In my reviews of the previous installments of The Silver Lining, Episode 1: What Is Decreed Must Be and Episode 2: Two Households, I took the series to task for its "maudlin" dialogue and suggested it could "stand to have a little more fire." It's fine for a game to have split appeal, but I felt that players sought out King's Quest titles to enjoy quirky settings and solve tough puzzles. I also mentioned the modest playing times as something that might disappoint people. The second episode was better than the first in all regards, and I am ecstatic to report that Episode 3: My Only Love Sprung from My Only Hate has all but eliminated the elements that were dragging down the series.
It's that delicious type of frustration we play these games to feel.
Unfortunately, the improvements are not at all discernible in the first part of the game. My girlfriend came over at one point in the story to see what it was about, and she ended up chuckling at some of the extended dramatic dialogues and descriptions. (One very early example: "There is no way that Graham will bring the memories out of this mirror by touching it. Sadly, all he would manage to do is smudge it with his fingerprints. He will not find Rosella, or her joyous laughter, in there.") It's not that she can't appreciate a good drama or that she can't sympathize with true emotion - it's more a matter of degree and disconnection. The Silver Lining just overdoes the heartstring pulling. It lays it on thick, almost entirely in the first part of each game, on the starter island, then it sets you out in a land of crying cabbage plants, tyrannical chess pieces, and other bizarre creations that are far removed from the initial tone.
Episode 3 starts out like the first two, with tender and somewhat preachy moments, but when the puzzle-solving begins, there's no mistake that this is a Sierra-inspired title. King Graham encounters all manner of head-scratching silliness sure to stump less-hardened adventurers. If you don't read and take decent notes (mentally or on a scratch pad), you will learn the meaning of frustration. But it's that delicious type of frustration that we play these games to feel - the kind that leads to cries of triumph when the door is finally opened or the item is in hand at long last.
The game also goes a long way toward advancing the story, and not just the current corner of it. Before the end credits, we learn something unexpected about one of the characters that sheds new light on the King's Quest universe and serves as a perfect cliffhanger.
And it is this universe that gives The Silver Lining its power. There is a rich history there, a chain of beloved moments and magical settings, a rich treasure trove to mine. The best moments in this game are probably the ones that reminds us of past exploits (if we were there) or pique our curiosity (if we were not). My Only Love Sprung from My Only Hate excels at giving longtime fans a lot to smile about without actually crossing over into a cheesy regurgitation. From the beginning, this was a project of love and admiration, and the tribute has become stronger and more polished with each go.
So go ahead and play the game. It's free and it just might make you a better person. If you're used to thinking with your reflexes, why not give your crown a workout?