or ironic as it should be in certain situations.  At the same time, she is over the top when delivering tongue-in-cheek lines.  It reminds me of when I played AGDI’s King Quest 1 remake; its narrator read his lines in the same fashion – enthusiastic but slightly out of context with what was going on in the game.  In their remake of King’s Quest 2 the same actor playing the narrator had greatly improved and had developed into the role.  I’m certain that the narrator for The Silver Lining will too.

The puzzles in TSL2 weren’t especially difficult but with the “run” mechanic in the game at least I didn’t have to spend too much time traveling between places to solve them.  The strength of The Silver Lining is its story so puzzles aren’t necessarily as important.  However, I hope in future installments a little more variety will be added to solving puzzles as too many in TSL2 were solved using King Graham’s gold coins.

I wish that Phoenix Online Studios had combined Parts 1 and 2 of The Silver Lining but what’s done is done.  Even though I wasn’t entirely sold on Part 2 I’m still very interested in Part 3.  I’m hoping that the story goes to some new places and I’m curious to see what Phoenix Online Studios comes up with as it moves away from established King’s Quest characters and worlds.  The Silver Lining is a free download so if you like the King’s Quest series or adventure games in general I still recommend that you give them a try.

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