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David Newton

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King's Quest III: Part 5 [Apr. 8th, 2016|07:46 pm]
David Newton
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I seem to have a habit of signing off these updates with our hero Gwydion either dead or very close to it. But I think we were on to something last time, so let's reanimate his component atoms once again and see if we can keep going.

First, let's take a look at this cookie.

Oh, no wonder he noticed something was wrong - that's pathetic. I thought the great Sorcery of Old would be able to produce something that actually looked like it was meant to be a cookie, not something a three year old battered into shape with Play-Doh and whatever they found lying around on the living room carpet. Some sort of disguise is going to be necessary.

I'm not absolutely sure I would have thought of anything approaching this myself. Gwydion is able to crumble the cat-cookie finely enough so that it's disguised as just lumps in a bowl of lumps, and the porridge still looks as good as porridge ever does (completely awful).

And this new item is not starred, indicating that Manannan will not notice it! I'm kind of uncomfortable with its new name, though - we're not poisoning Manannan, we're just... forcibly turning him into a cat by deceiving him into eating something really dangerous he doesn't know about. All right, I don't have the moral high ground here - but who cares, he's a dick.

Manannan hungrily gets through the entire bowl, not caring that we remain frozen in place eyeing him suspiciously the whole time. And so...

The wizard disappears in a puff of smoke, replaced by a cat that looks very similar to the existing one, which scampers non-stop about the kitchen. With that, we get the King's Quest fanfare parped to us over the PC speaker - Mannanan has been defeated!

And, er, to be honest I thought this was the ultimate goal of the game, even though I've collected only half of the available points. In fact, it's possible to cattify him within the first half-hour if you're quick - all you need to do is make the fly spell, overhear the bandits, get the purse, get the porridge, get the fish oil from the shop and make the cookie - so the innovation of basing events on this oppressive schedule in the adventure isn't as fully utilized as it first appears. Of course, working out how to do all that under pressure of time isn't as easy as it sounds, especially seeing as about half of those things depend on random chance (consulting the walkthrough, two of the "dynamic" events like this that I didn't notice are that the bandits might not be in the pub, and that the bear's house, against all logic and reason, might not contain any porridge).

Getting back to the game, as I mentioned, it appears to still be going - so let's find something else to do. Of course, no true hero would stoop to petty revenge, but fortunately I am not a true hero, so under the circumstances...

You absolute goody-two-shoes. Anyway, I don't think Manannan's life will actually have changed much as a cat - all he did anyway was stare at you uncomfortably, wander off on his own for extended periods, expect you to feed him and spend the rest of the time sleeping.

With no further time restrictions, we have the freedom to go back down the mountain and pick anything up at all, so let's get the items the walkthrough says I missed.

Oh dear god I hate this so much. LOOK FLOWERS gives you a nice description of the flowerbed but doesn't indicate that you need to do anything further with it... unless you're standing in the flowerbed at the time, in which case the same command suddenly gives a different response that hints that there's something you can pick up here after all. Let's put it in perspective, it's not as bad as a lot of the random events that we've encountered, but this is not saying much.

Thanks. I'll just balance that on top of all the other junk and carry it completely upright throughout the rest of the game.

While on my way to the next destination, the eagle I saw before flew past on this screen and this time it dropped a feather! You can see it just to the left and slightly behind the tree. I checked the walkthrough and yes, this is yet another event that has a random chance of happening, this time on one of two screens in the game. People must have just had a surplus of patience in 1986 to wander around a game staring at trees until something eventually happened. But then, Youtube hadn't been invented - they had to find something to do.

In addition to that, let's get some water...

...and some mud. To be honest, when we started I had hoped magic ingredients would be slightly more exotic than this.

And so, with an absolutely preposterous amount of stuff now in our pockets, it's time to go back to Manannan's house (or, as we should now think of it, our house). We have everything that we need to create all but one of the spells in the game.

Mind that cat, it's still deadly. If you look at it, the game's reaction hasn't changed - this is the same cat that was in the house before we added another one. You can't find Catannan again once you leave the dining room.

This section really is just ages of me copying bits out of the manual, so I'll just show you the interesting parts - the spells and what happens if you make a mistake (or innocently make a slight typographical error while standing over a spoonful of mud and some leaves). In another point I'll give to Sierra, not all of these are required for completing the game - some of them just add flavour, or other solutions exist to the puzzles they're needed for. The King's Quest games have actually always been good at providing alternative solutions to puzzles ever since KQ1, which makes it even more impressive just how awkward and impossible they managed to make it anyway.

