Review: King’s Quest Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb

Lack of charm has never been an issue with The Odd Gentlemen’s reboot of the classic King’s Quest franchise. The first two chapters, A Knight to Remember and Rubble Without a Cause, were just so darn endearing. Graham and the cast of town’s people are likable, the graphics make the game very entertaining to watch and the celebrities brought on to voice the characters give it their all. While it is understood that these things are planned well in advance, one could argue that the developer has recognized their strengths and decided to double down on what has been making the series work in Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb.

After clearing a relatively simple time based puzzle, players rejoin a very lonely Graham. After obtaining Kinghood and then saving the townspeople from goblins (ticking a few of his subjects off in the process), Graham has realized that he hasn’t really made any true friends. He’s lonely. Turning to his only source for honest information, Graham asks his magic mirror to point him towards some lovin’. That is when he learns of a tower where his future wife is trapped. Upon arriving and climbing the tower, though, he finds two princesses. Oh, and he can’t get down either. In order to escape, he’ll need to find his true love.

Much like Chapter 2Once Upon a Climb takes place in a narrowly confined space. Basically set across three rooms in the tower, this could feel constraining, which was an issue from which the previous entry struggled. The Odd Gentlemen managed to side step the issue this time. While there are quite a few adventure game style puzzles here, this chapter tends to focus on getting to know the two princesses, Vee and Neece, as well their captor, Hagatha. With this change in focus, the reduced play environments become a non-issue. It’s easy to become enamored with one or both of the princesses, and Hagatha becomes more and more sympathetic as the chapter rolls on. The parallels between this witch’s plight and Graham’s one situation are drawn, but done subtly enough that the player doesn’t feel beat about the head with it. Considering games as a whole tend not to treat the themes that the developer wants to express delicately, it’s nice to be treated as someone with the ability to observe and come to the point naturally.

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The set up and focus works extremely well thanks to the continued stellar voice work that the rebooted series perpetuates. Christopher Lloyd continues to nail it as the elderly Graham, and the women brought aboard to voice Vee, Neece, and Hagatha all sound natural and relatable. Coupling this with a continually gorgeous art style and animation, even players not interested in solving riddles should check out long play videos. Despite the fact that there are long periods between these chapters, it’s obvious to see the work on screen. I, for one, am very willing to be patient if this is the work that will be produced.

That isn’t to say the entire experience is confined to the tower. Players will also be sent on some quests to obtain some tchotchke or another, allow some time to stretch the legs. These sequences tend to feel more like a classic adventure game, and allow the player to get to know the princesses better. It is also here that players come across the more clever puzzles. Messing with gears to lower a drawbridge and playing a lute to obtain a Golden Acorn are two of the set piece puzzles. The sequence where Graham and Neece need to cross a chasm certainly left me feeling stupid when the solution was discovered.

This isn’t to say that this is a perfect series entry. There are some sequences that do nothing but pad the length, adding nothing to the story and detracting from the package as a whole. The one scene that pops immediately to mind is a Princess Pageant put on for an audience of one. Slowly pressing a button to twirl and pose, without even an ear for rhythm was particularly annoying. A climatic scene involving platforming also served to frustrate, as the controls were nowhere near responsive enough to shoulder the burden.

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Closing Comments:

Even with a couple of glaring issues, declaring Once Upon a Climb the best series entry is a non-issue. The characters are likable, the writing is humorous and most of the puzzles are well done. This is a first for this reviewer: a romantic comedy game that actually pulls it off. Other titles might have attempted this type of dynamic in the past, but no one has actually managed to stick the landing the way that The Odd Gentlemen have. For that reason especially, it is highly recommended that lapsed players hop back in to give this entry a shot. For folks new to the series: the first chapter is fun, the second…a misstep, but not miserable. Chapter 3, though, shows that the studio has their legs under them and are ready to round out the series in epic fashion.