The Legend of Kyrandia Trilogy / Westwood Studios (1992)

The Modern IF Community’s Verdict:
A maze? Is that a motherhumping maze? That requires copious amounts of saving and restoring to complete? What is this shit?
The Modern PC Gaming Community’s Verdict:
Wait a minute! Kain doesn’t even appear in these games? What is this shit?
My Verdict:
The weirder it gets, the better it gets.

Game Information

Game Type:
Graphic Adventure
Author Info:
Designed by a bunch of people at Westwood Games, a company known mostly for its Command and Conquer series. I’m far too lazy to research what became of these particular games’ actual designers and programmers.
Download Link:
From the Home of the Underdogs: Here for the first one, here for the second one, and here for the third one.

Reviews by Paul Kostock
Note! The careful Trotting Krip Reader will in fact notice that there are three distinct reviews captured within this single, larger review brood.

Back when graphic adventures were still a viable commodity; the two big players were, of course, Sierra and Lucasarts. I’m sure most everyone who actually visits this site has played or at least heard of the majority of worthwhile output of those two companies. So, while I could tell you about the masterful suspense of the Gabriel Knight Mysteries, or the idiopathic beauty of Grim Fandango, I’d really only be contributing to a decade long circle-jerk involving people whom the mainstream gaming industry has left behind long ago. And, coming in this late in the game, I’d probably end up being the one who has to eat the cookie. So, instead I’m going to talk about a series of games you quite possibly don’t know of, or at least weren’t impressed enough by to really think about, but which feature a certain sort of mad genius that I find endearing.

I’m talking, as you might have inferred by the title of this review, about the Legend of Kyrandia trilogy of games. What started as basically an ugly cousin of Roberta William’s King’s Quest eventually evolved into something utterly bizarre and unique. Possibly post-modern. Here are the games:


Okay, here’s the story: Many years ago, Malcolm the Mad Jester apparently murdered the King and Queen of Kyrandia and took control of the mystical gem that is the source of Kyrandian magic. The four wizards snuck out the infant prince and sealed Malcolm inside the castle. The leader of the four wizards, Kallak, raised the prince in a house in the woods, never telling him his true heritage. Malcolm has broken the seal that kept him imprisoned, turned Kallak to stone, and now seeks his revenge on the entire nation. As Prince Brandon, you are asked by the magical spirits of the forest to stop him.

Sounds pretty hacky, right? And what if I tell you that there’s a puzzle early on that I managed to solve without ever figuring out how I solved it or what I was even actually trying to do? Or a maze in a dark cave where you have to use a limited light source, saving and restoring until you find the one path that will successfully take you to the exit without getting killed? How about if I told you that, hidden deep in that cave is a key you need to complete the game, and that, furthermore, by the time you realize you need said key you can no longer go back and get it? That there’s absolutely no clue anywhere that indicates where the key is located and, therefore, it’s only after you’ve looked everywhere else that you begin scouring the depths of the cave in search of it?

Yeah, you get the feeling that there’s a certain thread of pointless cruelty running through the game’s design. As you may have ascertained, this is pretty bad, although hardly the worst adventure game ever. I do recommend you play through it, as it helps in your appreciation of the latter games.


Simple Rating
6.5 / 10

Not good, except as a prelude.

6 / 10

Designed by a cliché machine, implemented by an acid-head.

8.5 / 10

Easy like Sunday morning: One click does all.

Puzzle Quality
2.5 / 10

Aside from the abominations I mentioned, everything you need to do is so easy as to barely even qualify as puzzle.

Parser Responsiveness


If there was a prize for the sequel that managed bear the least resemblance to its predecessors, Hand of Fate (HoF) would probably at least earn a nomination. While the original LoK was basically bad fantasy tale drudgery, HoF is a broad parody of anything and everything, with a plot and setting that are nonsensical and unique while still looking a lot like bad fantasy tale drudgery.

