Wizard and the Princess

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Wizard and the Princess
Wizard And The Princess Atari 400 & 800.jpg
Atari 8-bit cover art
Developer(s)On-Line Systems
Publisher(s)On-Line Systems
Designer(s)Roberta Williams
Programmer(s)Ken Williams
SeriesHi-Res Adventures
King's Quest
Platform(s)Apple II, Atari 8-bit, C64, IBM PC, IBM PCjr, FM-7, PC-88, PC-98
Release1980 (Apple II)
1982 (Atari, PC)
1984 (C64)

Wizard and the Princess (1980), also known as Adventure in Serenia (1982), is an adventure game by On-Line Systems for the Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, and Commodore 64. It was the second title released in On-Line Systems' Hi-Res Adventures series after Mystery House.[1]

Wizard and the Princess is a prelude to the King's Quest series in both story and concept (though chronologically set several years before King's Quest V).[2] It was also the first adventure game released with full-color graphics.


The game (according to the back cover (box/folder/manual) of the Atari 8-bit family and Apple II original and rerelease versions) takes place in the land of Serenia where King George's daughter Princess Priscilla has been kidnapped by an evil wizard named Harlin. Harlin has held her inside his castle far in the mountains. The King has offered half of his kingdom to anyone brave enough to travel to the Wizard's castle, defeat him and return his daughter. The player assumes the role of a happy wanderer who answers this challenge.

The re-releases (Apple II, Atari 8-bit, and C64) contained additional plot added to the manual explaining how the wanderer made it to Serenia in the first place; some time long into the future after Harlin had been defeated by the Wanderer, he challenged the player to again repeat the actions leading to his defeat. He boasted of using his magic to change the world creating obstacles for anyone who would challenge him (he moved the desert around the village of Daventry, the northern sea splitting Serenia in two, and Great Mountains in the North on his half of the continent). He turned back the sands of time leaving the adventurer in the desert just outside the village of Serenia. He mocks the hero telling him that he may have been defeated once, but he couldn't be defeated a second time. The princess gives the hero some words of advice and a computer to help him defeat Harlin, and tells him he has become the wanderer (grandfather paradox & bootstrap paradox). The manual story as reprinted was also included with the Roberta Williams Collection (a compilation of games from Roberta Williams) and the King's Quest Collection Series (one of the compilations of King's Quest games).

The introduction for Adventure of Serenia explained that the adventurer, with the help of a computer, had magically transported to Serenia to save the Princess.


As with their previous game Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess was distributed by Roberta and Ken Williams's company On-Line Systems in plastic bags with the 5 ¼-inch floppy disk and instruction sheet. The instruction sheet had the title listed as The Wizard and the Princess.

The story was based on the many fairy tales Roberta used to read as a child.[3] The game improved upon Mystery House by adding color graphics. It was the first adventure game to have full-color graphics and sold over 60,000 copies.[4] The Apple II could only display six different colors simultaneously, but clever use of dithering made it possible to give the illusion of more colors on the screen.

Wizard and the Princess was ported to the IBM PC in 1982, Sierra's first game for the PC platform. For unknown reasons, this version was retitled Adventure in Serenia. Roberta Williams reputedly referred to the colors on the IBM PC as "atrocious" upon seeing the completed game running for the first time. Ports for the Atari 8-bits and Commodore 64 followed in 1982–83 under the original title.[5] Adventure in Serenia was also a launch title for the IBM PCjr, announced in late 1983.[6]

The Atari computer version is monochrome hi-res mode and could be played in a shade of green, blue, or black depending on the chip in the computer, and the monitor settings. Later versions also included an 'orange' mode depending on the machine's chipset. Dithering was used to create shades on screen. The color version for the Atari 8-bit more or less resembled the on-screen colors and dithering of the Apple II, but on a light greenish tinged screen.

The Commodore version uses more on-screen colors and solid colors, and no use of dithering. The items in the game were more detailed and of higher resolution have alternative artwork.

There was also a port developed for various Japanese computers by the company Starcraft, which had completely redrawn and new artwork in higher resolution, more colors and also improved use of dithering, but also gave many of the characters a distinctive anime appearance.

According to Sierra's Interaction magazine, this game can be considered a prelude to the King's Quest series. King's Quest V marked a return to the Kingdom of Serenia.[7] The events are mentioned and expanded upon in The King's Quest Companion, 2nd Edition. It mentioned that the wanderer, a barbarian, had turned down the offer of marriage after saving the princess. He journeyed into the desert and died. All that remained of him is his skeleton and a single leather shoe (a reference to KQ5). Princess Priscilla later married an individual named Kenneth the Huge and became the queen of Serenia, after her father's (King George IV) death.[8] It was further referenced as part of the King's Quest series through a trivia question in the King's Questions game that came with certain versions of the King's Quest Collection.

The extended backstory for Wizard and the Princess in the rereleases helps to explain the geographic differences between the game, and later games in the King's Quest series (KQ3 and KQ5). In KQ5, Serenia and Daventry are part of the same continent. In KQ3, the continent consists mostly of Daventry only with most of the northern half of the continent missing as seen in maps and charts in the game. According to the Wizard and the Princess, Harlin had divided the continent of Serenia in two and transformed the geography to create obstacles for any adventurers trying to reach him and free the princess. Thus it explains why the desert surrounds the village in the earlier game, but not during the time of KQ5, or why the Great Mountains are located across the sea on Harlin's continent, but just north of the town in KQ5. By the time of KQ5, Harlin's magic was no longer active, and geography was restored. The King's Quest Companion places the events of Wizard and the Princess as having occurred several years before KQ5.

Different versions of the game have slightly different in-game scripts. The text of the various versions of the game contains two different endings for the game: One in which the unnamed wanderer receives a "Junior-Master Adventurer", and the other where it says he wins half the kingdom. But only the first ending is accessible in the game.


Debuting in August 1980, the game sold 25,000 copies by June 1982, tied for fourth on Computer Gaming World's list of top sellers.[9] It sold over 60,000 copies in total.[10] Creative Computing liked Wizard and the Princess, approving of the Atari version's graphics and comparing its difficulty to "some of Scott Adams' efforts".[11] The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software 1984 gave the game an overall B rating, stating that it "may well set a standard by which future graphic adventure games will be judged".[12]


  1. ^ Katz, Arnie (1 March 1995). Inside Electronic Game Design. Prima Pub. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-55958-669-6.
  2. ^ Interaction Magazine, Fall 1994
  3. ^ http://www.adventureclassicgaming.com/index.php/site/interviews/127/
  4. ^ Hackers Heroes of the Computer Revolution p 301
  5. ^ Sierra Collection Series--King's Quest instruction booklet. 1997.
  6. ^ Wiswell, Phil (1984-01-24). "Coming Soon: Games For The PCjr". PC. pp. 142–145. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  7. ^ Interaction Magazine, Fall 1994
  8. ^ King's Quest Companion, 2nd Edition, pg 506–507
  9. ^ "Inside the Industry" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. September–October 1982. p. 2. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
  10. ^ http://www.company-histories.com/Sierra-OnLine-Inc-Company-History.html
  11. ^ Small, David and Sandy (August 1982). "The Wizard, the Princess, and the Atari". Creative Computing. p. 64. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  12. ^ Stanton, Jeffrey; Wells, Robert P.; Rochowansky, Sandra; Mellid, Michael, eds. (1984). The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software. Addison-Wesley. p. 33. ISBN 0-201-16454-X.

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