'Tis in my memory locked, and you yourself shall keep the key of it.
November 18, 2011
It is with great trepidation that I don King Graham’s adventurer’s cap and return to the land of the Green Isles. I felt that Part 3 was rife with problems including constant crashing, frustrating puzzles, and vague hints. I discovered many similar sentiments in the game forums. After my PREVIOUS review was posted, I got to talk to the developers about some of the issues I felt were confusing with the puzzles and the game play. I outlined some specific, minor tweaks that I thought could go a great way to fix things. Unfortunately, they responded by declaring that I was wrong. That put me off a bit.
However, Episode 4 of the Silver Lining is now out; and enough time has passed that the frustrations of the past are but a faint memory, like fallen snow on a summer day. I was ready to give them another chance and based on that chance, I strongly recommend you do, too. The Phoenix Online team pulled out their A-game to bring us this episode. It is the most solid release yet, both in terms of game engine stability and puzzle elegance.
Black Cloaks, Silver Cloaks, and a Box made by Pandora
The game starts out with a hint into the dream world that Rosella is trapped in. There is a beautiful snowy landscape. I hope we get to visit this, eventually, as a playable character. Graham is off finding the remaining ingredients to the spell which will help save his children from their comatose sleep. You can revisit all your old haunts from previous games—and I strongly suggest you do—as well as visit a brand new old island, which is the Isle of the Beast.
The Isle of the Beast is a fun isle if you love plotting your way through mazes, which I do. However, for those who are maze-averse it is pretty easy to navigate around. You will see a lot of the maze on the screen at one time, so it’s easy to plot a path from one point to another. There are plenty of places to visit inside the maze and if you’re lucky you can make it to Beast’s castle.
A lot of things alluded to in earlier episodes now come to fruition. Graham must learn how to fly and visit the city of the Winged Ones. He’ll touch base with one of the mermaids and once again converse with Mother Nature. The mysterious ranger makes another appearance or two, helping Graham move along in the game. Finally, Graham collects all the ingredients and the game ends as he enters the dream world of his children.
The game is a great balance between exposition and game play. We find out more about Valanice’s history and some of the memories locked in her mind. The evil dark wizard is searching to open Pandora’s Box and Valanice is somehow the key. We get to step into Valanice’s shoes for a short time, making it the first time in the Silver Lining that we play a character other than Graham. You may remember Rosella found Pandora’s Box in King’s Quest 4. If you played your cards right, you locked the door and threw the key under it. Apparently, there are other ways to open that vault.
Pandora’s Box is important to the overall plot arch as the ranger teaches Graham about an ancient battle between the Silver Cloaks and the Black Cloaks. It seems to be the pivotal artifact from the original battle far lost in time.
Get your Quarters Ready
Unfortunately, not every game is without faults. In this episode we are treated to two separate arcade sequences. Both are more frustrating than fun. I also noticed a visual bug where a certain screen would just slow down tremendously. It was still playable, but difficult. I also found a disappearing-item inventory bug. Fortunately, this does not affect your ability to complete the episode, and I’m assured this last one will be fixed soon.
The Future of Phoenix Online
From the great work they’ve done on The Silver Lining, the team has joined up with famous game designer Jane Jensen to help create a new project. This is a strong testament to the skill and perseverance of the team, so I wish them a heartfelt congratulations. If you want to see this game come to fruition, be sure to check out their kickstarter project (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/postudios/cognition-an-erica-reed-thriller). In the meantime, I hope this new project is not a distraction from their current work on the final episode of The Silver Lining. Isn’t it about time Graham takes on that three-headed dragon?
Final Grade: A