Here’s the plot, such as it is: Kyrandia is disappearing. Bits and pieces of the landscape are just dissolving into the ether, leaving a yawning void in their wake. A giant enchanted hand suggests that someone journey to the center of the earth and recover an anchor stone to halt the process. You play Zanthia, an alchemist, and one of the four Kyrandian Mystics from the original game, and it’s your job to retrieve this stone. But, as becomes obvious very early on but not outright revealed until mid-game, it’s actually the hand itself who’s responsible for the disaster. Meanwhile, you’ve got to deal with an entire country full of the biggest idiots ever to appear in an adventure game, and a clingy love interest who can’t seem to tie his shoelaces without requiring you to come to his aid.

If that all sounds crazily idiotic then, well, that’s precisely the way it’s played. Pretty much every one of the game’s areas features a puzzle requiring you to trick, distract, or appease some subnormal who refuses to grant you access to the next area for some ludicrously pointless reason. There’s a running gag involving a stick that pops up in every area and keeps getting discarded. There is a ferry run by a fairy (the kind with wings and a wand) who’s also flagrantly homosexual; which has to earn points for complexity as puns go. At one point, you’ll be kidnapped by a yeti with a 1970’s Hugh Hefner style bachelor cave.

The solution to most of the puzzles involves collecting ingredients for various alchemical potions, which is a clever enough gimmick that makes for a lot more puzzle coherency as compared to the first game. Even when you have no idea why you would need a "teddy bear potion", the fact that you just learned how to make one is a solid indication you should start hunting for the appropriate ingredients.

This isn’t to say the game quite abandons the cruelty factor of the first one. You’ll have to wander a large, graphically redundant volcano map collecting randomly placed rocks and seashells, which are used as currency by the island’s inhabitants. There aren’t enough of the items placed around to give you as many as you need, but they do respawn; which of course means you’ll have to make several circuits. But, this time, the whole stupid "puzzle" is part of a gag on the player that predates Annoyotron by about five years.

As you might have guessed, I like this game a lot better than the first one. It’s probably not for everyone, but it takes the series in an odd new direction. But even this is only a predecessor for what’s to come.

Simple Rating
8.0 / 10

If you like Lucasarts games and don’t mind suffering through the game’s crueler portions, you’ll like this game.

7.5 / 10

Absolutely ludicrous, but that’s kind of the point. The writing’s pretty fun.

8.5 / 10

No real deviation from the first game here, which is fine.

Puzzle Quality
7.0 / 10

Nothing spectacular.

Parser Responsiveness


Ah, yes, here we come to the climactic… uh… climax. A crazy, beautiful lambaste of the previous games and the adventure genre in general. My most favoritest adventure game ever.

So, anyway, here’s the story: At the end of the first game, Malcolm was trapped by his own magic inside a stone statue, and dumped on a trash heap behind the castle. Now, a fortuitously-placed lightning bolt has set him free to perpetuate his revenge on the Prince Brandon and Kallak, and maybe prove that he wasn’t the one who killed the old king and queen. You play Malcolm.

So, what earns this forgotten little gem the title of Paul’s most favoritest adventure game ever? Well, let’s start with the main character. In the game’s introduction (not included in the HoTU CD rip), we learn about Malcolm’s childhood. Like most cartoon characters, he had a little angel and a little devil on either shoulder who told him when to do good or evil. But, at some point, the little devil beat the crap out of the little angel and buried him under a rock. So, for most of the game, the little devil (named Gunther) pops up to offer commentary and suggest ways in which you can further the misery of your fellow Kyrandians.

Which is, essentially, the point of the entire game. Your entire adventure is motivated by a sense of misanthropic malice that the game helpfully perpetuates in its player by making almost everyone you encounter stupid, spiteful, obnoxious, crazy, dishonest, cowardly or, most often, some combination of the previous. Prince Brandon has been reimagined as a whiny buffoon, and Kallak as a self-righteous old blowhard. You score points for poking people with a rusty nail. At one point you wind up in hell, and realize that it’s actually a pretty bitchin’ place to spend eternity (there’s another one of those intricate puns involving the phrase "underworld" here). Eventually, the little angel (named Stuart) pops back up and he’s revealed to be a prissy Niles Crane clone.

