Wizard and the Princess (1980)   8 comments

Wizard and the Princess by Ken and Roberta Williams is considered the “zeroth entry” in the King’s Quest series.

Wizard & Princess can be considered the “prequel” to King’s Quest I, since Roberta took many of her fantasy visions from this game and put them into the landmark series. King Graham even returns to Serenia in King’s Quest V.
— From the King’s Quest Omnipedia, quoting Interaction Magazine, Fall 1994

From the back of the original packaging, via the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History. Sometimes “The” appears in the title, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m considering the version without “The” to be the canon title since it’s used that way in The Roberta Williams Anthology from 1997.

The art is much upgraded from Mystery House; it almost looks “good” now?

Well, at least I can tell it’s a scorpion.

As explained in the text-dump above, you are a “wanderer” who hears about a princess that needs rescuing; questing ensues. In nearly any other context this would be unremarkable, but it’s actually unusual for 1980: note that there is no treasure hunt involved. While we’ve certainly seen some non-treasure-hunting plots from Scott Adams and others, this is the first fantasy-genre game I’ve come across in this project that dispensed with collecting treasures entirely. The structure is instead what I’d call a “biome journey”. So far, from my first session:

Desert -> Forest -> Ocean -> Island

As the progression implies, I’ve managed to make good progress right away. I consider this positive! Even if things get harder later, a structure that “eases in” starting with simpler puzzles is a general improvement over hitting the player with a brick right away. (Also note as consequence: this post contains more spoilers than my usual intro post.)

Maybe the first puzzle is a bit rough. The C64 printing of the game (circa 1984) came with this hint card, because presumably too many people were getting stuck right at the start. Specifically, you start in the “Village of Serenia”

where just north there is a rattlesnake

and just south is a desert maze

and you have nothing else other than an inventory of a flask, a pocket knife, bread, and a blanket. As a grizzled 1970s adventurer I tackled the maze right away, and found that while most of the desert rooms that contained a “rock” had a scorpion behind (that would kill you if you tried to take the rock), one of the rocks had no scorpion and was safe to take. You can then throw this rock at the rattlesnake and continue the journey.

More desert followed, blocked by a chasm. A magic word was required to get across, which was given as a visual puzzle (I’ll leave the solution to you, the readers).

Then came some woods, and a gnome that stole some of my stuff. It wasn’t too hard to retrieve. I could see someone getting stuck by trying to stop the gnome at the point-of-stuff-getting-stolen as opposed to accepting that it would happen and moving on with the plot from there.

I had to get past a lion by … drinking a vial that let me fly? This was odd. I mean, yes, if you could fly, lions wouldn’t pose too much trouble, but it almost feels like overkill. I’m slightly worried there is a second solution and I need to save the flying for later.

Finally, I took a boat out to an island and found a harp. I have no idea what to do with the harp. I seem to be stuck from here. There is another beach on the other side of the island (from where I landed the boat) but I die if I try to swim north, and I can’t seem to bring the boat to this spot. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to go backwards now and try the harp in one of the places I’ve already visited, or if the biome journey can continue. (The “prologue text” indicates the wizard is to the north, so I suspect I’m in the right place, just I need the right action.)

Posted January 28, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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8 responses to “Wizard and the Princess (1980)

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  1. When Jimmy Maher played this game, he revealed the magic word but was unsure how it was encoded in the notes and I was able to reverse-engineer that for him. Which counts as a triumph for me.

    Did you find it straightforward to figure out where to use the word once you had it? Jimmy didn’t.

    • I have finished the game. I did not use any hints at all.

    • Wow, he had a … hard time. I might read in more detail after I finish my post (might not come up until Wednesday, depending on my time). I didn’t find the note puzzle at all unfair – it was pretty immediately clear we had “half a letter” thing going on. I originally tried doing some funky folding patterns but drawing the two out on a single paper made it pop out pretty fast.

      And there was really only one “sticking point” in the game by that juncture so I tried the magic word there immediately after I had found it.

      • I feel as though his experience is what my experience would’ve been like if I’d tried to play it. This is part of the reason why I read your blog and try whichever puzzles you present, instead of playing them myself.

        Also, I get the impression that as of this post you were stuck in exactly the way you feared? I can see an obvious place to use the flying vial that is not the lion. (When “I get the impression,” I mean I looked up a walkthrough that confirms that.) Honestly the fact that the game lets you fly over the lion even though that was not the right solution seems more reasonable than Roberta’s reputation suggests, even if it forces a restart.

      • Yeah, the right place to use the vial is really natural. Part of why my brain was saying “I probably shouldn’t have used that on the lion”.

        I think the main problem is it is non-obvious why you can’t just row the boat around the shore to the north beach and keep paddling from there. There certainly could be a reason (dangerous currents, etc.) but the game doesn’t bother to provide one. I think in the end it makes for an easier puzzle, because if the boat crashed trying to get around the island I would have wasted a bunch of time trying to stop the crash.

      • This is a design issue that well-done modern text adventures can solve. It’s the difference between Before and Check/Instead rules, kind of–if the game says “The currents too treacherous to even think of paddling around to the north end of the island,” then I know not to try. If it says, “You paddle north blah blah blah something specific pushes you back” then that suggests that not getting pushed back is a puzzle.

        In theory. I’m sure I’ve gotten hung up on similar issues many times, even when they were signposted in a perfectly natural way.

      • It’d be a little messy because you could try a.) paddling around the island along the west side b.) paddling along the south and east side c.) just going a bit farther in the ocean and going for the north shore d.) going a bit farther in the ocean and going for the far shore (that you get to by flying).

        Again, there are logical reasons why you would have trouble doing all four of these in a rowboat, so I could see a solution like yours working. (Honestly, though, the better solution might be to have the boat start sinking – you’re plugging a hole with a blanket before you get started, so I could see having limited range.)

        Also, yes, I have a bad tendency to beat my head against signposts. Am I being warned off for real? Is it a signpost that *really means* it? Or is it a hint even?

  2. Pingback: Wizard and the Princess: Finished! | Renga in Blue

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