The Silver Lining is a fan-made sequel (in episodic form) in all but name to Sierra's beloved old adventure series, Kings Quest. It's a legacy this new title wears proudly on its billowing, medieval sleeves.
Despite lacking the humour of Space Quest, the attention to detail of Police Quest or the innovation of Quest for Glory, Kings Quest remains one of the most fondly-remembered of Sierra's games from the 1980s (and 90s), its classic tale of adventure and romance providing a refreshing change from the usual subject matter of games of the time.
Simply being inspired by a classic series isn't enough to guarantee you're fit to follow in its footsteps, however. You can't just talk the talk. You need to walk the walk. And Silver Lining's debut episode "What Is Decreed Must Be", the first in a planned season of free-to-play adventure games... sure does talk a lot.
Earmuffs: The voice work in Episode 1 is... pretty bad. Graham and the supporting cast are lifeless and stale, but you can forgive them; the narrator, you can not. She is ceaselessly annoying, smarmy in her tone and grating in her delivery. While being a fan project would have excused this when the game was first around nearly a decade ago, it's now 2010, and standards - even for fan-made titles and mods - have moved onward (and upward) since.
The Blind Leading The Drunk: Silver Lining's movement is among the worst you'll encounter in the genre. Whether it's down to the engine or the programming, I'm not sure, but Graham has absolutely no pathfinding ability, meaning even simple acts like getting him across a room are a struggle against his sluggish feet, slow pace and annoying automatic camera pans.
Guided Experience: While it should take you around 90 minutes to complete the episode, you won't solve a single puzzle in that time, and will pick up around three objects. Isn't this an adventure game? The rest is spent just... listening to people say things that make little sense to anyone that can't remember minute details about previous King's Quest games. If you're not solving puzzles in an adventure game, you're not doing it right.
I feel slightly awful being so negative to this game, seeing as it's a volunteer project that's somehow survived for eight years despite legal threats and a even a temporary shutdown. It's also free, so it's not like any of you will be burnt financially by playing it. For their accomplishments in staving off defeat - and really, it's a great story - Phoenix Online deserve a lot of credit.
Yet all the enthusiasm and savings in the world can't stop this debut episode from being a dreadful adventure game, coming across as little more than interactive fan fiction for King's Quest fans. If that's all you're after, you'll love it, but I was hoping for a little more game with this episode.
While I hope for the developers' sake the series gets better as as it goes on, if that is the case, you have to wonder why they chose to release this as our first taste of their re-imagined world. First impressions are lasting ones, and I'm afraid most people's impressions - hardcore King's Quest fans aside - of the Silver Lining after this will be that they won't want to stick around for any more.
The Silver Lining: What Is Decreed Must Be was released on July 10 for the PC, and was developed by Phoenix Online Studios. Game is free to download and play. Played to completion.
Confused by our reviews? Read our review FAQ.