King's Quest IV

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King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella
King's Quest IV - The Perils of Rosella Coverart.jpg
Apple II cover art for King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella
Developer(s) Sierra Entertainment
Publisher(s) Sierra Entertainment
Director(s) Roberta Williams
Producer(s) Ken Williams
Designer(s) Roberta Williams
Programmer(s) Chane Fullmer, Ken Koch
Artist(s) William D. Skirvin, Carolly Hauksdottir, Gerald Moore
Composer(s) William Goldstein
Engine AGI and SCI0
Platform(s) MS-DOS, Amiga, Apple IIGS, Atari ST
Release date(s) September 1988[1]
Genre(s) Adventure game
Mode(s) Single player

King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, released in 1988, was the first major graphical computer adventure game with a female protagonist.[citation needed] The player takes on the role of Princess Rosella, daughter of King Graham of Daventry (KQI and KQII) and the twin sister of Gwydion/Alexander (KQIII). KQIV was also one of the first PC games to support a sound card.


This is the only chapter in the King's Quest series where the action takes place in real-time. The events of the game cover about 24 hours. Some activities must be completed during the day, while other puzzles can be solved only at night.


King Graham has suffered a heart attack, during quality time with his family, and is on the brink of death. The good fairy Genesta contacts Rosella through the magic mirror and offers her assistance. Genesta teleports Rosella to the land of Tamir, where she learns about a magical fruit that can heal her father.

However, Genesta herself is in a weakened state because the evil fairy Lolotte stole the talisman that gives Genesta power. If Rosella cannot return the talisman to Genesta, the good fairy will be unable to help her return to Daventry in time to save her father, and will even die. So in addition to finding a way to obtain the magic fruit, Rosella must get the talisman back from Lolotte. Upon straying into her fell domain, Rosella is charged with performing three tasks for the evil fairy, after which she has the opportunity to recover the stolen talisman.

Although Rosella's primary quest is to retrieve the magic fruit needed to save King Graham, it is possible to return to Daventry without completing this task. However, this leads to a tragic alternate ending to the game. Winning the game will not resolve all storylines, although that will be the goal in the sequels.


Roberta Williams wrote in the notes to the King's Quest Collection Series, "Before King's Quest IV was released, word leaked out that Graham would have a heart attack and might die. Fans were upset enough to write in, asking to save Graham. I wanted King's Quest IV to have some pressure applied to you: a timed game, taking place over a 24-hour period, so you roam around during the day and eventually it turns to night. I don’t remember other games using the same scenes at night; it looked creepy."[citation needed] With the SCI engine, Sierra dropped disk-based copy protection schemes in favor of requiring the user to enter a word from the manual, as the new-generation games were designed primarily to be installed and run from a hard disk.[citation needed]

King's Quest IV was the first commercially released game for PC compatibles to support sound cards instead of only the standard built-in speaker. In addition to the familiar PC speaker and Tandy sound, it could utilize Adlib, CMS, Disney Sound Source, or Roland boards. Sierra's new SCI engine allowed the game designers to incorporate an orchestrated musical score along with more complex sound effects, a previously unattainable feat. To ensure an immersive soundtrack, composer William Goldstein, known for several Hollywood soundtracks (such as the 1982 television series Fame), was hired to write the game's musical score, totaling over 75 short music pieces.[citation needed]


The game was simultaneously produced and published in the Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI) and SCI engines. The AGI engine was used in all earlier Sierra adventure games, the SCI in all later ones. SCI supported higher-resolution graphics (320×200 resolution versus 160×200), more sophisticated animation, mouse, and sound card support. Some older features like CGA composite mode and PCjr support were removed. Memory requirements for SCI games were thus double those of AGI games (512 kB vs 256k). The new engine was designed for then-current PC hardware (i.e. 8–16 MHz 286 or 386 machines with EGA or VGA graphics and a hard disk) and ran poorly on older 8086 PCs.

King's Quest IV was the only native-mode SCI game to also have an AGI version (some games originally made with the AGI engine like KQ1 were released in updated SCI versions). This was done mostly as a fall-back measure because the SCI engine was new and unproven, and also for the large existing user base of 8086 machines. However, the AGI version was only available by mail order and only a quite small number of copies were sold. It was discontinued within a few months of the game's August 1988 release.

The two games are identical in gameplay, except that the SCI version was updated with some additional parser responses. The AGI version 2.0 contains the "beam me" Easter egg, which transported Rosella to a Star Trek-esque room with all of the development team present. This easter egg is not present in either any SCI version or in AGI version 2.3.[citation needed]

A version identical to the AGI version was released on the Apple IIGS with improved music and effects (over the PC AGI counterpart). The IIGS port did not use the SCI engine for performance reasons.[citation needed]


Scorpia of Computer Gaming World reviewed King's Quest IV, noting the beautiful graphics, but also mentioning the game ran slowly if the screen contained animations. The game's puzzles were described as "uneven", but the presentation was considered cinematic in quality.[2] Compute! praised the graphics and sound of the IBM PC version, including its support of VGA and sound cards such as AdLib and Roland MT-32, and concluded that "King's Quest IV sets a gaming standard others will be hard-pressed to match, much less surpass."[3] The somewhat frustrating difficulty of King's Quest 3 was toned down in KQ4.


  1. ^ "King's Quest Collection – Manual" (PDF). Sierra On-Line. 1997. p. 5. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  2. ^ Scorpia (Dec 1988). "King's Quest IV". Computer Gaming World: 19–20. 
  3. ^ Stanton, David (May 1989). "King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella". Compute!: 70. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 

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