First of all, we're going to make the spell for "Understanding the Language of Creatures". This uses the bits of animals that we've picked up throughout the game - the chicken feather, dog fur, snakeskin and fish bone powder - and adds a tiny bit of dew, which by the power of magic, turns it not into a repulsive clump of wet biological matter like you'd expect but some sort of dough. We have to use this dough by... stuffing it into our ears? Are you sure? I'm sure doctors warn against that sort of thing. Nevertheless, the game doesn't complain when you do it.

If you put in a command wrongly, though, you get this:

Gwydion can't understand the language of creatures like this, but he can probably understand the language of humans from the other side of the island. Once they're invented, he could also stand next to a television set and pick up Sky Sports.

The next spell is "Causing a Deep Sleep", which is a heated mixture of those really irritating acorns and nightshade juice. You also need a pouch to carry the resultant powder in (the one we bought from the store). If it goes wrong:

Pretty much as you'd expect.

"Brewing a Storm" is the third spell, and it's muddy water and toadstool powder. I hear some three-year-old make this by accident in the garden once and took out the entire east side of the island in a hurricane.

Failure here results in the storm being more localized, a personal cloud raining on Gwydion's head. (All of these are Game Overs, by the way, you don't get any second chances.)

And finally, we want "Becoming Invisible" - which is simply mixing cactus juice and toad spittle with lard and putting it in a jar. Sounds not unlike the cuisine of the American South. If you muck this one up, the result is...

...complete success. In fact, better than success, because the finished spell comes with a disclaimer that it will only work in places with fire and mist. This one has worked with us standing at a table without even trying. It still gives you a Game Over, though.

Strangely, all these spells list "one magic wand" as an ingredient, in a moment slightly reminiscent of this recipe from The Two Ronnies. Fortunately, while the wand is involved, it isn't consumed in the way the manual implies.

So, what's next, with our newly expanded inventory of magic goods? Well, that's slightly unclear. There hasn't been anything in the game where I felt I needed to understand the language of animals, but now, after wandering around the game for a while, you'll start to hear conversations between birds and so on.

Why not just put "PLOT POINT" in huge letters around the sides of the window?

I left this screen and came back to find a pair of squirrels on the rocks in place of the birds...but they didn't say anything.

...but they didn't say anything.

Mother Bear seems unimpressed, too - though I think we could understand her even without the spell.

Here's a screen that I haven't done much on so far. Given that this is a Sierra game, can you guess what happens when you approach the huge threatening-looking web?

In case it's not clear in the second screenshot, she ate me whole. I thought that spiders generally stayed on their webs and felt the approach of prey rather than watching them from afar, but when you're that big and threatening, maybe you just don't care much any more.

The obvious solution is to turn into an eagle - that species of bird well known for their spider diet.

Controlling the eagle is a bit awkward - you continually move forward in swoops, and you have to turn around repeatedly to work your way up the screen until...

...you get the spider. The rest of this happens automatically...

And with that, the web has... suddenly disintegrated from lack of maintenance or something, and we're free to enter the cave. Be warned - prepare to be blindsided by some plot.

Oh, okay. Bye.

So... we now know that Gwydion is really the prince of Daventry, although the Oracle left him to infer that shocking truth for himself rather than say it outright. He concentrated far more on what's happening in the kingdom without offering us any hint as to where it is or how we might get there. In addition, he gave us an amber stone, which is useful for... nothing, really. It's the last ingredient we need to get the sixth spell in the game, but it's not a very good one, as we'll see.

Nevertheless, now we have our next objective, even though I think that I can imagine several ways in which this whole thing could have been conveyed to us slightly more elegantly than through a mysterious man who's hanging around in a cave in the middle of nowhere with a big crystal ball. (I tried to steal it but it said that mortal beings could not hope to touch it).

For the sake of completion, let's go back to our house and - oh, the chickens are talking.

I'm sorry, Manannan did some awful things in his life but I just can't see that as evil - that's the normal human-chicken relationship! In fact, these ones seem to be very well cared-for, considering the alternatives. If you want to avoid that, get a better job, Gertrude!

Okay, we're back in the lab. The last spell is for "Teleportation at Random", and to make it, we have to rub the stone in salty mistletoe. Then kiss it. If anything goes wrong during this apparently innocent procedure:

The result is a spasming puff of smoke that stays in one place, and it's honestly a bit underwhelming.

Oh that damn cat's back. In a touch that I'm impressed by, the death for it is different when you can understand its language:

Cats are evil bastards.

Leaving the screen and coming back should of course be our first thought by now because it's worked for 90% of the game so far, but we have an alternative now - let's try out that stone.

