King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder (PC)

Before I dive into the actual game, I'd like to show you this foreword from the manual. Is it just me or does that read like Roberta Williams is bitter about LucasArts moving in on her territory? Or maybe this essay Ron Gilbert wrote during the production of Secret of Monkey Island? Oh, the simpleton gamers don't have the patience to type the mean words that make their heads go owie? We don't write with bird feathers anymore either, Williams, it's called progress. Also nice to see Williams is another game designer who doesn't understand the difference between challenging the player and dicking them around. And "I had more time to think about the plot" is pretty cute when King's Quest V is the same bland pick-and-mix of classic fairy tales as before.

Also, King's Quest V is dogshit even with a SCUMM-esque engine.

King's Quest V is definitely the funniest King's Quest so far, not because of clever writing or visual humor, but because the voice acting is laughably atrocious. In the opening movie, King Graham comes back from picking flowers to find his castle gone and says "My home!" like a kid expressing disappointment that his cereal box prize hasn't arrived yet. Although the abysmal voice acting stopped being funny when the mumbly deliveries, terrible acoustics, and lack of subtitles meant I couldn't figure out what the fuck anyone but Graham was saying.

The graphics have seen a huge upgrade (even if Graham is bizarrely swole), and it now has a click-based interface that might have worked in the hands of somebody who knew what they were doing (I haven't gotten too far into it yet, but Leisure Suit Larry 5 seems pretty competent). But it's still King's Quest so get ready to be constantly punched in the throat for sins like "being curious" and "not being psychic" and "walking too close to a ledge" because as you should have guessed by now, yes, that fake death in Secret of Monkey Island involving the rubber tree was a jab at King's Quest. And with the advancement of technology, King's Quest V can now show us the wonders of repeating screen mazes and a fucking first-person dungeon of all things.

The first chunk of the game is finding crap and exchanging it for more crap you need to solve puzzles later in the game, but nobody gives you any clues as to what they want. Imagine if the troll in Secret of Monkey Island just stood there shouting "None shall pass!" and killing you if you got too close, and you're supposed to magically know to give him a literal red herring. Oh wait, there is a way to tell what some of them want, and that's to be familiar with other stories. One of the people you need to trade with is a gnome who wants a spinning wheel. He never indicates he wants a spinning wheel when it should have been a no-brainer to have him mention his was stolen, you're supposed to just know he wants the spinning wheel you found in a witch's house because of the Rumpelstiltskin story.

There's this saying that a good artist steals while a bad artist borrows, which I interpret as a good artist keeping the inspiration they took and sending their own version of it out into the world, while a bad artist gives the original back. I bring this up because it explains half the problems with every King's Quest's narrative. Each game tears out out bits of classic fairy tales and mythologies, stitches them together, and kicks the jumbled mess out the door so instead of exploring a cohesive fantasy world, you're thinking "Oh, Graham opening a treasure vault with 'Open Sesame' is from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" or "Oh, Alexander trying three bowls of porridge to find one that's 'just right' is from Goldilocks and the Three Bears" or "Oh, Rosella being swallowed by a whale is from Pinocchio." By comparison, even if you blame it for everything wrong with animated movies in the mid-aughts you have to admit Shrek was, while inspired by classic fairy tales, still very much its own thing.

The other half is nonsense with the protagonist. The overarching plot of this game is an evil wizard named Mordak has teleported Castle Daventry away, and Graham is trying to figure out what he or his family did to draw Mordak's ire. Like, dude, Mordak is an evil wizard and you're a king, he could have just been being a dick, that's how evil wizards roll. But because Graham keeps asking "What did I or my family ever do to Mordak?", I immediately guessed he had some affiliation with Manannan, the wizard from King's Quest III Alexander turned into a cat. And in the ending, Graham talks like it's Alexander's fault this all happened, as if he went out of his way to piss of an evil wizard. Did you and your son never talk about what happened to him as a baby and how he got back?

And speaking of which, what does this series have against cats? For one puzzle you have to throw an old shoe at a cat to get it to stop chasing a rat, and for another you have to bait a cat with some fish, then stuff it into a bag. Guess I should be glad it stops there and doesn't make you drop it in the sea afterwards.


DuckTales 2017 Reboot, Season One (Amazon Streaming)

Since this is the first season it's mostly setting up the show's framework, namely how it differs from the 1987 series. The obvious change is the art looking more like a comic book with screentones and a paper texture on the backgrounds. It also has some continuity, mostly concerning the mystery of Huey, Duey, and Louie's lost mother, as well as the stories with a teenager who befriends Webby and a new antagonist who... I'll get to later.

Many of the characters have also been rewritten. The nephews now have their own personalities with Duey being adventurous and cocky, Louie a slacker and a schemer, and Huey... okay, he's the generally good-natured bookworm they all were in the original. Webby is now a socially awkward action girl instead of a whiny baby who kills the show whenever she's in it, Mrs. Beakley is a no-nonsense brick shithouse, Gyro Gearloose is a put-upon cynic, and Glomgold has been reimagined as a bombastic, childishly naive doofus and I love it. It's hard to say if Launchpad counts because he was always an idiot but damn, it's cranked up to 11 here.

And speaking of Glomgold, he's voiced by Keith Ferguson, who did Basch in Final Fantasy XII. I imagine he had a lot more fun doing Glomgold, and not just because Glomgold says more in the pilot alone than Basch said in the entirety of Final Fantasy XII.

I do have two nitpicks and one major complaint, though. First, while the new Webby is a huge improvement over the 1987 version, she yells way too much. Second, I keep having to rewind to try to figure out what the fuck Donald is saying. But the half-digested chipmunk puked onto the carpet of this otherwise solid reboot is the new villain, Mark Beaks, an eccentric tech mogul who is totally not Mike Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk. He puts on fun-loving careless facade but is actually a scheming amoral bastard and I did I mention he's totally not Mike Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk? The two episodes he's in are crammed with memes, Twitter references, social media jargon, and probably would have had the nephews playing a Fortnite ripoff if it was produced a year later. The other episodes are timeless adventures, but this "How do you do fellow kids" shit is going to age like milk.