Oh yes it is

King's Quest 4: The Perils of Rosella logo

Roberta Williams, designer of the King's Quest series says, "As kid, my all-time favourite reading was fairy tales, literally fairy tales. I do not know why, but I read every fairy tale I could get my hands on. I read them and re-read them".

Arriving on four disks, the Amiga version of Roberta Williams' own, well known, fairy tale is - well - big. You will need 1Mb of RAM if you want to play this game. The main reason for the size of KQIV is the space allocated for the graphics. Very nicely done, well detailed with a large proportion of the screen sporting animation of some sort.

The good points regarding KQIV's animation are, obviously, its aesthetic value. The bad points really revolve around the game slowing somewhat as you move your character around the screen. Your character? Oh, yes, a good time to introduce Rosella, methinks.

The long introductory animation sequence (which can be skipped if you wish) explains how Rosella came to be in this strange land dressed in simple peasant clothes.

Basically, King Graham is dying but Rosella can cure him if she finds a rare fruit. In the meantime, she can also help the good fairy Genesta, who is dying (catching, is it not?). She needs a special talisman, stolen by the evil witch (boo, hiss) Lolotte, who is apparently completely behind the fashions, as she is not dying. As Genesta is the only one who can send Rosella back from whence she came you will need to help out the good fairy first, then ol' Graham.

Movement is initiated, in the time-honoured fashion, by keys, joystick or point-and-click mouse commands. Rosella will walk automatically to the designated spot unless she hits an obstacle. Beyond this, keyboard input is used to work with the parser so you can "get" something or "examine" something else, just like in a regular text adventure.

Many of the puzzles are based on old fairy tales. Aficionados, therefore, will have a head start, although one or two puzzles are not too fair. You will need to find a bridle in one location, however discovering its hiding place is pot luck.

Another irritant is the climbing. One wrong move and you are a dead duck - however, one long climb should only be made at a certain time of day, so many players will find themselves climbing (and cursing as they fall to their deaths umpteen times) twice. An unnecessary hardship as there are no clues in this area either. The old "save as you go" policy should be put into operation.

Also, you will have to sit through some tedious animation sequences, such as in the dwarves' house. You will see a dwarf walk to the fireplace, grab a bowl his soup and then make his merry (or should that be dopey) way to the table. This sequence takes a while for one dwarf = but there are seven of the little blighters! Grab a book or read the manual or something, until they have finished.

The actual ending, like the beginning, is an automatic affair - you just sit back and watch. KQIV is an epic adventure that uses some wonderful animation sequences. Some of the puzzles are rather clever while others are just plain tedious. The music is well done, giving atmospheric touches to the storyline.

This one is for those players who despise violence in computer games. As Roberta says herself: "The only violence in the game is at the end, and then it is unintentional. YOU do not mean to commit violence, but you do".

Overall, I like KQIV, but it has its irritations. Some of the puzzles are rather flaky and the odd animation is boring after a while, but the good gameplay shows through. This, more than anything, will be the thing that hooks you. It is also good to see female characters take the lead in adventure games. I will leave you with Roberta's thoughts on Rosella. "I like the heroine, Rosella. I guess because she is part of me that is coming out. I really identified with her. Sometimes she is delicate, but she is strong, knows what she wants, she is not afraid what she has to do. She is courageous. It was fun for me to do a female character".

King's Quest 4: The Perils of Rosella logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Activision/Sierra On-Line
Price: £29.99

In the latest episode of the ever popular King's Quest series, King Graham of Daventry has fallen gravely ill, and his daughter, Rosella, fears for his life. The image of the good fairy Genesta appears in the King's magic mirror, offering to help rosella to find a magic fruit which alone will save her father's life. However, Genesta's powers are being undermined by the loss of her talisman, and without it, she too will soon die.

The talisman is the possession of the evil Lolotte, whose castle, by happy coincidence, is located on Tamir, the very same island on which the magic fruit grows. So, using her rapidly failing powers while she is still able, Genesta carries off the princess, disguised as a peasant girl, to Tamir, from where she departs, flying off to a nearby island to rest up in her place.

King's Quest IV has what I consider to be the best graphics and music from Sierra to date. Rosella's animation is superb. She can crawl, swim, and jump, and when she walks her long plaits, when viewed from behind, sway realistically from side to side.

