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The Silver Lining Episode 4: 'Tis In My Memory Locked, And You Yourself Shall Keep The Key Of It (PC) artwork

The Silver Lining Episode 4: 'Tis In My Memory Locked, And You Yourself Shall Keep The Key Of It (PC) review


"It fails on just about every imaginable level. The only thing even approaching a saving grace is the price: it's free. But even that's irritating because it means I can't even have the pleasure of angrily demanding my money back."



That's it. I'm done. I quit. After powering my way through three episodes of The Silver Lining, the fan-made "tribute" to the classic King's Quest adventure series from Sierra, the fourth episode, the horrifically-titled "Tis In My Memory Locked, And You Yourself Shall Keep The Key Of It" has broken my will.

What's so bad about it that it has propelled me into such fits of frustration? The title sums it up, and yes, I know it's Shakespeare - Hamlet, specifically - but so what? It's awkward, stumbling and ridiculously overblown, and while that kind of overinflation might be tolerable if a game brings attractive graphics, an immersive soundtrack, quality writing, good voice acting and some decent gameplay to the party, TSL4 doesn't. It fails on just about every imaginable level. The only thing even approaching a saving grace is the price: it's free. But even that's irritating because it means I can't even have the pleasure of angrily demanding my money back.

If you want a blow-by-blow breakdown of the standard features, feel free to read my reviews of the previous three chapters, because nothing has changed. It looks the same (ugly), sounds the same (overwrought) and features the same voice actors (doing their best) reading the same sort of dialog (viciously unlistenable tripe.) The control scheme could have been lifted straight out of a real King's Quest adventure, which I suppose may give it some street cred with Sierra die-hards and the retro crowd but feels unnecessarily cumbersome compared to the streamlined interfaces of contemporary adventure games, and even the simple act of moving King Graham around can be trying. Camera angles aren't always the friendliest and I dare you - I dare you! - to try to get him into the castle kitchen. I was determined to make it happen and blew more than ten minutes on the exercise before finally giving up, and I still don't know if I wasn't supposed to be able to walk through that particular open door, even though the tone of the narrator made it quite clear that I was, or if I was simply unable to make it happen.

The kitchen incident came after a horrible speech made by Cassima, the Queen of the Green Isles, telling her people what she knows about the dark shenanigans gripping the kingdom. It was ugly. Not visually ugly, although it certainly was that too, but train wreck ugly, like the first draft of a mash note written by a lovesick boy in grade seven: earnest, heartfelt, and so, so awful. Sadly, although hardly surprisingly, it also set the tone for what was to follow.

Following the kitchen incident, I decided to check out the surrounding lands, with a faint hope that things would get better. Leaving the castle, I saw the first evidence (aside from the assault on King Graham's children and his wife's sudden suicidal tendencies) of the Black Cloak Society's bad mojo at work. At some point, I also sat through a lengthy cut-scene that detailed the thousand-year-long conflict between the evil Black Cloak Society, to which Manannan, Mordack, Lolotte and various other nasty sorts belong, and the Silver Cloak Society, with which King Graham's family is inextricably linked. It also retcons the history of Pandora's Box as it appeared in King's Quest 4, making it the focal point of this great, millennial conflict. It's actually a reasonably entertaining tale, as long as you're not too put off by the near-wholesale overhaul of the King's Quest mythos.

But awhile later I found myself on the Isle of Mists (I think; I had long stopped caring by that point), confronted by a giant hedge maze leading to the entrance of a castle. And it is in fact a maze that must be negotiated before entry can be gained, which in itself is a bad enough idea and when coupled with Graham's habit of getting hung up on corners becomes downright infuriating. And that's when I decided that I'd had my fill.

It's a sad outcome for a project that was in development for nearly a decade and which survived cease-and-desist letters from not one but two separate publishers, first Vivendi and then Activision. After persevering for so long and through so much, my hopes were high that the game would be a worthy feather in the King's Quest cap. Alas, it is not - and hey, maybe that's why Activision had a change of heart and decided to let it go.

The Silver Lining is plagued by a number of gameplay issues and rough edges, but what it needs above all else is an editor. It is a shining example of what happens when excited and enthusiastic fans are set loose on a project with no oversight from a distant and dispassionate observer who can reel them in when they start to spin out of control. A friend of mine once told me that every writer needs an editor, and the writers on this game are certainly no exception to that rule. It gets some slack because it's a fan project, but there's a big difference between "amateur" and "amateurish." The Silver Lining is all the latter, and I just can't imagine any reason to sink time into it. If you're a big King's Quest fan, go back and play some of the real King's Quest games, or just enjoy your memories of one of the greatest and most influential videogame series of all time. And if you're not, this is most definitely not the way to introduce yourself to it.

Rating: 3/10

Malygris's avatar
Freelance review by Andy Chalk (November 16, 2011)

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zippdementia posted November 25, 2011:

Ouch. And yeah, that's a horrendous title. It makes me mad, even as a joke.

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