Before we begin, take a look at the lower right corner of your screen and note the time. Got it? Okay, let's proceed.
Back in old(er) times, there was nothing else quite like a "Quest" game, and King's Quest was my first and favorite. I only had the chance to play it in short, irregular sessions over at a friend's house, but it was very satisfying going from screen to screen and discovering more of the rich, humorous world designed by Roberta Williams and her team at Sierra. For a geek like me, those memories are held in high regard, like one's first bicycle ride or first home run.
With the return to semi-prominence of Monkey Island, it is an opportune time to introduce newer gamers to Sir Graham and the world of Daventry. But The Silver Lining - Episode 1: What Is Decreed Must Be isn't an HD remake; it's another beast altogether.
Sure you get to control Graham again, in his signature adventurer clothes, but this is a Lifetime Television version of your old friend, wistfully reminiscing about his children and talking in the firm yet sensitive voice of an Eighties TV dad. Passing a shuttered restaurant, he thinks about the nice dinner he had there, with its fine wine and sophisticated ambience. He relates everything to his family and has an "I live for my children" vibe that would start a daytime talk show audience swooning.
I never pictured Graham as a complacent suburbanite.
I've only played parts of the first four King's Quest titles, so I'm not sure how Graham's character was developed in later installments, but I always thought of him as noble yet goofy, more awkward than regal. I never pictured him as a complacent suburbanite. Look at a screen shot and tell me he doesn't remind you of someone's well-to-do father in an ill-advised (and iller-fitting) Halloween costume. It's just hard to believe someone that laid back and middle-of-the-road had any adventures beyond those in a corporate boardroom or safe vacation package.
It may be just as well, since you will quickly notice that 90% of the doors in The Silver Lining lead to nothing, so the amount of adventuring to be had is quite constrained. Almost every time you actually try to . . . you know . . . explore, you will hear the annoying narrator tell you that Graham shouldn't be doing this or has no time to be doing that. This bedroom belongs to the groom's parents, so let's not go in there. It's improper to disturb the help like that, so let's not go into the kitchen. I swear to you that it's like having your mother or another annoying relative tagging along trying to keep you on rails. Thankfully, the narrator can be switched to text-only so you can decide more quickly what it's worth your time to know. If you make it to the voiceover where the narrator gives out her personal, real-life Web page URL in-game (it's around the part where she tells you not to climb the big tree), you will probably reach your limit, so better to turn off her voice early on.
By the time you've come to grips with the hands-off nature of The Silver Lining, you might find yourself ready to leave the boring starting island. There really isn't much to do there at this point (perhaps in a later episode?), so it's exciting to finally set sail for richer terrain. The problem is that even if you explore every door and talk to everyone you're allowed to, the game ends in about an hour's time. Just like that. Just when you think it's finally worth sitting up in your computer chair. But such is the nature of episodic content.
While I'm not highly disappointed that the game is as short as it is, I wonder if it would have been much trouble to have some more accessible rooms that the player could mess around in. The fun of most games of this type is in the exploration, but when so much of the world is closed off, it does grate on you after a while. But The Silver Lining is a free game and it did leave me wanting more, so it is recommended. Just keep its limitations in mind when sitting down to play.
Okay, look at your clock again. See how long it took to read this review? Well, you probably could have beaten more than a quarter of The Silver Lining in that time. Go on ahead: you'll have some fun - and I'm not letting you into my kitchen either.