As in all Sierra adventures, the waiting time when pictures, sound and animation are loading from disk, tends to spoil the flow of play, although the picture caching in KQIV does help to mitigate this a little.

Perhaps the most disappointing feature is the fact that Sierra still have not learnt how to give subtle hints in the text to help the player along. There are two types of puzzle that would benefit from such hints.

The first type is where the player finds himself at the end of a long play sequence, only to discover he has not an object he needs. The whereabouts of some of these objects can only be discovered randomly. For example, there is no way the unicorn can be delivered to Lolette without a bridle, but in order to find the bridle, Rosella must first be swallowed by a whale. The trouble is the whale does not always appear when Rosella is swimming and so the whole game can be jeopardised by an event of which the player is unaware.

Secondly, there is the 'absolute bafflement' problem. This is the kind where the player knows something needs to be done but no obvious or particularly logical action comes to mind. For example, the fisherman and his wife are a fairly miserable couple, and it transpires that business is bad - the fish have not been biting lately. There is just no hint of what is expected of Rosella, and the benefit of even anything at all only becomes apparent after the random whale incident - if the player is lucky enough to run into it. If only the fisherfolks' conversation had included a remark along the lines of "Nothing short of a few diamonds will get us out of trouble now..." the bafflement would have been replaced by a defined puzzle - get the diamonds!

Despite this, King's Quest IV is an enchanting adventure with some real fairytale pictures and magical happenings. Even playing the game through knowing the solution is not easy, and little of the enjoyment is lost. For fans of previous KQ's it is a must.

King's Quest 4: The Perils of Rosella logo

Sierra On-Line, Amiga (1 Mb only) £34.99

Zzap! StarEdward, King of Daventry, is dying and, having no heir to his throne, chooses his favourite knight Sir Graham ro rule when he finally snuffs it. To prove himself worthy of the throne Graham is set the task of finding and returning three great treasures to the kingdom. This he does and ruler he becomes (King's Quest 1). Quickly bored with being king, Graham looks in his magic mirror (every ruler should have one) and sees a beautiful girl held captive in a tower by a jealous crone. He decides she is the one for him and sets off to rescue her. He does so (King's Quest II), they marry and produce twins. Life is brill until a three-headed dragon attacks the kingdom and their daughter, Rosella, is captured... and rescued (King's Quest III). The scene is now set for King's Quest IV...

Graham is dying (here we go again!) and only a magic fruit from the swamplands of Tamir can save him. Rosella discovers this through the magic mirror (what would the do without it?) and is transported to Tamir by Genesta the fairy to not only get the fruit but also retrieve the fairy's magic talisman before she (altogether now) dies.

Playing the part of Rosella - pigtail and 'all - you find yourself whisked to a sandy beach in Tamir... miles from home with no idea of where to go.

The fisherman's hut is a good place to start, asking questions provides a couple of clues. The land to the east of the beach area is full of interesting and wonderful things such as unicorns, dwarves, ogres, magic woods, frogs that change into princes when kissed, haunted houses and the stronghold of Lolotte - she's got the talisman.

To the west of the beach is the sea in which you can swim, although you tire easily and may fall foul of the many predators roaming the waters. Keep swimming west and you'll reach the island where Genesta lives (or dies, depending your actions). You'll also come face to mouth with a whale that seems to think Rosellas are good to eat.

You can actually wander around Tamir for quite some time not having a clue as to what to do. If you're not in the right place at the right time you may miss an event vital to your progress: the unicorn only pops up occasionally, Pan dances about all over the shop and should you only visit the pool once you'll never get to see Cupid, let alone nick his arrows. Revisiting locations is hardly painful however, as they're mostly attractive to look at and there's usually plenty going on within them.

King's Quest IV is a most enjoyable adventure. Graphics are colourful and well drawn and animation, although slow in places, is neat and often humorous. Sound FX are good but I wish Sierra would do something about their music, it's dreadful.

Obstacles are many and varied, from brain teasers such as what to do with the three hags in the skull cave to manual dexterity tests like climbing stairs or negotiating whale tongues.

Unfortunately, I found the game fairly easy to complete, a factor that, for me, greatly reduces value for money. But it was fun while it lasted.