There’s actually something of a character arc, which is rare for adventure games (especially ones this essentially silly), and Malcolm kinda-sorta reforms (in as much as, instead of being driven by a need for revenge he becomes driven by a desire to take a long nap). There are somewhere in the vicinity of five or six ways to beat the first level, and three different endings.

The voice-acting (also not included in the HoTU CD-rip), while not "good" by the normal standards with which these things are judged (well, Malcolm himself is about note perfect, and Gunther’s pretty decent) is just about ideal for this game. All of the characters have this subtext to their line delivery that sounds at once whiny and deranged and that only furthers the notion that you need to resume with the rusty-nail poking, post-haste. Additionally, you can set the game to "helium mode", wherein everyone sounds like they swallowed a helium balloon before each line delivery. The music’s rather surprisingly catchy, and the visual design has the same somewhat surreal quirkiness of the entire series.

Puzzles are probably the one place where Malcolm's Revenge takes a noticeable step back from HoF. Most of them range from laughably easy to fairly nonsensical, though a few of them are pretty clever (the chessboard puzzles in Limbo are probably the highlight). But there is a lot of random item collection going on here, like someone decided to spread the volcano puzzle from HoF across the entire game, only this time there’s no punch line. The worst offenses probably take place on the second level, which features both a nigh-unmappable jungle maze and what is quite possibly the most obnoxious and random puzzle in history. Here’s the deal: You are told you need to collect a number of gemstones to activate this magic alter. At no point are you given any hint as to where the stones are buried, but scattered randomly through the unmappable jungle maze are a bunch of bones. You need to collect those bones, and give them to this dog-man, who will bury them. Occasionally (very occasionally) burying the bone will inadvertently cause him to dig up one of the stones you need. Even saving/restoring so you don’t waste your bones (requiring you to hunt for more in the jungle, requiring you to find your way out of the unmappable maze again), getting the damn dog to dig up all the stones takes forever.

Compensating for this somewhat are the dialogue puzzles. Instead of branching dialogue like in Lucasarts games, conversations in the LoK series are static (click on a character, and he and the protagonist talk; click on him again and maybe they talk about something different or maybe they just reiterate the previous dialogue). In order to liven this up a bit, the game allows you to choose how Malcolm approaches conversation at any given time. He has three settings, "Nice" (where he plays a transparently insincere flatterer), "Normal" (where he’s his usual rude, insulting self), and "Lying" (which is pretty self-explanatory). So, if you need to trick a character to get him to give you an item, you’d set the meter to "Lying". If you need to ask politely to get someone to give you a ride on their cart, you’d set it to "Nice". This is a pretty neat conceit, and predates Adam Cadre’s use of it in Varicella by nearly a decade.

Just to round things out, I should mention the game’s point system. Instead of giving you so many points out of a hundred (or whatever) and having each puzzle you solve advance your score a bit, MR basically assigns you points more or less at random for useless actions (some of the actions that score points can lock the game into an unwinnable state or lead directly to your death). Each time you score points, the points are assigned a title (stabbing someone with a rusty nail might earn you five "Pointless Cruelty Points", for instance).

Overall, Malcolm’s Revenge is a flawed bit of mad genius that everyone should at least try. The CD rip version lacks the voice acting and music which really help to complete the picture, but you can still get the basic idea. All in all, a misanthropic triumph that accomplishes something with the genre that no one else has managed.

Simple Rating
9.5 / 10

Objectively, probably not the greatest adventure game ever, but definitely a personal favorite.

10 / 10

A triumph of misanthropy and sheer madness.

8.5 / 10

No real deviation from the first game here, which is fine.

Puzzle Quality
6 / 10

The game’s only real weakness.

Parser Responsiveness

Reader Comments:

Add Your Comments:

Your Name or Handle

Your Comments:

Reviews From Trotting Krips