The Legend of Kyrandia Trilogy /
Westwood Studios (1992)
|The Modern IF Communitys 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 Communitys Verdict:
||Wait a minute! Kain
doesnt even appear in these games? What is this shit?
|The weirder it gets, the better it gets.
|Designed by a bunch of people at Westwood Games, a company known mostly
for its Command and Conquer series. Im far too lazy to research what became of these
particular games actual designers and programmers.
|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. Im 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, Id
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,
Id probably end up being the one who has to eat the cookie. So, instead Im
going to talk about a series of games you quite possibly dont know of, or at least
werent impressed enough by to really think about, but which feature a certain sort
of mad genius that I find endearing.
Im 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 Williams Kings Quest eventually evolved into something utterly
bizarre and unique. Possibly post-modern. Here are the games:
FABLES AND FIENDS: THE LEGEND OF KYRANDIA
Okay, heres 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 theres 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 theres absolutely no clue
anywhere that indicates where the key is located and, therefore, its only after
youve looked everywhere else that you begin scouring the depths of the cave
in search of it?
Yeah, you get the feeling that theres a certain thread of pointless cruelty
running through the games 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.
|Not good, except as a prelude.
|Designed by a cliché machine, implemented by an
|Easy like Sunday morning: One click does all.
|Aside from the abominations I mentioned, everything you
need to do is so easy as to barely even qualify as puzzle.
THE LEGEND OF KYRANDIA: THE HAND OF FATE
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
Heres 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 its your job to retrieve this stone.
But, as becomes obvious very early on but not outright revealed until mid-game, its
actually the hand itself whos responsible for the disaster. Meanwhile, youve
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 cant seem to tie his shoelaces
without requiring you to come to his aid.
If that all sounds crazily idiotic then, well, thats precisely the way its
played. Pretty much every one of the games 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. Theres 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) whos also flagrantly homosexual; which has to earn
points for complexity as puns go. At one point, youll be kidnapped by a yeti with a
1970s 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 isnt to say the game quite abandons the cruelty factor of the first one.
Youll have to wander a large, graphically redundant volcano map collecting randomly
placed rocks and seashells, which are used as currency by the islands inhabitants.
There arent enough of the items placed around to give you as many as you need, but
they do respawn; which of course means youll 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. Its
probably not for everyone, but it takes the series in an odd new direction. But even this
is only a predecessor for whats to come.
|If you like Lucasarts games and dont mind suffering through the
games crueler portions, youll like this game.
|Absolutely ludicrous, but thats kind of the
point. The writings pretty fun.
|No real deviation from the first game here, which is fine.
THE LEGEND OF KYRANDIA: MALCOLMS REVENGE
Ah, yes, here we come to the climactic
climax. A crazy, beautiful
lambaste of the previous games and the adventure genre in general. My most favoritest
adventure game ever.
So, anyway, heres 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 wasnt the one who killed the old
king and queen. You play Malcolm.
So, what earns this forgotten little gem the title of Pauls most favoritest
adventure game ever? Well, lets start with the main character. In the games
introduction (not included in the HoTU CD rip), we learn about Malcolms 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 its actually a pretty bitchin place to spend eternity (theres
another one of those intricate puns involving the phrase "underworld" here).
Eventually, the little angel (named Stuart) pops back up and hes revealed to be a
prissy Niles Crane clone.
Theres 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 Gunthers 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
musics 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 theres 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. Heres 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 dont 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 hes 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, youd set the meter to
"Lying". If you need to ask politely to get someone to give you a ride on their
cart, youd set it to "Nice". This is a pretty neat conceit, and predates
Adam Cadres use of it in Varicella
by nearly a decade.
Just to round things out, I should mention the games 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, Malcolms 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
|Objectively, probably not the greatest adventure game ever, but
definitely a personal favorite.
|A triumph of misanthropy and sheer madness.
|No real deviation from the first game here, which is fine.
|The games only real weakness.
Add Your Comments: