20: King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1988
Platform: DOS; Amiga; Apple II; Atari ST

Review: 1988 and 1989 were Sierra’s truly great years, and it all began with The Perils of Rosella. With the series’ fourth installment, Sierra revolutionized the gaming industry with professionally composed music, their new SCI game engine, the best parser they ever created, and an adventure worthy of the moniker.

King Graham is planning on passing his adventurer’s hat to the next of kin, but before Alexander and Rosella can fight over the rights to star in the next sequel, Graham lets everyone down and has a heart attack. While Graham is on his deathbed, Rosella runs out of the room in emotional anguish, only to have the magic mirror come to the rescue once more. Genessa, a good fairy from a faraway land, informs the hopeful Rosella that a magical fruit within her realm can save her father much like drinking water from the Holy Grail. Rosella says “Okay.” Genessa informs Rosella that because the producers needed to flesh out the game, she has been struck ill and does not have enough magic power remaining for a round trip; rather, there’s just enough left for a one stop shop. Rosella says, “Screw that!” Genessa informs Rosella that the evil fairy Lollotte has stolen her talisman, and if Rosella would be so kind enough to destroy the evil Lollotte and bring back her talisman, she just may continue to live, and would thus be able to send Rosella back home. Rosella says nothing. Genessa reminds Rosella of the incredible guilt she’d feel if she didn’t at least try. Rosella says, “Bloody hell!  I’m in!”

Okay, so maybe the introduction isn’t quite like that. I make light of it because Roberta Williams must let the player know the entire plot before the first chapter even begins, as she did in nearly every game she ever made.  At least it’s the only significant mistake she made here. In fact, the plot does veer slightly at various junctures. Rosella ends up needing to complete more quests than the one already outlined during the introduction. While the various plot lines are not connected very well, they do stand up on their own merits, and because the ride is fun you can forgive everything else. The characters (human and otherwise) you meet have good development considering you rarely interact with any of them for more than a couple minutes. The game has humour; I fondly remember reading all of the epitaphs in the cemetery. There are multiple endings, and creative ways you can die. To top it off, halfway through the game day turns into night, fleshing out more characters and allowing for more exploration, not to mention adding a few spooks.

Like the last game, time is a factor, as you must retrieve the talisman within 24 game hours. While that may seem like a short time, the game can be won much quicker than that if you know what to do. There’s a chance you may have to restart if you do enough aimless wandering, but if you make good use of the “save” and “restore” commands you shouldn’t have to worry too much. Some puzzles are difficult without being unfair. Mythology is used quite heavily but knowledge of the stories is neither required nor all that useful. There is one terrifyingly awful puzzle involving a whale’s tongue(!). Thankfully, it is not terribly difficult, although it’s a mite frustrating. At least Sierra was able to poke fun at this very puzzle in Leisure Suit Larry 3.

If you only play one game in the King’s Quest series, and you are not allergic to typing, make it The Perils of Rosella.

Contemporary RatingLow. The pointless time limit and some cheap falling deaths were annoying twenty years ago.

Cruelty RatingCruel. Not as cruel as other Sierra titles, but there is one way to lock yourself out of the good ending without realizing it. You might realize you did something wrong, but the game gives little indication.

4 thoughts on “20: King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella”

  1. I remember playing this on my computer before I met John, and I kept gettnig stuck, so I never finished the game. Hey, onto Boggle instead, with John, no glitches there! :}

  2. This was the very first King’s Quest game I played, and possibly even the very first adventure game of this type. I remember thinking the idea of having a female protagonist was a big deal! My cousin and I eventually beat the game, and it was a very rewarding experience. I never did have a Roland MT-32 to hear the good music, but I now own one, and I’m a bit disappointed that I never got to hear the amazing quality music at the time when I truly would have appreciated how ahead of its time it was.

    1. I think we had a Soundblaster, not quite as nice as Roland. Well, when we first started playing this we may have very well been using the PC Speaker.

      Sierra churned out a lot of mediocre to terrible plots, but they almost always had high quality composers.

  3. The second KQ game I “played”. Mom was the KQ fan and I remember her playing the first one, but I only barely helped. In KQIV though I actually co-played. I remember having a lot of fun, but can’t remember much else.

    Pretty sure we had a Soundblaster card at that time though.

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