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To Heir is Human

Released by Sierra in 1986, King's Quest 3 is the third installment in the King's Quest saga created by Roberta Williams. You begin the game as a young servant boy named Gwydion who is held captive by the evil wizard who raised him.

The game's interface is mostly graphical (endearingly boxy DOS graphics!) but has a strong text element as well. You have considerable freedom in the game to explore and look at all sorts of objects, even those that don't have any direct bearing on the storyline. There are surprises everywhere, and in order to do well in the game you need to inspect such seemingly innocent items as dead flies and clumps of dog hair!

Primary initial objective: escape from the evil wizard! But how to do this? Well, you live in a haven of magical potential, forbidden to you though it may be. Time to get sneaky!

At some point during the beginning of the game, the wizard will announce that he has decided to take a journey. The wizard's absence, though temporary, will enable you to poke around in his personal things (you can even use his chamber pot if the need strikes you!). You will likely learn to cast your first spell during the wizard's first trip.

The manual is essential in order for you to cast the spells. I personally played through the game without the manual; my dad had borrowed the game, and the person he borrowed it from had lost the manual. I was able to find all the information I needed on Prodigy bulletin boards; this was long before the days of Google!

The spells are actually something of a challenge, but for a somewhat lame reason in my opinion: your punctuation must be perfect! I don't know if they were trying to slip something educational into the game or what, but if you make any mistake while typing in the spell, whether it be a misspelling or a missing comma, the botched spell will undoubtedly kill you (or at least turn you into some sort of bug-headed dog boy). At any rate, it is probably a good idea to save before casting a spell; that way, if you screw up you can just restore and try the spell again.

And woe be to he who fails to finish his dirty work before the wizard reappears, for thou shalt be punished! If the wizard catches you in his lab or even in possession of any magical items, you will be subject to being suspended by the ceiling by your feet, locked in your meager bedroom, or any of a number of other cruel and unusual sentences. Don't worry too much, though, for the punishments don't mean the game is over; they just delay your progress a bit.

King's Quest 3 was created during the pre-mouse era (well, at least before the mouse fell into common household use), so the interface is totally keyboard-based. You use the arrow keys to navigate around the environment, and some of the function keys serve as shortcuts to saving. restoring, repeating the last typed text, etc. There is also a function to control the animation speed with four settings: Slow, Normal, Fast, and Fastest. I found that the "Normal" speed was too slow most of the time; I got impatient waiting for Gwydion to cross a room. "Fast" speed seemed like the best general-purpose setting. However, there are points in the game where you would do well to set the speed back down to "slow", such as when navigating a narrow walkway on the face of a sheer cliff.

The game writers did a very good job of anticipating user input. I was a snot-nosed eleven year old when I first played KQ3, so of course one of the first things I did was type some bad words into the text command line. The game responded with a text box proclaiming, "Obviously, you were raised by a naughty wizard!" Hee hee!

Overall, King's Quest 3 is still an immensely fun game. It has just the right mix of action and puzzle-solving, and the graphics seem quaint and cute. Enjoy!

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