It took me to the study! Very nice.

And now I'm in the tower. The stone only takes you to places in the same general area that you're already in - the house, around Llewdor, and so on - so you can't use it and hope that you'll be teleported back home without having to go through the awful mountain screen. Fortunately, we're at the point in the game where we're getting ready to leave and we really don't need to go here ever again - let's say goodbye to the house, the chickens, stick a middle finger up at the cat, and go down to Llewdor again.

Incidentally, I took a moment to look up if the name "Llewdor" came from anything, and "llew" is the Welsh word for "lion". It also isn't pronounced how you think - the double L is a separate sound in Welsh and is helpfully listed in Wiktionary's Welsh pronunciation guide as having no English equivalent. Nobody can seem to agree how to approximate it, but the "thl" in the word "athlete" is brought up sometimes as not being a million miles away. So this place is called something like Thlewdor. Just one more reason to get out of here as soon as possible.

Fortunately, a ship has arrived since the last time we were on this screen. Even though there hasn't been anything but ocean here and no reason to visit the screen since the start of the adventure, you're expected to discover the change quickly, because if you don't within half an hour of talking to the Oracle, it will disappear along with your chances of completing the game.

Hello sailor!

He doesn't seem too friendly, but I don't think he's a real sailor anyway - a jolly-boat is a little rowing boat-style thing that's used to transport people to and from the much bigger main ship, and unless there's a three thousand capacity North Daventry Cruise liner just off-screen, this ship looks like the most substantial thing around.

To get passage on to the ship, we're going to have to talk to its crew, who have materialized in the tavern. A tavern with one table and three barrels of beer, in a town with nothing else in it except a store with a half-mummified dog where the most interesting thing is the lard - it's no wonder they want to leave within the half-hour.

You can order a drink for yourself and Gwydion twitches about at random for a bit making him difficult to control, but it's pointless to try and show a screenshot of it. Instead, let's talk to the pirates.

Oh! Sorry. Completely unassuming "sailors". Obviously. Well, we've got some gold.

It doesn't matter how much gold you have at this point, as long as you've got at least one piece - the captain will take it all. Note also that behind the dialogue window, the crew have rushed back to the ship at the speed of light as soon as you showed it to them. All we need to do now is follow them back to the ship.

Oh dearie me, etc. Well, what did you expect?!

[User Picture]From: raptorianone
2016-04-09 06:18 pm (UTC)
You can't find Catannan again once you leave the dining room.

I wonder what ends up happening to Manannan, then. Does he go off on his own journey to become human again? That would be interesting to see.

Edited at 2016-04-09 06:19 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kjorteo
2016-04-10 04:31 am (UTC)
... have you played King's Quest V?
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[User Picture]From: raptorianone
2016-04-10 11:47 pm (UTC)
Oh BTW, what does it say on the "wiz status" screen after you've turned him into a cat?
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[User Picture]From: davidn
2016-04-13 12:23 am (UTC)
That's a very good question, and so I went to find out:

Oddly, there's no specific text for it and it says he's "in town" - I can't remember if this is the description for a state he usually has, if that's the state for being away on a journey or if that's unique. His time until a state change remains at 0:00.
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[User Picture]From: kjorteo
2016-04-10 04:41 am (UTC)
"Do you think that young man looks anything like his twin sister in Daventry?" I... thought that was how twins worked?

Yeesh, you weren't kidding about them laying the plot on a bit thick at this point. Although I do appreciate that image of what appears to be Trogdor the Burninator in the crystal ball.

"You have a sneaking suspicion that you have made a big mistake," said the Sierra game, in a rare instance where the player actually is on the right track.

Edit: Also, I just realized... points for him at least recognizing the cookie in its raw form, but if I were Nanalan' then I'd be slightly suspicious of my slave serving me a bowl of food we don't even have in this house. Where exactly did he get that? Oh well, I'm sure it's fine.

Edited at 2016-04-10 06:13 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: davidn
2016-04-13 12:25 am (UTC)
Thinking about that line, it would have worked better if they'd left off the last two words - "Do you think he looks like his twin sister?" Though it doesn't solve the massive but strangely casual surprise of the Oracle hanging around in a spider cave and telling you the entire plot.
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[User Picture]From: davidn
2016-04-13 12:26 am (UTC)
Also, what am I watching and why does it exist?

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[User Picture]From: kjorteo
2016-04-13 01:35 am (UTC)
See, this version of the poisoning turning into a cat scene was altered when they later decided a bowl of porridge might be more realistic than a lollipop as far as concealing magic cookie crumbs.
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