Roberta Williams did not invent the adventure game genre, but she has aided in its evolution time and time again. While she has her detractors, her track record is unsurpassed. She is the most successful PC game writer and designer... period. Her King's Quest series has sold more than three million copies. She designed the first graphic adventure, created the first adventure to use color graphics, and was influential in the use of animation, sound, and speech.
And now you can see how it all began with The Roberta Williams Anthology. It is a collection of 15 of Williams' titles, starting with her first, Mystery House (1980), through one of her most recent, King's Quest VII. Only three titles are missing: two Disney licenses and the 7-CD blockbuster Phantasmagoria (its first chapter is included in the Anthology to whet your appetite).
Anthology is, on at least one level, a monumental product. Not only can you see these ancient titles, some created to run on machines with 1MHz processors, but you can actually play them. Hopefully. While the box doesn't have any warnings, the install program is very explicit: "There's a good chance that some will not run on your computer. Others will crash randomly. The tech support department will not be able to get every program running on every computer. It simply isn't possible."
That said, each game comes with a help file and work-arounds for known bugs. And despite the install admonition, I had no problems using the Apple IIe emulator, and all other games ran smoothly. If you encounter insurmountable problems, Sierra will refund your money.
As for gameplay, this CD is a bargain for adventuring newbies and nostalgia buffs. The more recent King's Quest titles are beautiful, well-produced products. Some may decry the simplistic plots, characters, and puzzles, but there's no denying that the look of Williams' games has always led the field. On the other hand, gameplay on the earliest titles can be very frustrating. You die quickly and often. Finding the right word to describe an item or action can be difficult. And most are only very brief adventuring excursions (the best adventure games of the early 1980s came from Infocom, with its Zork franchise leading the pack.)
For PC history fans Anthology is a must. The included games, coupled with Ken Williams' introduction, and Roberta's game-by-game notes, present a solid perspective on adventure games.
Of course, the seven King's Quest chapters, the best-selling computer game series ever, and her contributions to the original Hi-Res Adventure series (Mystery House, The Wizard and the Princes, et al) are included here. Williams' return to her murder mystery roots is documented by the inclusion of two Clue-like Laura Bow Mysteries, and a quasi-adventure for children called Mixed Up Mother Goose is tossed in to make the Anthology complete. This comprehensiveness makes the Roberta Williams Anthology a solid compilation for anyone interested in the history of adventure games.